How to Transfer Active Directory to a New Windows Server 2022/2019/2016 [Complete Guide]

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Target: Help all Windows Server users successfully migrate and transfer Active Directory (AD) to a new Server machine.

Supported OS: Windows Server 2022/2019/2016/2021 r2/2002/2008 r2/2008/2003, etc.

How Do I Migrate or Transfer Active Directory (AD) to Another Server

"Does anyone know how to transfer Active Directory to another Windows Server computer? For example, I purchased a new Windows Server 2022, and I want to move AD from my old Windows Server 2016 to Server 2022. How do I do it?"

Are you looking for a reliable way to migrate the Active Directory database from a Windows Server computer to a new Server machine? Relax, and don't worry if you are a new Server manager. Here on this page, we'll show you the complete procedure of successfully migrating AD from Server to Server. First, let's see the details:

In this article, you'll learn:

  • What Is Active Directory and Why Need to Move It to a New Server
  • Method 1. Backup Active Directory and Restore It to Another Server
  • Method 2. Use Active Directory Migration Tool

Before migrating AD to a new Server, let's see what Active Directory is and why it's so important that Windows Server users want to transfer it from Server to Server.

What Is Active Directory and Why Need to Move It to a New Server

Active Directory stores information about objects on the network and makes this information easy for administrators and users to find and use. Active Directory uses a structured data store as the basics for a logical, hierarchical organization of directory information.

                     - By Microsoft Active Directory Overview

According to the above description, an Active Directory can be regarded as a database called AD, which connects users to network resources to accomplish their tasks. So what does Active Directory includes? Check this out:

  • Information objects - shared resources such as servers, volumes, printers, network users, and computer accounts.
  • A set of rules - schema defines the classes of objects and attributes contained in the Directory.
  • A global catalog - information about every object in the Directory.
  • A query and index mechanism - make sure objects, and their properties can be published and found by network users or applications.
  • A replication service - distribute directory data across a network.

While switching Server computers, one of the key steps is to transfer Active Directory to a New Server. Here following, we've collected two methods that you can follow to successfully migrate the AD database to a new server on your own.

Both methods work to transfer Active Directory from one Server to another Server on Windows Server 2022/2019/2016/2012 r2/2012/2008 r2/2008/2003, etc. 

Method 1. Backup Active Directory and Restore It to Another Server

  • Tool: PowerShell
  • Difficulty Level: high

Suppose you've got two Windows Server computers, and now you are about to transfer the active directory database from one Server to another Server computer. Here are the manual steps that you can follow:

Step 1. Introduce a new domain controller with the target Server to be the new FSMO role holder for the domain. 

To migrate the FSMO role, you can refer to this post in the Microsoft community for help: Transfer FSMO Roles in Active Directory

Step 2. Introduce new domain controllers to the forest root and domain tree levels.

Open PowerShell and type the following two command lines and hit Enter each time:

  • hostname
  • netdom query fsmo

Introduce new domain controllers to the forest root elve.

Step 3. Login into the target Server computer as a member of the local administrator group. And add Server to the existing domain as a member.

Step 4. Restart Windows Server and logo into the Server as Enterprise Administrator.

And assign the static IP address to the Server.

Step 5. Right-click the Windows icon and select "Windows PowerShell (Admin)".

Step 6. Type Install-WindowsFeature –Name AD-Domain-Services -IncludeManagementTools in PowerShell and hit enter.

install Active Directory Domain Service role in the give Server

This will install the Active Directory Domain Service Role in the given Server.

