DFS, or dynamic file system, is a cool feature introduced in Windows 2000 that allows you to have a “virtual” file system. Essentially, instead of using traditional methods of attaching to a server to get files you attach to a virtual name (the domain name) and then Windows will direct you to the proper server (all done in the background). The nice thing about this is you can setup multiple servers so you’ll go to the nearest server to you that has a copy of those files. Replication of the data is even included (could use some much better tools for monitoring that, but that’s another story). As an administrator, this feature is fantastic because I can change servers in the background without users ever really seeing what I’m doing.
But sometimes, the tools can be a little frustrating.
So in Windows 2000 we had GUI called “Distributed File Service” that we controlled DFS with. In Windows 2003 R2 a new tool was introduced “DFS Management”, a much better tool for creating and managing the DFS folders.
So, as always happens eventually, we had a server crash that was a part of one of our DFS folders. Of course, we hadn’t migrated the users to the DFS folders yet so they were still going directly to the server and lost their files. No big, we repointed everyone to the DFS shares and good to go, except now they’re connecting to files across our slow WAN. But at least they have them (and thank goodness we had already set replication up!)
After a couple of days and finally replacing what looks like a bad CPU we got the server back up but during troubleshooting a consultant did format the C: partition so we had to start over. Done and files were fine and replication restarted and everything was good.
Except that the users couldn’t access the DFS share anymore. What?! A little research finds the old server name still in there (additional problem may have been that the new server had the same IP address). OK, no big, right? Let’s delete the old name and see what happens. Nope, won’t let me delete the name because it can’t contact the server. Huh. It’s never going to be able to contact the server so this is a problem. A bit of Googling and messing around and no solution.
So for grins I bring up the old DFS console and try deleting the old server from a different DFS folder and that fails too, but then asks me if I wish to forcibly remove the server! Yes! Works! Nice. Try on the new share… nope, the messing around I did early now has me in a bad spot. Who would have guessed that the old tool would work and the new wouldn’t—don’t answer that, it happens all the time!?
Anyway, blow the old DFS folders away, clean some other things up and recreate and we’re back in business again. So this post is part rant and part documentation for when this happens again!!
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