Archives » May 19th, 2004

May 19, 2004

OptionalNames

Let’s say you have an old server, server1. You replace it with a shiny new Windows 2003 server, server2. You move all the files and services to the new server, and shut the old server off. And then you have to visit each workstation, individually, and change all their references to look to server2, because server1 is now dead, right? Not necessarily.

If you have a DNS server, you can simply create an entry for server1 and point it to server2’s IP address. This will work for many services, such as if server2 is an e-mail and web server. But what if server2 is a file server? You can try to connect to \\server1\c, and you’d think it would redirect you to server2, but it doesn’t. Instead you get some obscure error about multiple names on the network. What is going on?

That’s when you have to find out about the OptionalNames registry entry. If you navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\lanmanserver\parameters, then create the OptionalNames value, you can enter a list of names. Restart the computer, and the server will then respond to any of the names you listed. So your computer can be named server2, but with DNS and OptionalNames set up properly, your users can access it through \\server1\c. Or \\files\c. Or \\pookydoo\c. Or whatever you want, without affecting the actual name of the server. Because changing the name of a server, especially if it’s a domain controller, and especially especially if it’s an Exchange server, is a huge pain. As I found out last weekend. So using OptionalNames can save you that grief, as well as the massive trip to all the workstations.

Of course, if you’re using DFS, that’s all obsolete. But we won’t we getting into that today.