Migrating WINS from Windows NT to Windows Server 2003

Although WINS isn't necessary for newer operating systems like Windows 2000 and Windows XP, older applications and clients still use it. When you make the move from NT to 2003, here's what you'll need to do to migrate WINS.

It's a tough decision to upgrade a server that is working perfectly. It's not something that most administrators take lightly. But what happens once you have decided you need to move to a Windows Server 2003 network? How will you easily make the change? You've already invested hundreds, if not thousands, of hours configuring and tweaking your current network. To have to start all over is something you definitely want to try to avoid. Microsoft realizes this, and they also realize that the easier it is to migrate to a newer version of Windows, the more likely organizations will be to make the move.

There are many things that you will need to consider when moving from a Windows NT 4.0- or Windows 2000 Server-based network to a Windows Server 2003-based network, and it's easy to overlook all of the services you have to migrate. Although WINS is not typically considered a critical network service, that depends entirely on your network and the clients and applications in use on it. If you have only Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 computers on your network or have no applications that rely on WINS, then you might just be better off moving away from WINS altogether. On the other hand, if you still have legacy applications and clients such as Windows 9x and Windows NT Workstation, don’t jump ship from WINS just yet.

Author's note
This discussion will revolve around the migration of your WINS databases from a Windows NT 4.0 server or Windows 2000 server. You might, however, need to reconsider your WINS infrastructure design as well, depending on the types of clients and applications you support. I will not be examining WINS design and planning here, but you can find plenty of information about it in the “Deploying Network Services” book in the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit.

Migrating WINS
The actual process to migrate your Windows NT 4.0 Server or Windows 2000 Server WINS database to a new Windows Server 2003 computer is actually simple once you get past the prerequisites. You should ensure the following items have been completed before attempting the migration action:
  • Install and configure the WINS service on the new Windows Server 2003 computer.
  • Ensure that the Windows Server 2003 computer that is to be the new WINS server is configured to use NBT (NetBIOS over TCP/IP). This is done from the WINS tab of the Advanced TCP/IP Properties Settings dialog box, as seen in Figure A. Additionally, the server should be configured with its own static IP address as the IP address of the WINS server.

Figure A
Here is where you configure the WINS server's network adapter.

Once you've performed these preliminary steps, you are ready to migrate the WINS database to the new Windows Server 2003 computer. The process is actually quite simple and has only three steps.

First, stop the WINS server service on both the old and new WINS servers by using the net stop wins command from the command line. You can also use the Services console to stop the Windows Internet Name Service (WINS), as seen in Figure B.

Figure B
Here is where you stop the WINS service.

Copy the WINS files from the %systemroot%\system32\wins folder, seen in Figure C, on the old server to the %systemroot%\system32\wins on the new server. Note that these are the default locations—you should use the actual location if it is different. Also, the location on the new server must be the same as on the old server.

Figure C
Locate the WINS database and files on this screen.

After you copy the files, restart the WINS service by using the Services console or the net start wins command from the command line. The WINS server service will convert the files you have copied over, and this could take a considerable amount of time depending on the size of the WINS database. You must not stop or otherwise interrupt the process. CPU usage may also be very high during this conversion process.

In some cases, you might be prompted to provide conversion files that are located on the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM. If you are prompted, then you will need to follow a few additional steps. First, copy the Edb500.dl_ file from the i386 folder on the CD-ROM to the %systemroot%\system32 folder on your server. Next, expand the Edb500.dl_ file by issuing the expand edb500.dl_ edb500.dll command at the command line. Type net start wins again to finish the conversion process.

Wrapping up the migration
After you've verified that the new Windows Server 2003 WINS server is functioning properly, you can remove the old WINS server from the network or remove the WINS service from it if it is to remain in place to provide other network services. The last task that you must complete is to point your WINS clients to the new WINS server.

This can be done in one of two ways. You can either change the IP address and computer name of the server to match that of the old WINS server or use DHCP option 44 to point clients towards the new server's IP address. In this case, you should leave the old WINS server on the network until all clients have received new DHCP leases reflecting the IP address of the new WINS server.

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