Windows Tip Sheet

DCpromo Tips, Take Two

Two simple tricks to make DC promotion go down quick and easy.

After my January tip on automating the DCpromo process, I got a lot of e-mail asking for more specifics. Your wish being my command, of course, here’s the lowdown:

You’ll start with a traditional unattended Setup file, just like you’d use for a non-DC. Add two new sections: [DCInstall] and [GUIRunOnce]. You’ll also need to create a separate answer file for DCpromo to use.

Add something like dcpromo /answer:dcpromo_answer_filename to the [GUIRunOnce] section; in the [DCInstall] section, you’ll add several parameters as documented in the unattended Setup manual (Unattended.doc, which can be found on the Windows CD under Support Tools’ file).

Short, sweet and simple. But another trick—available with Win2003—is to automate DCpromo so that it replicates its initial AD database from media, and not over the network. This is a great idea if you’re deploying new DCs in a large domain and there’s only a WAN link between the new DC and the closest existing DC. Rather than bringing the WAN to its knees, you can just grab a recent AD backup from media (e.g., CD), leaving the new DC to just replicate what’s changed since the backup was made.

To make your backup, use Windows Backup to back up files and settings, grabbing just the System State of a domain controller. Save the backup to a disk, and then burn it to CD, DVD or whatever you’ve got handy; even a big USB flash drive will work. You’ll need to restore the backup to an alternate location (like the drive of a new DC, or another CD/DVD/USB drive) to use the backup in the Dcpromo process. If you’re manually installing the new DC, run dcpromo /adv to make the “From these restored backup files” option available during Dcpromo; point the Wizard to the restored files and you’re golden.

To automate the process, add the following to your Dcpromo answer file:



Neat trick, and easy to pull off!

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More Resources:

  • Read more about automating DCpromo here.
  • Learn to combine unattended Setup and unattended DCpromo here.
  • The official word on unattended DC promotion is here.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is Curriculum Director for IT Pro Content for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at

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