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Last Updated on February 17, 2024 by Arnav Sharma

Demoting a domain controller is a crucial task in the management of an Active Directory (AD) environment. It involves removing a server from its role as a domain controller, a process necessary in various scenarios like hardware upgrades, decommissioning old servers, or reorganizing the network. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how to demote a domain controller using Server Manager and PowerShell, ensuring a smooth transition for your network infrastructure.

Understanding the Domain Controller

Before diving into the demotion process, it’s important to understand what a domain controller is. In an Active Directory environment, a domain controller is a server that responds to security authentication requests within a Windows Server domain. It holds the AD Domain Services (AD DS), which manages all the network security and directory services.

Preparing to Demote a Domain Controller

When you need to demote a domain controller, whether it’s an old domain controller in a Windows Server 2012 R2 or a newer Windows Server 2022, preparation is key. Ensure you have administrator access to the server and all necessary domain credentials. Check the FSMO (Flexible Single Master Operations) roles and consider any replication or DNS services running on the server. If it’s the last DNS server or the last domain controller in the domain, special considerations are needed.

Steps Before Demotion

  1. Backup Active Directory: Always backup your AD DS before demotion.
  2. Check FSMO Roles: If the domain controller holds any FSMO roles, transfer them to another domain controller.
  3. Verify Replication: Ensure AD DS replication is complete to prevent data loss.
  4. Consider DNS and Global Catalog Server Roles: If your domain controller is a DNS server or a global catalog server, plan for these roles to be transferred or handled by remaining domain controllers.

Demoting the Domain Controller Using Server Manager

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open Server Manager: On the domain controller you want to demote, open Server Manager.
  2. Navigate to Removal Wizard: Click on ‘Roles’ and then ‘Active Directory Domain Services’. Here, you’ll find the option to demote the domain controller.
  3. Server Selection Page: Select the server you wish to demote.
  4. Removal Options: Choose whether you’re demoting the last domain controller in the domain or if there are additional domain controllers remaining. If removing the last domain controller, additional steps like removing DNS delegation might be required.
  5. Final Checks and Demotion: Follow the wizard, ensuring you understand each step. Once ready, click ‘Demote’. The server will then be demoted and will no longer function as a domain controller.

Demoting a Domain Controller Using PowerShell

PowerShell provides an alternative, script-based method for demotion, useful for automation or managing multiple domain controllers.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Open PowerShell with Administrator Rights: Access PowerShell on the server you want to demote.
  2. Run Demotion Command: Use a PowerShell script tailored for demoting domain controllers. Ensure you include parameters for handling DNS roles, FSMO roles, and other specific considerations applicable to this domain controller.
# Import the Active Directory module
Import-Module ActiveDirectory

# Define the domain controller to demote
$domainController = "NameOfYourDomainController"

# Check if the domain controller is the last in the domain
$lastDCInDomain = $false # Change to $true if this is the last DC

# Force the removal if necessary (use with caution)
$forceRemoval = $false # Change to $true to force removal

# Demote the domain controller
Uninstall-ADDSDomainController -LocalAdministratorPassword (Read-Host -Prompt "Enter password for local administrator" -AsSecureString) -DemoteOperationMasterRole $lastDCInDomain -Force $forceRemoval -RemoveApplicationPartition

# Output the result
Write-Host "Domain Controller $domainController has been demoted."

Confirm and Proceed: The script will prompt for confirmation. Once confirmed, the demotion process will begin.

Manually Removing a Domain Controller

In cases where the domain controller is permanently offline or cannot be demoted using typical methods, manual removal might be necessary. This involves using tools like “Active Directory Users and Computers” or “Active Directory Sites and Services” to manually remove the domain controller entries from Active Directory.

Post-Demotion Considerations

After demoting a domain controller, it’s important to consider:

  1. Reconfiguring the Server: If the server will continue to be used, decide whether it will serve as a member server or be repurposed for another role.
  2. Updating Network Configuration: Ensure remaining domain controllers are updated with any changes in roles or services.
  3. Monitoring: Closely monitor the network for any issues following the demotion.


Q: What are the steps to demote an Active Directory Domain Controller on Windows Server 2016?

AA: To demote an Active Directory Domain Controller on Windows Server 2016, you need to use the Active Directory Domain Services Installation Wizard. First, access “Active Directory Users and Computers” and locate the server you want to demote in the Domain Controllers folder. Ensure the server is no longer a domain controller and is now just a domain member. As a domain administrator, go to the local server and launch the Domain Services Configuration Wizard. During the process, if you’re asked about DNS delegation for this server, check the respective checkbox. Click ‘Demote’ and the server will be demoted from a domain controller to a regular domain computer. After the demotion, you can proceed to decommission the server or use it for other purposes.

Q: How can I remove a server from an Active Directory Domain?

AA: If you want to remove a server from an Active Directory domain, you first need to demote it if it’s a domain controller. To demote the server, use the Active Directory Domain Services Installation Wizard on Windows Server (such as Windows 2012 or 2016). In the wizard, select the option to demote this domain controller. Follow the steps, which may include removing DNS delegation and confirming the removal of the DC. Once the server is demoted and no longer a domain controller, it can be removed from the domain. If the server is simply a domain member and not a domain controller, you can directly remove it from the domain by changing its network settings to join a new domain or become part of a workgroup.

Q: What are the prerequisites for demoting a server from an Active Directory Domain Controller role?

AA: Before you can demote a server from an Active Directory Domain Controller role, there are several prerequisites to consider. Firstly, the server must be part of an Active Directory domain, and you should have access to the domain’s Active Directory Domain Services. You need to be a member of the Domain Admins group to perform the demotion. Additionally, you should verify whether the server is hosting any features or roles that require Active Directory Domain Services, as these will need to be addressed before demotion. If the server is providing DNS services, you might have to manage the DNS delegation for this server during the demotion process. Finally, ensure that there is at least one other active directory domain controller in the domain, especially if you are demoting the last or only DC in the domain.

Q: What considerations should I keep in mind when using the removal wizard for an Active Directory Domain Controller?

AA: When using the removal wizard to demote an Active Directory Domain Controller, several considerations are crucial. Firstly, ensure that the server you intend to demote is not critical for domain operations or hosting essential services that require Active Directory Domain Services. Verify if there are any dependencies, like applications or features, that require the server to be a domain controller. During the demotion process, if the server requires DNS delegation, ensure that you correctly configure this setting in the wizard. Also, be aware that once you click ‘demote’, the server will be demoted and cease to function as a domain controller, affecting its role in the network. After demotion, the server can be repurposed, remain as a domain member, or be completely decommissioned based on your organizational needs. Additionally, consider the impact on the overall domain architecture, especially if you are adding a new domain controller or restructuring the domain.

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