Top 2 Ways to Transfer Active Directory to Another Server

This article helps all Windows Server users to transfer Active Directory to another Server machine, including 2 methods, one using the command line and the other using a powerful third-party tool.


By Jonna Updated on January 11, 2024

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Need to Migrate Active Directory to New Server

One of the best ways to protect your system is to make sure the Active Directory (AD) Domain Controller (DC) is running the latest version of Windows Server. Many organizations are still running DC on Windows Server 2012 R2. While the operating system is supported under Microsoft's extended support through October 10, 2023, the newer version of Windows Server is significantly more secure.

The latest Windows Server offers features including built-in anti-malware in the form of Windows Defender, Server Credential Guard to protect local and remote domain credentials from attacks, and many built-in security enhancements that make the new version of Windows even more powerful.

It is often the case that organizations are asked to upgrade to the latest version of Windows Server, but don't do so because they don't want to touch their working infrastructure. However, due to the nature of AD, it is relatively easy to swap out an old domain controller for a new one. And it doesn't disrupt critical IT services. In this article, I'll walk you through how to transfer Active Directory from one server to another.

Transfer Active Directory to Another Server

Migrating Active Directory to New Server - 2 Ways

The latest Windows Server version is Windows Server 2022 and this article will show you how to migrate AD from 2008 R2 to the latest system. AD migrations from other operating systems (newer than Windows Server 2008R2) follow a similar process.

Way 1. Migrate Active Directory to New Server via AOMEI Backupper

The first method is to use a powerful third-party software - AOMEI Backupper Server to help you transfer Active Directory to new Server. It is a powerful backup and recovery software designed specifically for Windows Servers. It offers a wide range of features, including the ability to backup and restore Active Directory from one Server to another.

  • It allows you to backup your Server files/disks/partitions/systems to various locations such as local disks, external hard drives or network shares, USB drives, cloud, etc.
  • You are able to create a recovery environment or a bootable device to recover a crashed system in the event of a problem on your Server.
  •  With the specialized Universal Restore feature, you can transfer Windows Server Active Directory to dissimilar hardware without boot issues.

Follow the illustrated steps below to backup and restore Active Directory via the Active Directory migration tool AOMEI Backupper Server. This can help you migrate Active Directory to new Server, like migrating Active Directory from 2016 to 2019 step by step:

1. Download the free trial of AOMEI Backupper Server, install, and launch it.

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2. On the main interface, choose System Backup.

System Backup

3. The required system partition(s) is (are) selected by default. You just need to choose the destination path to store the backup files. Confirm the operation and click Start Backup.

Select Destination Path

   Notes: you can also customize your settings ✎...

Options: you can encrypt the backup to make sure it is encrypted to protect the data from unauthorized access. Compress and split your backups, etc. based on your needs.
Schedule Backup: you can set the backup task to run automatically at fixed intervals, such as Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event Triggers, USB plug in.
Backup Scheme: you can choose the backup method - full/incremental/differential backup. Also, you can delete old image files automatically to free up disk space for new backups. 
Create bootable media to restore from boot failure: If your server computer does not start properly due to an unknown system error, then you can use the bootable USB created by AOMEI Backupper to start the PC successfully, then perform restore task. Just click Tools and Create Bootable Media, then, follow the wizard to complete the process.

Create Bootable Media

4. Once you have a full Server backup in hand, you can restore it easily with AOMEI Backupper. Choose Restore in the left panel. Click Select Task to choose the system image.

Select Task

5. Select the backup image.

Select Backup Image

6. Select Restore this system backup. If you want to restore the system image to another place please click Restore system to other location. Click Next.

Select Destination

7. Then select the restore location you want.

Select Restore Location

8. Confirm your settings and then click Start Restore.

Start Restore

A pop-up window will prompt us to restart the computer later. Then, the operations will be completed under the Restart mode. And you have complete the process of transferring Active Directory to new server.

