Migrating an Exchange 2003 server to a new server box

My task for the evening is to migrate our old Exchange server to a new one, with completely different hardware. This will be a long long post, and will be boring to those who know nothing about the words "Microsoft Exchange Server". Old server: Dell Poweredge 4400 Windows Server 2003 SP 1 Intel Pentium III, 800 mhz 1 gb RAM, 133? Front Side Bus

New server: Dell Poweredge 2850 Windows Server 2003 SP 1 Dual Intel Xeon, 3.6ghz 2 gb RAM, 800mhz Front Side Bus

Current time - 5:30pm

Our old mail server is plum tuckered out. We've decided it's time for a new one, so we bought a fancy new server, and it's been sitting in the rack for 3 weeks doing nothing. The migration task is difficult because we need the new server to do exactly the same thing as the old one, and hopefully without users noting anything has changed. Except for the extreme speed that will be coming their way once we're working.

First step: Backup all content on old mail server - I'm using the Windows Backup tool for this, which according to reports is better in Windows 2003 than it ever has been. So far it's working, backing up everything on the server. I'm a little discouraged that it claims 2 days 6 hours are remaining, but I'm sure it will take much less than that. At this point things could have gone horribly wrong.

Thankfully, my boss called me and asked me how things were going. I told him of the 2 day time schedule, and explained that it was probably because we were backing up onto an external hard drive, and the old server only has USB 1.0. He said that was correct, and that I should try backing up to our network backup storage. Good idea says I. So I restarted the backup to the new location. Now I'm told 2 hours remaining. Woot woot woot.

... 1h 33m...

...30m...

Done. Next, go to our new Exchange server and restore the backup. When I started this I noticed the drive mappings weren't the same on our new one as they were before, so using Disk Management I swapped the Data partition and CD-ROM drive letters. Now everything looks pretty good to go... so we check advanced settings. Make sure all files are replaced, even if more recent ones are on the server. And... go. 55 minutes remaining. In the time it took to write this section (about 5 minutes due to a brief interruption) it jumped down to 14 minutes. Yay!

...6m... At this point I figured it would be a good idea to shut down the old mail server. Just in case when the new one restarts there are IP and computer naming conflicts. "Planned shutdown: OK"

Restore complete. Restart computer. First boot:

Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: system32ntoskrnl.exe

Shite. Rebooting from Windows Setup Disk and into Recovery Console... Must rebuild boot menu. Restart. Done that... didn't help. Gave another more elementary error, so I'm going back into Recovery to try and fix the ntoskrnl specifically. Replaced the file, getting the same message as my manually created boot item.

Ok, I've rebooted again, and I'm doing the Autmated System Recovery this time. Maybe I should have started with this. This will (and is) installing a barebones Windows setup and will then ask for the location of the backup. I had a few problems with swapping floppy disks (due to requiring third party RAID drivers) but it's actually quite intelligent. It's now copying files. Current concerns: a) My backup is stored in a network volume... that could be tricky. b) I don't know if it will make the new partitions the same as the old ones. If so, that's a bit undesirable. We have a much larger hard disk in the new server. ...28%... Complete. Rebooting. The install process started, mostly as usual, and then asked for the backup media. Problem: It's on the network. I can't access the network. I am able to get into the System Applet, somehow though, so I'm going to try and install the drivers for the NIC, then join it to the domain. Current time - 9:37pm

Supreme excitement!! I managed to intall the Network Drivers. If you click cancel enough on all the hardware found windows (remember, it's only installed a very basic windows. You don't have anything more than the install GUI) you'll eventually get to the "Devices found but not installed" page. On that list were two Network Adapters. The install worked for the first, and then the second, and then I could connect to the Network Backup Device. Oh man I'm thrilled. So right now it's restoring the backup. 21 minutes remaining.

Complete. Reboot. Boot successful! So, I'm in Windows now. It's all the same as the old backup server... only it's fast. And all the drivers have installed successfully. Only problem, the data partition doesn't seem to have copied. I also can't connect to anything on the network. Restart and boot into safe mode. Uninstall Network Adapters, reinstall. Reboot into Safe Mode with Network Support. Connectivity has returned, but I can't open the backup file anymore (in order to restore the Data partition). Fingers crossed... rebooting into normal mode.

Normal boot successful. For some reason though when I open the backup file again nothing appears in the file list. Thankfully, while this was going on I copied the backup to my external hard drive, and now I tried using that copy instead. Success! There were a couple of new files in the directory the backup was stored, so I wonder if they were causing the backup to not work. Either way it's now backing up the Data partition, 15 minutes remaining. Current time - 10:20pm

Backup complete. The data partition is now in place. I rebooted. Low and behold... she's alive!

That's right, everything works! Outlook, web access, everything. There'll be a bit of cleanup as there are some errors in the event log, but on the whole... I'm a happy camper. Thanks for reading. End time - 10:40pm