A user asked me recently if there is a prescribed way to rename an existing DFS-N server. More precisely, she asked if simply renaming a server hosting a DFS Namespace would lead to messed up Active Directory pointers, links, link targets, etc. I asked the team and the answer depends on whether you are running a standalone namespace or a domain namespace. Let me explain.

If you are running a standalone namespace, you can simply rename the computer and DFS-N will continue to work with the new name. All the links and link targets should be just fine after the rename. However, you should be aware of the consequences of such a rename operation. Standalone namespaces do use the name of the computer in the namespace path, so all the references to \\oldname\folder by the clients need to be updated to \\newname\folder. You might want to consider adding an alternate name for the computer using the NETDOM COMPUTERNAME command so it can respond by both names. For details on NETDOM COMPUTERNAME, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc835082(WS.10).aspx 

If you are running a domain namespace, your namespace is based on the domain name, not the name of the computer. However, in order to avoid ending up with incorrect DFS-N metadata in Active Directory, you must remove the target (while it has its old name), rename the computer and then re-add the target (when the computer has the new name). If you have more than one target for that specific domain namespace, you can perform this operation without service disruption (the users will be getting their referrals for the other targets while the one being renamed is not there). For more information about using multiple servers for a domain namespace, see http://blogs.technet.com/josebda/archive/2009/06/26/how-many-dfs-n-namespaces-servers-do-you-need.aspx. For details on how to add/remove targets, see http://blogs.technet.com/josebda/archive/2009/05/01/using-the-windows-server-2008-dfsutil-exe-command-line-to-manage-dfs-namespaces.aspx.

I hope this post helps clarify the issue. Renaming the DFS-N server is certainly possible, but it should not be done without understanding the impact and proper planning is required. Please keep in mind that this server could have other roles installed and you must look into their ability to cope with a server rename as well. As usual, it is recommended that you validate your procedure in a test environment before trying this in a production environment.