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Installing Windows Server 2003

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This chapter is from the book

In This Chapter

  • Preplanning and Preparing a Server Installation

  • Setting Up the Windows Server 2003 Operating System

  • Upgrading to Windows Server 2003

  • Using Alternative Methods of Installation

  • Performing an Unattended Windows Server 2003 Installation

  • Installing Windows Server 2003 from an Image

  • Installing Windows Server 2003 with Group Policy and SMS

This chapter describes the process for installing the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating system. With the advances in Microsoft technologies over the years, many steps in the installation process have been simplified. For example, you still must verify that your hardware is supported by the operating system, but the Plug and Play capability of the application automatically detects and configures most hardware items. Thankfully, the days of determining the IRQ, base I/O address, and memory range of your system devices are, for the most part, in the past. In fact, Windows Server 2003 has the easiest and most intuitive installation procedure of any Microsoft operating system to date.

The server, however, will not install itself. You still must make several decisions to ensure that your completed installation will meet your needs. This chapter walks you through these key decisions and helps you make the correct choices for your environment.

Preplanning and Preparing a Server Installation

Before you begin the actual installation of Windows Server 2003, you must make several decisions. How well you plan these steps will determine how successful your installation is.

Verifying Minimum Hardware Requirements

The first step of the installation is verifying that your hardware meets the system requirements. Keep in mind that, although there is a minimum requirement for the CPU and RAM, there is also a recommended CPU and RAM configuration. For the sake of performance, you should usually stay away from the minimum requirements and stick to the recommended settings (or better). Table 3.1 lists system recommendations for Windows Server 2003.

Table 3.1 System Requirements


Standard Server

Enterprise Server

Minimum CPU speed

133 MHz

133 MHz for x86-based computers

733 MHz for Itanium-based computers

Recommended CPU speed

550 MHz

733 MHz

Minimum RAM



Recommended minimum speed



Maximum RAM


32GB for x86-based computers

64GB for Itanium-based computers

Multiprocessor support


Up to 8

Disk space for setup


1.5GB for x86-based

2.0GB for Itanium-based computers

Choosing a New Installation or an Upgrade

If you have an existing Windows environment, you may need to perform a new installation or upgrade an existing server. There are benefits to each of these options.

Should You Perform a New Installation?

The primary benefit of a new installation is that, by installing the operating system from scratch, you are starting with a known good server. You can avoid migrating problems that may have existed on your previous server—whether due to corrupt software, incorrect configuration settings, or improperly installed applications. Keep in mind, however, that you will also lose all configuration settings from your previous installation. Make sure you document your server configuration information and back up any data that you want to keep.

When performing a new installation, you can install on a new hard drive (or partition) or in a different directory on the same disk as a previous installation. Most new installations are installed on a new or freshly formatted hard drive. Doing so removes any old software and gives you the cleanest installation.

Should You Upgrade an Existing Server?

Upgrading, on the other hand, replaces your current Windows files but keeps existing users, settings, groups, rights, and permissions. In this scenario, you don't have to reinstall applications or restore data. Before choosing this option, keep in mind that you should test your applications for compatibility before migration. Just because they worked on previous versions of Windows does not mean they will work on Windows .NET Server 2003.

As always, before performing any type of server maintenance, you should perform a complete backup of any applications and data that you want to preserve.

To upgrade to Windows Server 2003, you must be running a server-level operating system. You cannot upgrade Workstation or Home editions to Windows Server 2003.

To upgrade your existing server, you must be running Windows 2000 or Windows NT 4.0 Server (Service Pack 5 or higher). Table 3.2 lists the available upgrade paths to Windows Server 2003.

Table 3.2 Upgrade Compatibility for Windows Server 2003

Previous Operating System

Ability to Upgrade to Windows Server 2003?

Windows NT versions 3.51 and earlier

No, you must first upgrade to NT 4.0 Service Pack 5 or higher.

Windows NT 4.0 Server

Yes, you must have Service Pack 5 or higher.

Windows 2000 Server


Windows 2000 Advanced Server


Windows 2000 Professional

No, only server-level operating systems can be upgraded.

Windows XP Professional

No, only server-level operating systems can be upgraded.

Novell NetWare

No, but migration tools are available to migrate Novell Directory Services (NDS) information to a Windows domain.

Determining the Type of Server to Install

You have the choice of making your server a domain controller (DC), a member server, or a standalone server. After you determine the tasks the server will perform, you can determine the role you will assign to it.

