What is Active Directory Migration: A Comprehensive Guide for Seamless Transition

Written By Mohit Jha
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh 
Published On December 12th, 2023
Reading Time 8 Minutes Reading

Before getting directly into – What is Active Directory Migration? It is important to get to know about What is Active Directory itself. What components are there and their significance?

An Overview of Windows Active Directory (AD)

Active Directory aka Windows Active Directory (AD) is offered by Microsoft and is Microsoft’s proprietary directory service. To simplify for better understanding, an  Active Directory is a hierarchical structure that stores data and information as objects, on the respective network. 

An object is a single element, and the Windows Active Directory (AD) comprises various objects such as users, computers, groups, applications, devices such as a printer, etc. Objects such as printers or computers are defined as resources. At the same time, users or groups are defined as security principals. 

Active Directory (AD) further allows network administrators to control and manage various permissions, apply policies and allows AD users to access the respective network resources.

AD DS which is Active Directory Domain Services, is part of the Windows Server operating system. And it is responsible for providing methods to store directory data. Which later needs to be available to network users and administrators. 

Now comes the Domain Controllers (DCs), it is a server, that runs AD DS, by processing the requests for authentication from users within a computer domain. Apart from Active Directory, it is also used for other types of identity management systems.

Structure of Windows Active Directory (AD)

To understand the structure of AD, we have to understand the main three tiers which are domains, trees, and forests. An Active Directory domain (AD domain) is a group of related objects including users, computers, printers, etc. A group of combined AD domains makes a tree, and a forest can be defined as a group of trees. 

Since the domain is a management boundary, objects in different domains can interact with each other and can also be managed together. On the other hand, a forest is a security boundary, and hence objects in different forests cannot interact with each other. However, the administrators of each forest can create trust between them, only then the objects in different forests can interact with each other.

What is the Importance of AD in Organizational Infrastructure?

There are several benefits of AD in Organizational Infrastructure, some of them are as follows:

  • AD centralizes user management and authentication via AD DS.
  • Not only identity management but it controls access to resources like files, applications, and devices.
  • Additionally, it simplifies IT administration and policy enforcement throughout the environment.
  • It enables secure sharing of information across networks.
  • Moreover, it forms the backbone of organizational security protocols.
  • Active Directory also facilitates scalability and efficient resource allocation.

Windows Active Directory (AD) not only enhances the overall security of an organization but also simplifies life for administrators and end users by allowing them to control and manage various permissions, apply group policies, and allows AD users to access the respective network resources.

Now Let’s Understand What Active Directory Migration Is.

Active Directory migration is a process of migrating, relocating, or reorganizing AD objects from one AD environment or domain to another. This can include various AD objects such as users, computers, groups, shared folders, and other resources. 

Active Directory migration is often performed to upgrade Active Directory versions, merge AD forests/domains, or restructure organizational setups. Migration ensures seamless continuity of user access and services while maintaining data integrity.

However, it is quite a complex process to perform, since, it is a centralized user and identity management system, a minor error can lead to business downtime and user data inaccessibility. 

Step-by-Step Migration Checklist to Follow 

Since, AD migrations are crucial for business continuity, and growth, but it’s tricky too. It requires careful planning due to its complexity and the risks involved. Getting it done on time is crucial to keep things running smoothly while ensuring security and user productivity. Hence, to get it done without any downtime or hassle, you should follow a migration checklist.

Go through the below points:

  • Get Ready – Create a detailed plan. Organize AD users, schedule workstation migration, and update permissions.
  • Test It – Check your plan. Create a copy of your main system to a test one. See how migration changes affect things.
  • No Disruption – Move things without affecting users. Rearrange your system during work hours without bothering users.
  • Move Everything – Transfer users, their info, groups, computers, printers, and permissions.
  • Keep Users Involved – Make sure users can always use the network without any trouble. Otherwise, it could result in business downtime.
  • Automate Updates – Save time by making updates happen automatically for systems like AD, SharePoint, Exchange, and more.
  • Speedy Migration – Make your migration project faster by automating the process and doing bulk things at once.
  • Confident Move – Manage your migration easily with a strong project management setup and with the assistance of a reliable tool. Feel sure about what you’re doing.

