Essentials as a Domain Controller


I’d like advice on how to set up WS22S with Essentials. My situation is that I plan to replace the C236M motherboard, CPU, RAM, and SSD on my existing server, currently running WS16E, with a newC246M motherboard, a new CPU, RAM and SSD. So far, I have put the parts together on the new motherboard, installed a fresh copy of WS22S on the SSD, used the WSEE installer to copy the WS16E files and settings to the new SSD, and begun the process of configuring Essentials on the new motherboard and its operating system. I realize that Essentials must either be or see a domain controller, just as it had to with 2016.

I know that by default, Essentials is configured as the primary domain controller on my network. I want my new WS22S Essentials server to be a domain controller, but only after the existing WS16E controller is taken out of commission. I think I have to manually join my new WS22S Essentials server to the WS16E server that is acting as the primary domain controller before I take the WS16E controller out of commission and before I configure Essentials on the new WS22S with Essentials server. For this reason, I stopped the configuration of Essentials on the new motherboard and used the advice of Deploying Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials in an Existing Active Directory Environment to set up the new WS22S with Essentials server motherboard as an associate domain controller. This procedure involved invoking the Active Directory Domain Services Configuration Wizard to Add a domain controller to an existing domain.

I hope that the configuration wizard for Essentials will not see that the new server is already joined to another domain, and will not configure the Essentials server as a member server within that domain. It still needs to be the primary domain controller. Soon, I will remove the domain controller role from the WS16E server and will eventually replace the WS16E motherboard with the new WS22S with Essentials motherboard, keeping only the data drives from the old server.

My questions are

  1. Should I continue not to let the Essentials Configuration Wizard complete its job until the new motherboard replaces the old one and serves as the only domain controller?
  2. How should I transfer the client computers to the new server? Do I have to uninstall the Connector on each of my four clients, and then install the new connector for the WS22S server running Essentials?
  3. Is there some way to avoid having a new desktop on the client servers? Would connecting client computers to a Windows Server Essentials server without joining the domain be the way to accomplish this?
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Great Answer

Alas, I’m afraid that I just don’t do domain migrations, and so I’m not very familiar with them (i.e. I’m definitely not the best source for advice on performing domain migrations with Essentials-based servers). I always suggest that folks start over with a brand new/clean instance of Windows Server 2019/2022 Standard, with no other server roles, features, or applications installed, for the best results.

That being said, I’ll do my best to try and answer your questions…

First off, if your 2022 server is currently joined to another domain (i.e. to your older 2016 server), then the “Windows Server Essentials Configuration” wizard will indeed see/recognize that, and configure Windows Server Essentials as a member server within the existing domain (as opposed to its default installation method of just making the Windows Server Essentials server the primary domain controller). That’s how Microsoft wrote the wizard to work, and so there’s nothing much I can do about that I’m afraid.

1) Yes, that’s certainly how I’d approach it (since you don’t want the new Essentials server to be a member server of the old/existing Essentials server as I mentioned above). It’s probably far better to just follow the domain migration guidance that Microsoft provides over here instead (see also).

2) Since the Windows Server Essentials Client Connector software, that’s already installed on your clients, will be exactly the same (i.e. since it’s taken straight from 2016), there’s no need to completely uninstall it from your clients I don’t believe. However, you will need to reconnect the clients back to the domain by re-installing the connector software on them once again (via http://<ServerName>/connect). See: To connect a client computer to the server

3) Since the clients are already joined to the domain (as opposed to being connected using Microsoft’s SkipDomainJoin connection method), you’ll first need to implement the SkipDomainJoin registry setting on them in order to prevent your user’s existing profiles from being overwritten/trashed. Simply add the SkipDomainJoin registry entry to the client, re-run the client connector software on the client, and then remove the SkipDomainJoin registry settings afterwards (doing that will stop the clients from being re-joined to the domain again and messing up the existing user profile).

Best of luck!

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