Domain controllers and member servers play a role in a new or existing domain. Standalone servers are not joined to a particular domain.

As in Windows 2000, you are able to promote or demote server functions as you like. Standalone servers can be joined to the domain to become member servers. Using the DCPromo utility, you can promote member servers to domain controllers. And, by uninstalling the Active Directory service from a domain controller, you can return it to member server status.

Gathering the Information Necessary to Proceed

During the installation of Windows Server 2003, you will have to tell the Setup Wizard how you want your server configured. The wizard will take the information you provide and will configure the server settings to meet your specifications.

Taking the time to gather the information described in the following sections before starting your installation will likely make your installation go faster and easier.

The Computer Name

Each computer on a network must have a name that is unique within that network.

Many companies have a standard naming convention for their servers and workstations. If not, you can use the following information as a guideline for creating your own.

Although the computer name can contain up to 63 characters, workstations and servers that are pre–Windows 2000 recognize only the first 15 characters.

It is widely considered a best practice to use only Internet-standard characters in your computer name. This includes the letters A–Z (upper- and lowercase), the numbers 0–9, and the hyphen (-).

Although it's true that implementing the Microsoft domain name system (DNS) service in your environment could allow you to use some non-Internet standard characters (such as Unicode characters and the underscore), you should keep in mind that this is likely to cause problems with any non-Microsoft DNS servers on your network. You should think carefully and test thoroughly before straying from the standard Internet characters noted in the preceding paragraph.

Name of the Workgroup or Domain

During the server installation, the Setup Wizard will ask for the name of the workgroup or domain that the server will be joining. You can either enter the name of an existing organizational structure or enter a new name, creating a new workgroup or domain.

Users new to Microsoft networking may ask, "What is the difference between a workgroup and a domain?" Simply put, a domain is a collection of computers and supporting hardware that share the same security database. Grouping the equipment in this manner allows you to set up centralized security and administration. Conversely, a workgroup has no centralized security or administration. Each server or workstation is configured independently and locally for all security and administration settings.

Network Protocol and IP Address of the Server

When installing Windows Server 2003, you must install and configure a network protocol that will allow it to communicate with other machines on the network.

Currently, the most commonly used protocol is called TCP/IP, which stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. This protocol allows computers throughout the Internet to communicate.

After you install the TCP/IP protocol, you need to configure an IP address for the server. You can choose one of the following three methods to assign an IP address:

  • Automatic Private IP Addressing (APIPA)—APIPA can be used if you have a small network that does not have a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server, which is used for dynamic IP addresses. A unique IP address is assigned to the network adapter using the LINKLOCAL IP address space. The address always starts with 169.254 and is in the format 169.254.x.x. Note that if an APIPA is in use, and a DHCP server is brought up on the network, the computer will detect this and will use the address that is assigned by the DHCP service instead.

  • Dynamic IP Address—A dynamic IP address is assigned by a DHCP server. This allows a server to assign IP addresses and configuration information to clients. Some examples of the information that is distributed include IP address, subnet mask, default gateway, domain name system (DNS) server address, and Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS) server address. As the dynamic portion of the name suggests, this address is assigned to the computer for a configurable length of time, known as a lease. When the lease expires, the workstation must again request an IP address from the DHCP server. It may or may not get the same address that it had previously. Although servers and workstations can both be configured to use this method of addressing, it is generally used for workstations rather than servers.

  • Static IP Address—Using a static IP address is the most common decision for a server configuration. By static, we mean that the address will not change unless you change the configuration of the server. This point is important because clients and resources that need to access the server must know the address to be able to connect to it. If the IP address changed regularly, connecting to it would be difficult.

Backing Up Files

Whether you are performing a new installation on a previously used server or upgrading an existing server, you should perform a complete backup of the data and operating system before you begin your new installation. This way, you have a fallback plan if the installation fails or the server does not perform the way you anticipated.

When performing a new installation on a previously used server, you overwrite any data that was stored there. In this scenario, you will have to use your backup tape to restore any data that you want to preserve.

On the other hand, if you are going to upgrade an existing server, a known good backup will allow you to recover to your previous state if the upgrade does not go as planned.


Many people back up their servers but never confirm that the data can be read from the backup media. When the time comes to recover their data, they find that the tape is unusable or unreadable, or that they do not know the proper procedures for restoring their server. You should perform backup/recovery procedures on a regular basis in a lab environment to make sure that your equipment is working properly and that you are comfortable with performing the process.

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