After What is Active Directory Migration, Now The Question is How to Perform It?

There are two ways that you can consider performing this operation one is by using the ADMT and another is by using the SysTools software. Let’s discuss both!

How to Perform Migration Using ADMT?

Step 1. Download and launch the ADMT tool on your system. Sign in using the appropriate credentials.

Step 2. Navigate to ‘Action’ and select ‘User Account Migration Wizard.’ Proceed by clicking ‘Next.’

Step 3. Choose the source and target Active Directory domains, then proceed by clicking ‘Next.’

Step 4. Opt for the ‘Select Users from the Domain’ feature.

Step 5. Click ‘Add’ in the following dialog box, pick the users slated for migration, and click ‘OK.’

Note: Failure to adhere to prerequisites might trigger an error message: “Unable to establish a session with the password export server. Access Denied.”

Step 6. Confirm the listed user accounts in the main window and click ‘Next.’

Step 7. Select the destination Organizational Unit (OU) and click ‘Next.’

Step 8. Review all migration details meticulously and click ‘Finish.’ Allow the migration process to complete.

Step 9. Verify the destination domain to ensure the successful migration of the intended AD users.

There are a few shortcomings of using ADMT instead of a reliable automated software. 

  • Complexity in configuration and usage, particularly for inexperienced users.
  • Resource-intensive, especially when handling large data volumes.
  • Challenges with inter-forest migrations due to SID, trust, and schema differences.
  • Dependency on adequate permissions for successful operation.
  • Potential issues with non-standard objects or attributes during migration.
  • Password migrations face hurdles due to security policies.
  • Some Active Directory features may not migrate seamlessly.
  • Lack of built-in rollback mechanism, requiring manual reversal steps.
  • Limited support for the latest operating systems.
  • Potential dependencies on other Microsoft services or tools for certain functionalities.  

Most Reliable Way to Perform Migration Using Automated Tool

Since, the ADMT has various limitations, and in order to overall all these users can choose professional software such as SysTools AD Migration Tool. This software has various features to offer. It allows the migration of users, computers, printers, groups, and shared contacts to target the AD domain. Let’s discuss its working. 

Complete Software Working Guide 

Step 1. Begin by downloading and launching the Tool.

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Step 2. The default login credentials are ‘administrator’ for both the username and password.


Step 3. Upon successful login, the main screen appears. Click the ‘Register Domain Controller’ button. After selecting ‘Register Domain Controller‘, a screen prompts you to enter the Domain Friendly Name and IP Address. Click ‘Save & Continue’.


Step 4. Provide the Admin User and Password in the ‘Info’ tab, then click ‘Save & Continue‘. Navigate to the Domain tab to confirm the successful registration of the primary Domain Controller, indicated by a green status.


Step 5. Similarly, register the secondary Domain Controller by clicking the plus icon in the corner, following the same steps.


Note: The software allows registration of up to 15 Domain Controllers.

Step 6. Select the source domain and navigate to the Active Directory tab, then click ‘Fetch Active Directory Objects‘. Once object fetching completes, click ‘OK’ to view the source Active Directory structure.


Step 7. Repeat the process to fetch the Destination Active Directory structure by clicking the Destination domain in the Domain tab and fetching objects in the Active Directory tab.


Step 8. Navigate to the Migration tab and select ‘Create Migration Scenario‘. Name your scenario and set the Source and Destination Domains. Click ‘Save & Continue‘. Create a task by clicking on your Scenario Name and then ‘Create Task‘ in the Task tab. Name your task, select the Objects for migration, and set password preferences.


Step 9. Proceed by mapping objects from the source to the destination by clicking the three dots in front of each object. Choose the action (Merge or Create) and select ‘Validate’. Then switch to table view and validate the mappings. Once validation is completed the status displays in green.


Step 10. Click ‘Start Task‘ to initiate the migration process. Confirm the start on the prompt screen. Monitor the migration status; once completed, review details by clicking the info icon.



The above write-up aims to provide a structured approach to the topic which is – What is Active Directory Migration? It aims to educate readers about Active Directory migration, its intricacies, and the best practices to ensure a smooth transition. Organizations must be aware while heading towards migration and choosing the right approach because a minor mistake can result in complete business downtime and a communication halt.