Domain Rename Technical Reference

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

Domain Rename Technical Reference

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2003 operating systems provide the capabilities to rename domains in an Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) directory service forest after the forest structure is in place. These domain rename capabilities are available in a forest that has a forest functional level of Windows Server 2003 or higher. These capabilities are not available in Microsoft Windows 2000 Server operating systems.


In Windows Server® 2003 and Microsoft Windows® 2000 Server, the directory service is named Active Directory. In Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008, the directory service is named Active Directory Domain Services. The rest of this topic refers to AD DS, but the information is also applicable to Active Directory.

You can use the domain rename process to change the names of your domains, and you can also use it to change the structure of the domain trees in your forest. This process involves updating the Domain Name System (DNS) and trust infrastructures as well as Group Policy and service principal names (SPNs).

The structure of an Active Directory forest is the result of the order in which you create domains and the hierarchical names of those domains. Beginning with the forest root domain, all child domains derive their distinguished names and default DNS names from the name of the forest root domain. The same is true of every additional tree in the forest. The way to change the hierarchical structure of an existing domain tree is to rename the domains. For example, you can rename a child domain to have a different parent or rename a child domain to be a new tree-root domain. In each case, you reposition an existing domain to create a different domain-tree structure.

Alternatively, you can rename domains without affecting the structure of the forest. For example, if you rename a root domain, the names of all child domains below it are also changed, but you have not created a different domain-tree structure.

This technical reference subject does not provide procedural information that you need to perform a domain rename operation. Rather, it provides essential background information that you must thoroughly understand before undertaking a domain rename operation in a production environment. This technical reference subject does include information about where to obtain the tools and procedures for a domain rename operation.

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