Step 7. Type the following syntax command lines one by one and hit Enter each time in PowerShell. This will configure the new Server as an additional domain controller:

  • Install-ADDSDomainController
  • -CreateDnsDelegation:$false
  • -InstallDns:$true
  • -DomainName "rebeladmin.net"
  • -SiteName "Default-First-Site-Name"
  • -ReplicationSourceDC "DC08.rebeladmin.net"
  • -DatabasePath "C:\Windows\NTDS"
  • -LogPath "C:\Windows\NTDS"
  • -SysvolPath "C:\Windows\SYSVOL"
  • -Force:$true

There are no line breaks for the command listed above. So what are the meanings of these syntax? Check this out:

Syntax Content Description
Install-ADDSDomainController This cmdlet will install the domain controller in the active directory infrastructure.
-CreateDnsDelegation Using this parameter can define whether to create DNS delegation that reference active directory integrated DNS.
-InstallDns Using this can specify whether DNS role need to install with active directory domain controller. For new forest, it is default requirement to set it to $true.
-DomainName This parameter defines the FQDN for the active directory domain.
-SiteName This parameter can use to define the active directory site name. the default value is Default-First-Site-Name.
-ReplicationSourceDC Using this parameter can define the active directory replication source. By default, it will use any available domain controller. But if need we can be specific.
-DatabasePath This parameter will use to define the folder path to store active directory database file (Ntds.dit).
-LogPath Log path can use to specify the location to save domain log files.
-SysvolPath This is to define the SYSVOL folder path. The default location for it will be C:\Windows
-Force This parameter will force the command to execute by ignoring the warning. For example, it is typical for the system to pass the warning about best practices and recommendations.

Step 8. Enter a new complex password if the command requests for SafeModeAdministrator Password.

After this, restart the Server system and log in as administrator. 

Step 9. Open PowerShell again, type Get-Service adws,kdc,netlogon,dns and hit Enter to check the AD DS status.

Check AD DS status

Step 10. Type Get-ADDomainController -Filter * | Format-Table Name, IPv4Address, Site in PowerShell, and hit Enter. 

Step 11. Migrate all FSMO roles to the new domain controller by typing Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -Identity REBEL-DC2019 -OperationMasterRole SchemaMaster, DomainNamingMaster, PDCEmulator, RIDMaster, InfrastructureMaster in PowerShell and hit Enter.

Note: Replace REBEL_DC2019 with your new running Windows Server.

Migrate all FSMO roles to new domain controllers

Step 12. Type Netdom query fsmo in PowerShell to verify the new FSMO role holder.

Verify new FSMO role holder

Step 13. Type Uninstall-ADDSDomainController -DemoteOperationMasterRole -RemoveApplicationPartition to decomission the old Windows domain controller.

Discomissioin the old Windows domain controller

Step 14. Type Set-ADDomainMode –identity therebeladmin.com -DomainMode Windows2016Domain in PowerShell and hit Enter to upgrade the functional domain levels.

Step 15. Type Set-ADForestMode -Identity therebeladmin.com -ForestMode Windows2016Forest in PowerShell and hit Enter to upgrade forest functional levels.

Finish transfer AD to new server

Wait for the process to complete. After this, the Server AD migration process completes. You can then verify if it completes successfully by typing the next two command lines in PowerShell and hitting Enter each time:

  • Get-ADDomain | fl Name,DomainMode
  • Get-ADForest | fl Name,ForestMode

Verify if AD transferring completes

As shown above, if you see the result, you've successfully transferred Active Directory to a new Server machine.

Method 2. Use Active Directory Migration Tool

Aside from the above manual method, the other tool you can try is applying an Active Directory migration tool. EaseUS Todo PCTrans Technician with its PC to PC File Transfer feature can fulfill this task for you.

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Here is the complete process that you can apply to migrate and transfer the Active Directory database from one Server to another Server with ease.

Note that you just need to select the AD database folder for file transferring between Server computers during the procedure.

Step 1. Open EaseUS Todo PCTrans on both of your server computers. Choose "PC to PC" to go to the next step.

Transfer files from one server to another - step 1

Step 2. Choose the transfer direction  - New PC or Old PC.

"New" - Transfer files from old Server to current new Server.

"Old" - Transfer files from current old Server to a new Server.

transfer direction

Step 3. Connect the current PC to the target PC by entering the target computer's account password or its verification code. You can turn on the "Connection Verification"on the right top of the "PC to PC" mainscreen on the target computer. 

