Windows Tip Sheet

Rename Domain?

Though a cool new feature in Win2003, even Microsoft warns that you should use it at your expense.

One of the new "features" in Win2003 was the ability to rename domains. While it was added due to customer demand, Microsoft wasn't super-comfortable with it, and they loaded the procedure and tool (random.exe) with a health dose of caveats and requirements. Essentially, you can rename domains, but you probably shouldn't if you can avoid it.

Case in point: Knowledge Base article 896983, which outlines a problem that results in an inability to apply Group Policy settings on member servers in a renamed domain. If this occurs, silly you: You used the old Rendom.exe utility, which is broken. You need v1.4. Easy mistake, since the article makes it clear that there are no plans to update the Win2003 SP1 version of Rendom.exe. Version 1.4 only updates this Group Policy issue, after all, and it doesn't help you recover from the problems caused by the original release of Rendom.exe. This domain renaming is clearly an invitation to Armageddon.

The article then proceeds to jump into ADSIEdit, which is the last refuge of a sorely broken domain, and instructs you to modify a couple of domain attributes to set things right.

Honestly, for my money, it seems a lot safer just to set up a brand-new domain and migrate your poor users, but I realize there are some times when renaming the domain -- despite the near-death experience it seems like -- is the best way to go. But please, for the love of all that's silicon, if you must proceed along this path be sure to get the latest instructions and tools (linked below). Whatever you find on your Win2003 product or Service Pack CD is almost certainly not the latest.

And read the entire fantastic manual, eh? Both of them: the short "understanding" guide as well as the 1.25MB monster step-by-step guide.

Additional Resources:

  • Read the KB article for yourself.
  • Official instructions and tools (seriously, read 'em all) here.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist 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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