How to Change the Name of a Certificate Server

When you are trying to rename or unjoin a computer from the domain, you receive a message telling you that you cannot change names or domain of the computer because the computer is running a certificate server. This is how you can temporarily disable the certificate server, so you can rename a computer.

Certificate services allow us to create a Certification Authority (CA). This CA is typically used for encrypting the content of a Web site. After the certificate services are installed, Windows does not allow us to change the name of the machine, nor the the domain it belongs to. But you can easily overcome this restriction.

First, some background information: The information about installed services is stored in the registry, under HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services key. Info about Certificate Services is stored under “CertSvc” title.

Now, the procedure goes like this:

  1. Using the Regedit registry editor, export “CertSvc” value to a file then delete “CertSvc” value.
  2. Restart the computer.
  3. Rename the computer and before restarting the computer, import the content of the file you created before.
  4. Restart the computer.

Interestingly, the Certification Authority management console reports the server with its former name, but this does not cause any problem: Certificate Services distributes certificates happily.

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