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Migrating servers

Updated: January 21, 2005

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

Migrating servers

DNS migration can occur in one of the following ways:

  1. Upgrading a computer running the version of DNS included in Windows NT Server 4.0 or Windows 2000 to a server running Windows Server 2003 .

  2. Moving zone files from an existing DNS server running another DNS server implementation, such as server running a version of the Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND) software.

  3. Migrating zones using master-secondary zone transfer from BIND servers to DNS servers running Windows Server 2003 .

Upgrading DNS servers from Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 2000

Any zones or server configuration files and parameters created and stored using the Windows NT Server 4.0 or Windows 2000 version of the DNS Server service are stored in the same system folder locations. There is no conversion of data required during the upgrade process.

Moving BIND-based files

When moving from a BIND DNS server to a DNS server running Windows Server 2003 , however, you need to copy any BIND-created zone or boot files that you intend to use with the DNS Server service. Also, if you continue to use a BIND boot file to provide the initial configuration settings used by the DNS Server service when it is started, you need to change the boot method used by the DNS Server service or rename the zone files from the BIND naming convention to that used by DNS servers running under the DNS Server service provided in Windows operating systems. For more information, see Change the boot method used by the DNS server.

Any zone files created and stored on UNIX DNS servers that use BIND need to be manually copied from those servers to the systemroot\System32\Dns folder on the server running Windows Server 2003 .

If you do not migrate the BIND boot file or specify the BIND name when creating the zones using the DNS console, then you will need to rename these zones. The following table shows examples of how BIND server files are renamed for use with the DNS Server service that is provided on servers running a member of the Windows Server 2003 family.


Description UNIX file name Windows Server 2003  file name

Boot file



Forward lookup zone file



Reverse lookup zone file



For a reverse lookup zone, BIND uses a convention of noting reverse domain names as a forward notation of mapped IP network, such as db.192.1.168 for a reverse lookup zone created for an example IP network address of DNS servers running Windows Server 2003 , however, use the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) for the zone, which includes the domain, to complete the file name. In this example, the correct name to use for the same zone in Windows Server 2003  DNS is when copying and renaming the file.


  • If you are using the BIND boot file with the DNS Server service after migration, there are other limitations that apply to the use of this file by the DNS Server service. For example, some BIND boot directives are not supported -- in particular, xfrnets and other directives provided with versions of BIND, such as version 8.1.1 or later. For more information, see articles Q194513, "The Structure of a Domain Name System Boot File"; Q234144, "DNS Boot File Directives and Configuration for Windows NT 4.0," in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

  • If you are accustomed to manually editing DNS zone files, be aware that the DNS Server service uses RFC-compliant notation for its supported resource records (RRs). In most cases, the DNS Server service interprets and loads RRs from zone files originally created for BIND DNS servers without any need for file changes. If, however, you have used non-standard record formatting, the DNS Server service can detect these edits and interpret them as bad or errored zone data. For more information about RFCs, see DNS RFCs.

Migrating from third-party servers using zone transfer

Another possible scenario for server migration is using zone transfer to migrate third-party server zones to DNS servers running Windows Server 2003 . To accomplish this, you can take the following steps:

  1. At your server running Windows Server 2003 , install the DNS Server service.

  2. Using the DNS console, at the new server add secondary zones for all of your existing zones hosted at the BIND-based DNS servers.

    Configure the third-party servers as the master servers for each of the secondary zones you need to create.

  3. After completing the zone transfers, convert any of the secondary zones to primary zones for the zones that were obtained from primary zones at the third-party servers.

  4. Configure the previous primary servers to be secondary servers for the migrated zones or demote the previous primary servers.

  5. For the other secondary zones that remain, update the master servers for those zones to use the new primary DNS servers running Windows Server 2003 .

For more information, see Install a DNS server, Add a secondary server for an existing zone, Initiate a zone transfer at a secondary server, Change the zone type, and Update the master server for a secondary zone.


  • If you choose to continue to use your third-party DNS servers as secondary servers for zones for which your DNS server running Windows Server 2003 is the primary server, you should review interoperability issues related to zone transfer for this configuration. For more information, see Interoperability issues.

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