Way 2. Transfer Active Directory to Another Server via PowerShell

The second method is to use the PowerShell tool to help you migrate Active Directory to another Server. This method is much more difficult for newbies and requires you to have some knowledge of the command line. If the operation is not done correctly, important data may also be lost. The total process is divided into the following six steps:

1. Check Active Directory before Migration.

2. Prepare Windows Server 2022 Domain Controller.

3. Add Windows Server 2022 Domain Controller.

As one part of the configuration, we need to make the DC22 an additional domain controller. To do this:

3.1. Log in to the Server as an enterprise administrator.

3.2. Verify the static IP address assignment using ipconfig /all.

3.3. Start the PowerShell 7 Console as an administrator.

3.4. During the configuration process, we need to install the AD DS role in the given Server. To do this, we can use the following command:

  • Install-WindowsFeature -Name AD-Domain-Services -IncludeManagementTools

Install Windows Feature

3.5. Use the following command to configure the new Server as an additional domain controller:

  • Install-ADDSDomainController
  • -CreateDnsDelegation:$false
  • -InstallDns:$true
  • -DomainName ""
  • -SiteName "Default-First-Site-Name"
  • -ReplicationSourceDC ""
  • -DatabasePath "C:\Windows\NTDS"
  • -LogPath "C:\Windows\NTDS"
  • -SysvolPath "C:\Windows\SYSVOL"
  • -Force:$true

3.6. Once the command is executed, it will ask for the SafeModeAdministrator password. Please use a complex password for this. This will be used for DSRM.

4. FSMO Role Migration

With the new domain controller, you need to migrate the FSMO role from DC08 to the new domain controller.

4.1. After the Server reboots, log back in as an administrator and run the following command to verify the current FSMO role holder.

  • Get-ADDomain | Select-Object InfrastructureMaster, RIDMaster, PDCEmulator
  • Get-ADForest | Select-Object DomainNamingMaster, SchemaMaster

Verify FSMO Role Holder

4.2. We can see that all five FSMO roles currently belong to the DC08 (Windows Server 2008 R2) domain controller. Migrate all five FSMO roles to the new domain controller by running the following command in the DC02 server.

  • Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -Identity DC22 -OperationMasterRole SchemaMaster, DomainNamingMaster, PDCEmulator, RIDMaster, InfrastructureMaster

Migrate FSMO Role

4.3. Once this is done, we can verify the new FSMO role holder with the following command.

  • Get-ADDomain | Select-Object InfrastructureMaster, RIDMaster, PDCEmulator
  • Get-ADForest | Select-Object DomainNamingMaster, SchemaMaster 

5. Decommission Old Domain Controller.

6. Raise Domain and Forest Functional level.

☛ The specific steps can refer to Step-by-Step Guide to Transfer Active Directory from One Server to Another.

Bonus tip: Centrally backup server and computer after transferring

Windows Server is really important for business. For enterprise users, we strongly suggest you backup your Windows Server after transferring active directory to avoid data loss. Here we would like to recommend a powerful and easy-to-use enterprise backup software - AOMEI Cyber Backup

It is specialized to simplify enterprise backup. With its intuitive interface, users can easily backup all Windows servers and Windows PCs, as well as VMware, Hyper-V virtual machines, and SQL databases. It has many features and advantages to meet different backup environments of businesses.

Fast backup and recovery: Offer a fast speed to complete a backup task and restore data to a usable state, minimizing the risk of data loss.
Remote & centralized backup: Easily add all Windows servers and PCs for backup. And after backup, you can centrally manage, delete, monitor, and restore backup on the console.
Automatic & Scheduled backup: Set up a scheduled backup task once, it will run full, incremental, differential backup daily, monthly, weekly, and monthly.

To back up Windows with fewer limitations, you can download the 30-day free trial, and follow the guide to have a try:

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Step 1.  Run AOMEI Cyber Backup. The default username and password for AOMEI Cyber Backup are both "admin". 

Step 2.  Click Source Device > Windows > Add Windows Device to add source devices. Enter the IP address, username and password and click Confirm.

Step 3. Click Backup Task on the left menu bar and select Backup Task > Create New Task

Select Backup Type

Final words

This article introduces you to two ways to transfer Active Directory to another server. After comparing them you can find the best method for you. I prefer to use AOMEI Backupper Server to migrate Active Directory, it gives you more advanced backup options and is simpler to operate. It can also provide full protection for your server data. You can also use it to create a Windows Server 2022 recovery disk. When you encounter problems such as system crashes, hard drive failures, virus attacks, etc., you can quickly restore your computer to normal with the help of this recovery tool and system backup.

Jonna · Editor
Jonna joined AOMEI in 2021 and has become a professional in the areas of computer backup and restoration, disk cloning, file synchronization, etc. She maintains a keen eye for the latest technology trends, ensuring that the information provided is always in step with industry developments.