Restoring a Domain Controller Through Reinstallation and Subsequent Restore from Backup

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

If you cannot restart a domain controller in Directory Services Restore Mode, you can restore it through reinstallation of the operating system and subsequent restore of Active Directory from backup.

After you reinstall Windows Server 2003, perform a nonauthoritative restore of the system state and the system disk. You do not need to join the computer to the domain before performing the restore procedure. During the restore, the computer account is reestablished automatically.


The restore procedure must be performed by using the same backup tool with which the backup was made. Procedures in this task describe using Ntbackup to restore Active Directory, but you must use the tool that you used to create the backup file if it is not Ntbackup.

Restore a domain controller through reinstallation and restore the system state from backup if the following conditions exist:

  • A domain controller has failed and you cannot restart in Directory Services Restore Mode. If the failure was caused by a hardware failure, you have resolved the hardware problem (for example, by replacing the disk).

  • You have a previous backup for the failed domain controller that is not older than the tombstone lifetime for the forest.

  • The domain controller is running other server services such as Exchange, or it contains other data that you must restore from a backup.

  • You have the following information about the failed domain controller:

    • Disk configuration. You need a record of the volumes and sizes of the disks and partitions. In the case of a complete disk failure, use this information to recreate the disk configuration. Windows Server 2003 must be reinstalled to the same drive letter and with at least the same amount of physical drive space. Before you restore the system state, you must recreate all disk configurations. Failure to recreate all disk configurations can cause the restore process to fail and can prevent you from starting the domain controller after the restore.

    • Computer name. You need the computer name to restore a domain controller of the same name and avoid changing client configuration settings.

    • Password for the local computer Administrator account. You must know the local Administrator password that was used when the backup was created. The local Administrator password is also required to restore the system state on a domain controller.

Task requirements

The following tool is required to perform the procedures for this task:

  • Ntbackup.exe

To complete this task, perform the following procedures:

  1. Install Windows Server 2003.


    This guide does not provide information for the installation of Windows Server 2003.

  2. Restore Active Directory from backup

    1. Begin with step 2 of this procedure. You cannot start the server in Directory Services Restore Mode because Active Directory is not installed.

    2. This operation requires that you log on as the local Administrator, not the Administrator for Directory Services Restore Mode.

    3. Restore the System State as described, but in normal mode.

    4. When you are prompted to restart the server after you complete the restore operation, click Yes to restart the server normally.

  3. Verify Active Directory restore