JSI Tip 6608. How do I prepare my x86-based member servers for an upgrade to Windows Server 2003?

NOTE: The text in the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article is provided so that the site search can find this page. Please click the Knowledge Base link to insure that you are reading the most current information.

Microsoft Knowledge Base article Q816583 contains:

For a Microsoft Windows 2000 version of this article, see 242859.


This article describes how to prepare your x86-based member servers for an upgrade to Windows Server 2003.


Read the Preinstallation Documents

The network administrator should read the Readme.htm file that is stored in the root folder of the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM. This file contains links to several other reference materials located on this CD-ROM.

Review the Hardware Compatibility List

To locate the hardware compatibility list (HCL), visit the following Microsoft Web site:


Record System Information

Make sure that you record all system information pertinent to each server before you start the upgrade operation. This preserves important information for administrators who may be involved in reverting a member server back to its original condition if a problem occurs during the upgrade.

To view computer information in Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, click Windows NT Diagnostics on the Administrative Tools menu. To print the information, click Print Report on the File menu in Windows NT Diagnostics Manager.

To view computer information in Windows 2000, click Start, click Run, type dxdiag in the Open box, and then press ENTER. Take note of relevant information, or click Save All Information to save the whole output of dxdiag.

Back Up Important Files

Make sure to back up all of your important files to a backup tape or a network share.

Back Up Hard Disk Configurations

You can use Disk Administrator to save hard disk configuration information to a floppy disk. To do this, point to Configuration on the Partition menu, and then click Save. If a drive uses the NTFS file system, you can leave it as it is. Windows Server 2003 Setup converts it to the version of NTFS included with Windows Server 2003. Also, disable any disk mirroring functionality.

Determine Software Compliance

Software designed for Windows Server 2003 takes advantage of features such as Active Directory. However, any software written for Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft Windows 95, or Microsoft Windows 98 should run correctly in Windows Server 2003. Software that was written for 16-bit versions of Windows (Microsoft Windows 3.x) or MS-DOS should also work in a Windows Server 2003 environment, but this is subject to the following considerations:
  • The software may require special configuration files, such as the Autoexec.nt and Config.nt files.
  • The 16-bit software may have or require special device drivers that are no longer available or that are incompatible with Windows Server 2003.
Make sure to test the software thoroughly in a lab environment before risking downtime and data loss in a production environment.

Determine System Requirements

Before you install or migrate servers, take a hardware inventory and compare your list to the Windows Server 2003 HCL to verify that the servers are compatible with the operating system.

Each server in the network infrastructure must meet minimum requirements for Windows Server 2003 to operate efficiently. Additionally, an upgrade may require much more disk space than a new installation. As you add Active Directory functionality, the existing user accounts database may expand by up to a factor of 10 during the upgrade process.

Windows Server 2003 hardware requirements:
                |  Standard   Enterprise          Datacenter          Web
Min CPU Speed   |  133 MHz    133 MHz (x86)       400 MHz (x86)       133 MHz
                |             733 MHz (Itanium)   733 MHz (Itanium)            
Recommended     |
CPU Speed       |  550 MHz    733 MHz             733 MHz             550 MHz
Minimum RAM     |  128 MB     128 MB              512 MB              128 MB
Recommended     |  256 MB     256 MB              1 GB                256 MB
Minimum RAM     |
Max RAM         |    4 GB     32 GB (x86)         64 GB (x86)           2 GB 
                |             64 GB (Itanium)     512 GB (Itanium)    
Multi-Processor |  Up to 4     Up to 8            Minimum 8           Up to 2
Support         |                                 Maximum 64     
Disk Space      | 1.5 GB      1.5 GB (x86)        1.5 GB (x86)        1.5 GB
for Setup       |             2.0 GB (Itanium)    2.0 GB (Itanium)     

Pre-Upgrade Checklist

To upgrade member servers to Windows Server 2003, make sure that all affected computers are compatible with the new operating system. Before you run Setup for Windows Server 2003, use the following check list:
  • In Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, check the System, Application, and Security event logs in Event Viewer to verify that no errors are currently logged. If you discover errors, correct them before you upgrade your server.
  • Back up system files and all other important files. Perform a full backup of all drives in the system. If you are using the Windows Backup program, confirm that there are no errors after the backup process is complete by checking the Backup.log file.

    You can also back up the registry on member servers by using the Regback.exe utility in the Windows NT 4.0 Server Resource Kit or the Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit. This tool backs up registry hives to files without the use of tape. You can restore the registry by using Regrest.exe. Regrest.exe is also included with the resource kit.
  • Remove software and utilities. Remove any virus scanners, third-party network services, and client software. Read the Release Notes file (Relnotes.htm on the Windows Server 2003 Server CD-ROM) for information about any known problems with specific programs.
  • Remove uninterruptible power supply (UPS) devices. Disconnect the serial cable that connects any UPS devices. Windows Server 2003 tries to automatically detect devices connected to serial ports, and this may cause problems with the detection process.
  • IRQ reservations and the Emergency Repair Disk (ERD): If your system contains non-Plug and Play ISA devices, set your computer's BIOS to reserve all IRQs currently in use by non-Plug and Play ISA devices. If you do not do this, you may receive the following error message:
    In some cases, the non-Plug and Play ISA devices may not function correctly after the upgrade. You should also update your ERD.

Inventory of Existing Hardware

Before you start the Windows Server 2003 upgrade process, document the following information for each member server:
  • The manufacturer, make, and model of the computer being upgraded.
  • The amount of physical memory installed.
  • The type of network adapter installed.
  • Any non-Plug and Play devices.
  • The UPS connected to the server.
  • The type of external hard disks connected to the system.
  • The hard disk partitioning and free disk space available.
  • Any hardware or software RAID in use.
  • Which file systems (FAT16 or NTFS) are in use.
  • Type of CD-ROM or DVD-ROM device installed.
  • The operating system and any service packs currently in use.

Optimize Software Reliability and Compatibility

To optimize software reliability and compatibility, check the following items for the software that you intend to run:
  • Which operating system was a program written for (Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows 95, Windows 3.x, or MS-DOS)?
  • Was the program written to operate in a specific network environment? For which version of that network?
  • Are program files and program configuration files stored on a server or on the client computers?
  • Are data files stored on a server or on client computers?


For additional information about the Windows Server 2003 upgrade process, visit the following Microsoft Web site:


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