We want to rename several computers in our Active Directory (AD) domain: two Exchange Server systems and two domain controllers (DCs). Can you recommend an easy method?
First let's deal with the DCs. Once you promote a server to a DC, all sorts of directory objects contain the computer's name. Therefore, Microsoft doesn't support directly renaming a DC. The only supported renaming method is to use the Dcpromo utility to turn the DC back into a member server and wait for a complete AD replication cycle to complete before renaming the computer. After you rename the server, Windows will force you to reboot. Then, you can run Dcpromo again to turn the machine back into a DC. For more information about Dcpromo, read "Windows 2003 Dcpromo," September 2003, InstantDoc ID 39767. If you run into trouble with the demotion process, read the FAQ "I'm having a problem demoting a domain controller (DC)? How can I demote it?" April 2004, InstantDoc ID 42343.
Now, about the Exchange servers. The bad news is that renaming Exchange servers often doesn't work properly; one or more objects fail to be updated with the correct distinguished name (DN) of the newly renamed server, usually because of replication failures. Depending on which objects aren't properly updated, you might find yourself occasionally unable to attach to servers from Exchange System Manager (ESM)—or you might wind up with unexpected public-folder replication failures. Instead of renaming the Exchange servers, a better plan is probably to move the servers' mailboxes and public folders to another server (or servers), remove the original servers from the Exchange organization, rename them, reinstall Exchange, then move the servers back.