Boswell's Q&A

Server Coexistence

Who gave this reader the silly idea that Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 can't live within the same domain?

Bill: I have a question about using Windows Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003 on the same domain. I was told by the company where I buy my servers that a Windows 2003 server isn’t compatible on a domain with an existing Win2K server machine. The company is a Microsoft Certified Partner, and I am not sure if I am just getting the run-around because they have an old copy of Win2K they want to sell or if what they're saying is, indeed, true. If it's true, it would seem odd that Microsoft doesn't address the issue anywhere on its site. I've searched and haven't found any KnowledgeBase articles or anything in the newsgroups.

Is there proof anywhere that the server versions work together, proof that I might print out so I can demand Windows Server 2003? I'd like to take advantage of the additional functionality. Thanks in advance.
—Name withheld

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Name Withheld: I’m not sure why representatives from a certified partner would give you this information, but they’re mistaken. You can put a Windows Server 2003 member server into a Win2K domain with no problems. In fact, you should be upgrading Web and terminal servers to Windows Server 2003 as soon as you can afford the time and licenses. The increased security, functionality, and stability of IIS and RDP in Windows Server 2003 make those upgrades a virtual no-brainer.

Now, your vendor might have been referring to introducing a Windows Server 2003 domain controller. Before you can do that, you'll first have to prepare the forest and domain with the ADPREP utility. This requires some planning.

Other than that, though, Windows Server 2003 member servers can coexist in Win2K domains without issues. In fact, you can even use the Active Directory management tools on a Windows Server 2003 member server to manage your Win2K domain. You won’t be able to take advantage of all the cool features in Active Directory Users and Computers, such as changing properties on multiple objects at the same time, but you will be able to use drag-and-drop and saved queries.

Oh, just one thing. It's not an incompatibility, as such, just something to keep in mind. It has to do with Group Policy Objects. Windows Server 2003 includes an expanded set of GPOs that you won't see in the Win2K Group Policy Editor unless you create or modify a GPO from a Windows 2003 member server. If you want to use group policies to manage a mix of Win2K and Windows 2003 servers, create and modify the GPOs only from Windows 2003 machines. This is especially true if you currently use Windows XP desktops as management workstations for your Win2K domain. When you eventually upgrade to XP SP2, you will overwrite the Administrative Template files used to control group policy settings. Microsoft is supposed to make sure that the group policy settings in XP SP2 incorporate all the Windows 2003 settings, but you never know what might happen.

Hope this helps.

About the Author

Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.

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