Transfer files from one server to another - step 2

Step 4. Click "Files" > "Transfer" to check all the files you want to transfer to another Server computer. Then click "Transfer" to migrate specific data you have chosen.

Transfer files from one server to another - step 3

Step 5. Wait for the process finishes. PCTrans will transfer files at a fast speed. It won't take too long.

Transfer files from one server to another - step 4

Once done, you can then reboot the target Windows Server computer and log in as administrator. 

Bonus Tips for Server to Server Migration

Aside from transferring Active Directory from one Server to another Server, you may still have much other content that needs to be moved, for example, user data, user accounts, domain accounts and settings, applications, etc.,

How do you completely transfer Sever data to another Server? Check this out:

#1. Transfer User Data and Accounts to New Server

EaseUS Todo PCTrans, with its account settings transfer feature, can help you fully migrate user data and accounts to a new Server in simple clicks.

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Step 1. Install and launch EaseUS Todo PCTrans on both two devices. On the source PC, select "PC to PC" to continue.

transfer files from one laptop to another - step 1

Step 2. Select the transfer direction - as an Old PC or a New PC.

choose transfer direction

Make sure the two PCs are on the same LAN. Connect to the target PC via its IP address or adding it manually. Enter the login account and password of the target PC and link two PCs by clicking "Connect".

transfer files from one laptop to another - step 2

Step 3. Click at the "Accounts" section to specify User Accounts and Settings for transferring.

transfer files from one laptop to another - step 3

Step 4. Enter the user account and password of the source computer, select the User Account Settings, User Data and other settings that you want to transfer. 

transfer files from one laptop to another - step 1

Step 5. After selection, click "Transfer" to start to transfer user accounts and settings.

transfer files from one laptop to another - step 5

#2. Migrate Essential Applications to New Server

Aside from Server data, files, and accounts, you may also want to move some essential applications to a new Server, for example, the Windows Server Manager, SQL installer, Exchange, Quickbooks, Office, Adobe, etc.

You can simply manage this task and accomplish it on your own with the help of reliable Windows Server file transfer software. Here is how to do so:

Step 1. Run EaseUS Todo PCTrans on both PCs

On the source PC, select "PC to PC" on the main screen of EaseUS Todo PCTrans and move on.

select pc to pc transfer mode

Step 2. Choose transfer direction - Old or New Computer

"New" - Transfer all data from remote old computer to current new computer.

"Old" - Transfer all data from current old device to a new computer.

choose transfer direction

Step 3. Connect two computers

1. Select your target PC to connect via its IP address or device name and click "Connect".

2. Enter the login password of your target PC and click "OK" to confirm.

If you didn't see the target PC in the listed devices, you can also click "Add PC" to manually connect the target PC by inputting its IP address or device name.

connect two PCs

Step 4. Select apps, programs, and software and transfer to the target computer

1. You can select and choose what you want to transfer from the current computer to the target PC.

2. After selecting desired applications and programs, click "Transfer" to start the transferring process.

select apps to transfer from PC to PC

Moving AD from Server to a New Server Is Complex, Be Careful and Patient

This tutorial page tells what Active Directory is and why it is so important for Server administrators to migrate AD to a new Server. 

We also introduced two methods that help to successfully migrate Active Directory to a new Server on Windows Server 2022/2019/2016/2012/2008/2003, etc.

Note that the procedure is a bit complex. So be sure that you are careful and patient while typing the command lines in PowerShell to execute the task. 

About the Author

Updated by Tracy King

Tracy joined in EaseUS in 2013 and has been working with EaseUS content team for over 7 years. Being enthusiastic in computing and technology, she writes tech how-to articles and share technical solutions about Windows & Mac data recovery, file/system backup and recovery, partition management and iOS/Android data recovery.

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How to Transfer Active Directory to a New Windows Server 2022/2019/2016 [Complete Guide]

Try smart Windows 11 data transfer tool to move all data in 1 click.

EaseUS Todo PCTrans

  Free Download

100% Secure