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   ► KBComputer TechSoftwareDomains   Print This     
  From the December 2015 Issue of Prestwood eMag
Tech Domains:
Converting from a Workgroup to a Domain
Posted 12 years ago on 8/9/2009 and updated 5/16/2012
Take Away:

For a particular user on a particular computer, all programs installed for all users will still be available whether they log into their computer or the domain. You will have to migrate all other user specific settings either manually or use an automated tool.

Both of which are incomplete so expect to have to manually migrate some application specific settings and data for each user. At a minimum, log into the old local account and migrate My Documents, Desktop, Favorites, and perhaps e-mail such as the Outlook .PST or Outlook Express .DBX files.


Workgroup Overview

A workgroup is a peer-to-peer network meaning all computers in the Workgroup are equal and no one computer is in control of any other computer. You have to manage rights on each computer. For example, if you have both a file server and a print server, you will have to add all users to both computers. when you get a new user, you have to remember t add them to both computers. When someone leaves, you have to remember to disable their account on both servers.


  • Easy to setup. The default.


  • Each computer that wants to share a resource has to grant rights to all users allowed.
  • If a user changes their password, you have to change the password on each and all computers that have granted rights.
  • Microsoft limits the number of connections for workstations (home to 5 connections, pro/business to 10 connections).

Domain Overview

A domain is a server-based network meaning not all computers are at the same level. Some computers have roles that the other computers must participate with. With a domain, Microsoft establishes a domain controller -- a single computer in charge of all security. The specific feature used is called Active Directory.


  • Centrally Manage Security
  • Ability to group similar users into groups for ease of management.


  • The domain controller always has to be up. At a minimum, this means using a good server with redundant hard drives, preferably using RAID 5. You will also want to consider a server with redundant power supplies and an additional server setup as the Secondary Domain Controller.

Setup Domain Controller

To setup a domain use dcpromo.exe on the best computer you can buy. There are lots of articles on the specifics of setting up a domain, the focus of this article is after your Primary Domain Controller is setup.

Join New Workstations

Joining a new workstation to a domain is easy and the preferred technique. Fresh settings. Fresh application data. Easy.

Join Existing Workstations

Joining an in-use workstation and migrating all settings and data can be a serious chore. A complete survey of each workstation is a must if you don't want upset users. When converting an in-use workstation, you need to identify what settings and data you are going to migrate. Even then, you'll most likely have one or more users call you in to migrate some "extra" data or settings that has disappeared. The rest of this document is the standard migration path we use here at Prestwood for our Tech Service clients when we migrate them from a workgroup to a domain.

Username and Password

Use the same username and password as is used when signing into the workstation. If there is a username conflict or standard, rename the local username and reset the password to the same used in the domain. In that way, when the user signs into their computer the LDAP on the workstation has the same security authentication as DAP on the server. In that way, when the user signs into their local computer, they still have the same rights as when they are signed into the domain. Although this defeats some of the benefits of using a domain, you may want to consider allowing this type of login. For example, here at Prestwood we frequently work with developers that have their own laptop configured with many tools. Migrating all their settings and data for a five week gig just isn't practical for us.

Automated Migration with Tools

You can use automated tools to migrate the bulk of user settings and data:

Manual Migration

Microsoft Outlook

Copy your .PST file from your computer account to your domain account. You'll have to setup your email accounts again and adjust your email rules. Going forward, you have to log into your domain account in order to process emails.

Microsoft Outlook and Exchange

If you are also adding an Exchange server, you have access to some neat features and the process is a bit simpler. Log into the computer account, add Exchange to Outlook, copy or move all emails, contacts, etc. to your newly created Exchange account, then remove the .PST file from Outlook. Next, log into your domain account and add Exchange to Outlook. You can now log into either the computer or the domain and all your emails, contacts, tasks, calendar, shared calendars, shared contacts, etc. are available on both accounts. In fact, all are available from any computer in the office that has Outlook installed and you've configured their account for Exchange. If the user has a computer at home, you can implement RPC over HTTP for remote access and the user will have full access at home. Finally, if you setup a web server on the Exchange server, users will have access with any computer in the world that has a browser and Internet access.

Setup a Backup Domain Controller

Now that your domain controller is up and all your users and equipment are joined, it's time to setup a backup domain controller for when the domain controller is restarted or goes down for any other reason.

Backup Your Domain Controller

In addition to setting up a backup domain, you should backup your domain controller and if you are using Exchange server, back that up too.

Backup Your Domain Controller

There are many techniques for backing up your domain. Perhaps the easiest is to use Microsoft Backup on the Domain Controller to backup the Domain data to another computer on your network.

Backup Exchange Server

If you are using Exchange server, back that up too. Again, there are many techniques for backing up your domain including Microsoft Backup. Run MS Backup on the Exchange Server to backup the Microsoft Information Store to another computer on your network.

Test Your Backups

Make sure you verify your recovery process.

Disaster Recovery

Your disaster recovery plan should include backing up your domain controller and other data off-site. Backup your domain controller backup off-site and if you're using Exchange Server, backup the MS Information Store off-site too.


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KB Post Contributed By Mike Prestwood:

Mike Prestwood is a drummer, an author, and creator of the PrestwoodBoards online community. He is the President & CEO of Prestwood IT Solutions. Prestwood IT provides Coding, Website, and Computer Tech services. Mike has authored 6 computer books and over 1,200 articles. As a drummer, he maintains and has authored 3 drum books. If you have a project you wish to discuss with Mike, you can send him a private message through his PrestwoodBoards home page or call him 9AM to 4PM PST at 916-726-5675 x205.

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