Renaming a Domain

Posted: January 10, 2010 in Active Directory, Networking, Server, System Information
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You want to rename a domain, for example due to organizational changes, legal restrictions, or because of a merger, acquisition, or divestiture. Renaming a domain is a very involved process and should be done only when absolutely necessary. Changing the name of a domain can have an impact on everything from DNS, replication, and GPOs to DFS and Certificate Services. A domain rename also requires rebooting all domain controllers, member servers, and client computers in the domain!


Under Windows 2000, there is no supported process to rename a domain. There is one workaround for mixed-mode domains in which you revert the domain and any of its child domains back to Windows NT domains. This can be done by demoting all Windows 2000 domain controllers and leaving the Windows NT domain controllers in place, or simply by rebuilding all of the 2000 DCs. You could then reintroduce Windows 2000 domain controllers and use the new domain name when setting up Active Directory. The process is not very clean and probably won’t be suitable for most situations, but you can find out more about it in MS KB 292541.

A domain rename procedure is supported if a forest is running all Windows Server 2003 domain controllers and is at the Windows Server 2003 forest functional level. Although the domain rename procedure is greatly simplified in Windows Server 2003, we highly recommend reading the entire white paper before attempting the procedure, as well as attempting the procedure in a test lab before performing it against a production environment.


The domain rename process can accommodate very complex changes to your domain model. You can perform the following types of renames:

  • Rename a domain to a new name without repositioning it in the domain tree.
  • Reposition a domain within a domain tree.
  • Create a new domain tree with a renamed domain.

One thing you cannot do with the domain rename procedure is reposition the forest root domain. You can rename the forest root domain, but you cannot change its status as the forest root domain. Another important limitation to note is that you cannot rename any domain in a forest that has had Exchange 2000 installed, though an Exchange Server 2003 is capable of handling domain renames. See the web site mentioned in the solution for more information on other limitations. The rendom.exe utility also includes the gpfixup.exe utility, which corrects references to Group Policy objects after the domain name changes. When working with Exchange 2003, you can also use the xdr-fixup tool to correct Exchange attributes to match the new domain name.


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