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Migrating from a Domain to Workgroup (Windows XP)

How to migrate computers from a domain to a workgroup in Windows XP.
February 20, 2006

A little while ago I had the pleasure of moving a handful of computers that at one time had been part of a domain (which was no longer available) to a workgroup. This in itself is not a big deal but the problem was that every user had their settings which I knew could possibly be lost by doing this. It wasn't without glitches but here is what I did:


It is important that you first backup the current user. You should still be able to login to the computer under the domain which has all the correct settings for the user. Open up the registry editor by going to Start, Run and typing in regedit. Once in the registry editor click on the HKEY_CURRENT_USER and then export the entire key by going to File, Export and saving the file on the computer where you'll find it again if needed. I suggest creating a folder for this specific exercise (e.g. C:\temp\settings).

Next go to Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools and open the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. Once the program opens click next and select Old Computer, click next and it will analyze your computer. Once you're at the Select Transfer method screen select Other, click Browse... and choose a folder where to store all your settings. Make sure it is in a folder that will be easily accessible and don't put it on the desktop or my documents folder as this might become unavailable after you've moved off the domain. Something like C:\temp\settings is a good idea. Click next and it will ask you what to transfer, select Both files and settings and click next. It will then collect all of your settings and save them to the folder you indicated. Once you've completed this, reboot the computer.

After the computer reboots, login in as Administrator. Once logged in open My Computer and navigate to C:\Documents and Settings. There should be a folder within there named after the username you want to switch over. For example, if your username on the domain was jsmith and the domain name was ABC then there should be a folder in C:\Documents and Settings called jsmith.ABC or maybe just jsmith. I suggest copying any user folder that contains jsmith. Right click the folder(s) and select copy. Then go to your backup folder and paste the folders. You should now have a backup of the registry, the Documents and Settings Folders, and the backup from the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. Make sure if you use a mail program other than Outlook Express that you know the password for the email account because it might be reset after the transfer.

Note: Some program settings may not make the transfer. So if you're favorite program is setup just the way you like it you may want to try exporting the settings yourself or find which registry key holds that information.

Move from Domain to Workgroup

You can login in as Administrator or the user, it shouldn't matter.

Right click My Computer, and then click Properties. Click on the Computer Name tab and then click Change... You can rename the computer to anything you like but the important part is that you change the selection from Domain to Workgroup. You can name the workgroup anything you want. For example, in a small business it may make sense to group all sales computers into the Sales workgroup and all management computers into the Management workgroup. When you're done click OK, it may ask you for a password to remove yourself from the domain. The password should be that of an administrator account on the domain. After that you'll have to restart the computer. When it restarts make sure to log back in as Administrator.

Create New User

Now we have to create a new user. It is possible that a local user already exists under the same username as your domain account so it's up to you it you want to delete that account and start fresh or continue using it. Open the Control Panel again and open User Accounts. Add a new user and by following the screens and when you're done logoff and then log back in using the account you just created.

Load Settings

Click Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools and open the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. Once the program opens click next and select New Computer, click next and it will analyze your computer. On the next screen select the last option, I don't need the Wizard Disk. I have already collected my files and settings from my old computer and click next. Then it will ask you to locate the files and settings, select Other and click Browse... Browse to the folder where you saved all your settings in the Backup step and click Next. The folder name usually contains something like USMT. The program will begin copying your settings over and will then ask you to logoff the account. When you log back in you should have all your settings and files back to normal.

Outlook Email

If you use the Outlook email client (not Outlook Express) and your email didn't make the switch then you'll want to copy over all the files you backed up from the Documents and Settings folder. I suggest restarting the computer, login as administrator. Go into the folder where you backed up your Documents and Settings from your previous account, select all files and folders, right-click and then click copy. Then navigate to your new accounts Documents and Settings folder and paste the files and folders into there. An example using the same names from above: before the switch you backed up C:\Documents and Settings\jsmith.ABC. After the switch you created a new user account called jsmith. This created a folder in C:\Documents and Settings called jsmith. Go into the folder where you backed the old account, C:\temp\settings\jsmith.ABC and select all the files and folders in that folder (CTRL-a), and copy (CTRL-c). Navigate to C:\Documents and Settings\jsmith and paste the files and folders (CTRL-v). When you log back into your new account the email should now be there.

Lastly, you want to setup any programs that may have lost their settings and map any network drives that may have been disconnected.