Just a quick, basic question, on account of a difference of opinion I'm having.

When joining a new [Windows] machine to an Active Directory domain, what risks are there if the rename and the domain join are done at the same time? (As opposed to renaming the machine, rebooting, joining to the domain and rebooting).

On the off chance it matters, this is a 2003 Functional Level domain and forest, and concerns client machines that are primarily XP and servers that are primarily Server 2008 R2.

Bonus points (bounty!) if anyone knows of a documented Microsoft Best Practice or recommendation for whether or not to do this in one reboot or two.

  • Good question, simply because "tradition" usually takes over here vs. fact. For me, I've run into similar trust relationship issues like Evan states, so just as practice I've renamed, reboot, join, reboot. But interesting that you ask since just the other day I did both at the same time and it worked fine (on a 2008R2 server build). I wonder if the caveat is more for 2003/XP and newer OS' handle it fine? – TheCleaner Feb 15 '13 at 19:22

I don't find a specific Windows Vista or newer related article, but I think this would count as canonical documentation: How to change a computer name, join a domain, and add a computer description in Windows XP or in Windows Server 2003. This documentation indicates that you can modify the computer name and domain at the same time (and doesn't caution against it).

I suspect you're dealing with someone who has the same superstition that I've had over the years: Change the computer name, reboot, then join the domain.

I know that I've seen instances where doing that has ended up with a broken domain trust relationship on the client computer. I never documented the specific workflow necessary to create that undesirable scenario. My pragmatic streak kicked-in and just caused me to rename, reboot, and then join. For fun, I may try to do some replication in a VM.


I had a few minutes for some VM testing fun.

I two really simple tests on a Windows XP Professional SP3 VM, starting fresh from a template configured in a workgroup.

  • Changed computer name and domain together, provided domain credential, received dialog indicating that domain join succeeded, rebooted, and found that I had a good domain trust relationship.

  • Joined domain, provided domain credential, received dialog indicating that domain join succeeded, clicked "Change" button in "System Properties" dialog again, changed computer name, provided domain credential, rebooted, and found that I had a good domain trust relationship.

Obviously there are possible permutations if you bring in dodgy DC replication into play, changing the domain trust relationship with a command-line tool like netdom, and probably a whole host of other factors that could influence. In general, though, it looks like Windows XP (and likely every follow-on Windows version) can handle the change to both the computer name and the domain trust relationship together without a reboot between.

I'll probably still reboot between, personally.

  • Thanks. I do remember it causing some problems back in the NT4/Win2k days (but then again, what didn't?), so I'm pretty sure I know where the name, reboot, join reboot process comes from, but finding anything official on the topic was like pulling teeth. – HopelessN00b Feb 15 '13 at 19:04
  • 1
    "for fun" ಠ_ಠ – MDMarra Feb 15 '13 at 19:10
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    This is a new emoticon for me. I am enjoying it. – Evan Anderson Feb 15 '13 at 19:18

The best practice would be to reboot after both the rename and the domain join.

With XP, you have the ability to rename and then go back to the options to join the PC to the domain. Windows 7 will instead (almost always) gray out the domain option after renaming.

As far as risk, I'd venture to say you run the risk of adding the PC with the old PC name, or worse an incorrect SID. If you like to rename and join without several reboots on 7, I'd suggest testing with the netdom.exe command.

Netdom - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc772217(v=ws.10).aspx

  • I don't get your "equation", just use English instead. – gparent Feb 15 '13 at 18:56
  • Thank you for the edit longneck. gparent, I hope you can understand what I attempted to rely better now that the post has been edited. – Qwilson Feb 15 '13 at 19:50
  • What's the point of avoiding English? I submitted an edit that doesn't needlessly transform text into maths. – gparent Feb 15 '13 at 20:27

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