Renaming a Domain: Process and Side Effects

This article was previously published under Q178009
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In Windows NT, a domain is uniquely identified by both a NetBIOS name and by a Security Identifier (SID). Most Access Control Lists (ACLs) and other security features of Windows NT identify the domain by a SID; therefore, it is possible to change the name of the domain with little disruption to network services.

The following procedure describes how to safely rename a Windows NT domain. This will work for a single domain, or for an accounts domain or resource domain in a network using the master domain model.

Please read this article in its entirety before attempting to rename your domain. Some BackOffice products are adversely affected by renaming a domain; these products are detailed later in this article.

Microsoft cannot guarantee that any third-party software that is installed will function after changing the domain name. You should work with third-party application vendors to ensure you understand how their product will react to a domain name change.

Microsoft strongly recommends that you thoroughly test, outside of a production environment, the effects of renaming your domain, before you actually change the domain name on your production computers. This article does not attempt to address every issue that might arise as a consequence of renaming your domain.

Use this procedure at your own risk.

Important notes:
  • Do not install any primary domain controller (PDC) or backup domain controller (BDC) during this procedure, under either the old or new domain name.
  • Do not promote any BDC to PDC during this procedure.
  • This procedure should only be undertaken during a time when ALL network services related to this domain can be disrupted. All clients should log off and remain logged off until the rename is complete and all computers involved have been restarted.
  • Perform a full backup on all computers involved immediately before beginning this process.
  • Create separate, updated Emergency Repair Disks for each computer involved immediately before and after the update.
  • Have a copy of the Windows NT Server compact disc, the latest service pack, and Windows NT boot disks (appropriate to your version of Windows NT) available during the procedure.
  • The NETDOM utility in the Windows NT Server Resource Kit, Supplement 2, can be used to change the domain name remotely on some computers, preventing a visit to each computer involved.
To change a domain name, follow these steps:
  1. Document and then break all trust relationships between the domain whose name you will be changing and all other domains. Be sure to remove the trust entry on both sides of the trust (in User Manager for Domains for both domains in the trust).
  2. Stop all BackOffice services such as Microsoft Exchange Server, SQL Server, and Internet Information Server. Set startup to manual on all these services.
  3. Change the domain name on the PDC.
  4. Restart the PDC. This will cause the <1Bh> entry for the new domain to appear in the WINS server.
  5. If you are using WINS for NetBIOS over TCP/IP name resolution, force replication from the PDC's primary WINS server to all other WINS servers to propagate the <1Bh> entry for the new domain. Name resolution to the PDC is necessary for each BDC to successfully change to the new domain name. If you are using TCP/IP without using WINS, create an LMHOSTS file with a <1Bh> entry for the new domain and put it on each BDC.

  6. On each BDC, change the domain name and restart. The restart is necessary for the BDC to correctly register its <1Ch> entry with WINS.

    For additional information about what to do if the BDC refuses the domain name change, please see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    139471 Unable to Change Domain Name of Windows NT BDC
  7. Force replication from all WINS servers to propagate the <1Ch> entry.
  8. Re-establish the trust relationships. Using Server Manager, synchronize both domains involved in each trust.
  9. In the Services tool in Control Panel, re-enter the service account for each of the BackOffice services that were stopped in step 2. Pick the account by using the Startup button rather than typing in the account name. Set the services back to Automatic startup, if appropriate. Restart the services in the correct order.
  10. Make any necessary service-specific changes, as detailed elsewhere in this article.
  11. Change the domain name on each member server or workstation. For downlevel clients such as Windows 95 or Windows for Workgroups, change the workgroup name to the new domain name.
  12. Synchronize the entire domain.


If you encounter errors on any of the BDCs after the name change is completed, the most likely causes will be either name resolution or accounts database synchronization problems. The first thing you should do to troubleshoot is to open Server Manager on the computer that has problems and synchronize it with the PDC. For name resolution issues, make sure that WINS has replicated or that your LMHOSTS files are correct.

You may encounter some errors in batch files and so on, with the old domain name embedded. For this reason, you should check all such files. They are likely to be found in the NETLOGON share on your domain controllers, referenced by the Scheduler service where it is installed, and in any other scripting or automation tools that you use.

You can find out more information about specific error events by searching the Microsoft Knowledge Base for "event id XXXX" where XXXX is the event id number of the error event. The Microsoft Knowledge Base is available on the World Wide Web at: If you encounter any problems after the domain name change, they are likely related to the name change, especially if you see any of the following errors:
Network name not found
Error 53
Typically, these are name resolution issues that are specific to one computer. Check for the COMPUTERNAME<00h>, COMPUTERNAME<03h>, and COMPUTERNAME<20h> entries in WINS, and replicate if necessary.
A domain controller for this domain could not be found.
Unable to contact the domain controller for this domain.
Typically, these are name resolution issues specific to the domain. Look for the DOMAIN<1Bh> and DOMAIN<1Ch> entries in WINS, and replicate if necessary.
The trust relationship failed.
Typically, this is either a trust relationship with another domain that was not re-established, or an invalid machine account. Reestablish the trust, or delete and re-create the machine account for the computer and remove and re-add the computer to the domain.

Possible Side Effects of a Domain Name Change

  • Service accounts are stored textually, not as SIDs, in the Service Control Manager database. Therefore, any services, on any computer, that use domain user accounts as their service account will have to be manually adjusted. The Sc.exe utility from the Windows NT Server Resource Kit may be useful for making this change on remote computers.
  • If you are using integrated security in SQL Server, you will need to reset the "Default Domain" field in SQL Security Manager. Additionally, if the users are not part of the "Default Domain" you may need to remove and re-add users and groups from the renamed domain or local groups containing groups from the renamed domain.
  • Microsoft Exchange Server service accounts will need to be reassociated with the new domain name, as described earlier. Additionally, in the Exchange Administrator program, select Tools, select Options, and then click the Permissions tab, you will need to change the default Windows NT domain name to the new domain name.
  • Security settings on all Exchange Server public folders will be lost. Before renaming the domain, use the command line utility Pfadmin.exe to export the public folder security settings to a text file to make reconstruction of the permissions easier. This utility can be downloaded as part of the Microsoft Exchange Server Resource Kit from the following Web site:
  • If Systems Management Server primary or secondary sites exist in the domain that is being renamed, Systems Management Server will have to be uninstalled and then reinstalled with the new domain name. You will not be able to restore the existing Systems Management Server database after reinstallation; you will have to start with a clean database.
  • If the domain being renamed is part of an Systems Management Server site but has no primary or secondary sites located in it (only logon servers and clients), the domain should be removed from the site prior to the name change and added back into the site after the change. Please refer to the Systems Management Server Installation and Configuration Manual, Chapter 3, "Adding Domains, Servers, and Clients."
  • If you are running Internet Information Server, you may need to change the account specified in virtual paths.

Article ID: 178009 - Last Review: 12/05/2015 08:13:49 - Revision: 2.0

Microsoft Windows NT Server 3.51, Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Standard Edition

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