Active Directory – Replication issues after promoting new 2012 R2 DC

This week i’ve set up the first Windows 2012 R2 domain controller at a customer. All worked good and looked fine. But when i had to create two new user accounts i found out that these two accounts weren’t replicated to the new domain controller, i’ve just set up a day erlier, nor to another domain controller in another site. I discovered also that the NTDS settings and replication topology wasn’t complete. The new domain controller had not a single connection to active directory domain services. The customer has two sites which are connected over a leased line. Both sites have their domain controllers. Those new user accounts i’ve created on an existing Windows 2008 R2 domain controller.

After nearly two days of testing and troubleshooting the problem seems to be solved. All domain controllers are replicating and talking with each other domain controllers. When i create a user account it will show up instantly on all other domain controllers. Also the replication topology is now looking good. KCC generated the missing topology now automatically, which wasn’t the case directly after the new domain controller was on duty.

I want to provide you some information about this issue and how i solved it. Probably it will help you solving your Active Directory replication issues. And if not i hope it will be at least something you can check if this patricular thing is ok and help you with troubleshooting.

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Microsoft Active Directory – Desktop Shortcuts with Group Policy

A really cool feature in Microsoft Active Directory is the  Group Policy (or Group Policies in general). With Group Policies you can install (small) software packages, set the Internet Explorer start page, set wallpapers, execute scripts on user or computer security context and many things more. You can also deploy specific desktop icons for a user or a user group. Hence this blog post will show you how you deploy simple desktop shortcuts to a users desktop.

The group policy

If you have some specific applications in your company (for example a simple timesheet application) which your users should use, then you can create a group policy or a group policy preference respectively to deploy this desktop shortcut.

  1. In Group Policy Management, create a new group policy object (GPO) in the „Group Policy Objects“ folder.
  2. Right click this newly created GPO and select „Edit…“.
  3. Navigate to „User Configuration => Preferences => Windows Settings => Desktop“
  4. Right click the „Desktop“ object and select „New => Shortcut“
    Group Policy - Shortcuts

  5. Now set all the configuration details of your application shortcut in the next dialog box.
    Group Policy - Shortcut Target Type

    Note: Please be aware of the „Target type“ setting. If the shortcut has to be an application shortcut, you have to choose „File System Object“. As default it’s set to „URL“ and thus creates only a shortcut for a website. Therefore if your user wants to open this shortcut, Internet Explorer (or the default browser) opens with a „cannot display this website“ message instead of the application.

  6. On the „Common“ tab check if this group policy preference should run in logged-on user’s security context or not.
    Group Policy - Shortcuts Security Context

    Note: If you set the „Location“ to „Desktop“ then you should make sure on the „Common“ tab the check box „run in logged-on user’s security context“ is set, because the shortcut will be published on the users own desktop. If you whish to deploy a shortcut to the „All Users“ profile then you have to set the target to „All Users Desktop“ and also uncheck the box to run this group policy preference in logged-on user’s security context. Usually a normal user doesn’t have access to all users profile, but the system account, which runs this group policy preference, has access to it.

  7. Now click Apply / OK and close this dialog box.

As the last step, back in GPO Management, link the created GPO with the Organizational Unit in which your users reside.

Now your users have only to restart the computer or do a single log-off log-on. So they will receive the newly created desktop shortcut.

Active Directory – Change Notification (Inter-Site Replication)

IP

Since we know Active Directory, we know also that its replication works automatically between the domain controllers. The lowest value of this replication schedule is 15 minutes. You can’t get lower. If there aren’t that many frequent changes, or the active directory site is not large (probably with only one site) then this value should work for you.

But what if your active directory environment is larger? What if you have more than one site, on different locations, with different networks? Or what if you’ve got some remotedesktop services running in your main site and some users working with them in a branch office? What about the „i forgot my password“ cases?

Well, there is a solution for you. We can tune-up the Active Directory Inter-Site Replication. The inter-site replication works also automatically, and you can also schedule the replication only for 15 minutes. But there are some settings we can tweak to get the domain controllers pulling the changes made recently. Let me show you how to do that.

First open „Active Directory Sites and Services“ on your primary domain controller (that’s the icon with the blue „building“).

Management

Personally i think it’s a good approach to expand first all the items in the tree, so you can make sure you don’t miss any hidden item in this tree.

Let’s start now with the tuning operation. Expand „Sites“ and „Inter-Site Transports“ (if you haven’t already). Click on the IP folder.

Replication

Now right-click (or double-click) on your site link on the right hand side. If you did not rename it it’s just the DEFAULTIPSITELINK. Then click „Properties“. Then click on the „Attribute Editor“ tab.

The attribute we should edit is called „options“. You can search for but you won’t find it. All attributes which haven’t actually a value set are hidden. To unhide it click on „Filter“ and click „Show only attributes that have values“. The checkmark disappears and now you should find the „options“ attribute in the list.

Filter

We now have to change this attribute to a specific value which allows us to tweak the inter-site replication.

Decimal ValueBinary ValueExplanation
11USE_NOTIFY
210TWOWAY_SYNC
4100DISABLE_COMPRESSION

You can use any combination of these. If your options attribute already has a value you need to perform a BITWISE OR operation on the existing value. If the value is 4, convert that to binary (100), perform an OR operation with binary 1, the result should be binary 101, which you convert to decimal (5) and enter as the value of the options attribute.

Now we have set this option (in my case i’ve set it to 1). That should look like that:

options set

But there’s more. At least in my production site there wasn’t an instant replication after changing the options attribute in the inter-site link, i had to dig a little deeper.

So i searched in every site, site link and server on this active directory infrastructure for this setting and changed it to 1 everywhere. It was some clicking, but it helped.

Sites

And don’t forget these naughty bits in the NTDS settings:

NTDS settings

Important tip:

Change notification will fail with manual connection objects. That is, if your connection objects are not created by the KCC (Knowledge Consistency Checker).

Conclusion for Inter-Site Replication

It was some clicking and also testing. But after changing the options attribute on every piece the result was a nearly instant replication. I created an active directory user object and it was replicated instantly to any other domain controller. Also with changes and deletion there weren’t any problems or issues. This tip with tweaking inter-site replication should help you if you don’t want to wait for 15 minutes. But think about the bandwith. Yes, bandwith. If you’ve got many changes and thus resulting some heavy active directory traffic you should keep an eye on the bandwith. This tweaking works fine for site links with 20MBit/s and more. If your branch office is connected with less bandwith (like widely used 2 or 5Mbit connections), you should probably let this setting unchanged and work with these 15 minutes instead.

Microsoft Active Directory – Change UPN for all users

Powershell

change UPNToday i had to change the UPN (User Principal Name) for a whole company. Well, go through each user account in Active Directory, change the UPN the way it has to be, and you’re done. That would be the way if you want to do it manually. And this is a slow way. For sure, if there are only five users or so you’re good to go. But what when there are dozens of user accounts? Perhaps in different organizational units? At the present time, where everything in IT has to be quick and fast and with the least amount of effort, you can do it more clever.

Well, that was some challange to find it out. But as often, Powershell is your friend. With few lines of code, fully customizable, you can change the UPN for all users within an organizational unit. So you will save time, because you just have to change the OU in the script.

The change UPN script

Import-Module ActiveDirectory 
Get-ADUser -Filter * -SearchBase "OU=lan.driftar.com Users,OU=LAB-Users,DC=lan,DC=driftar,DC=com" | ForEach { 
$UpdatedUPN = $_.GivenName + "." + $_.SurName + "@driftar.com" 
Set-ADUser $_.samAccountName -UserPrincipalName $UpdatedUPN 
}

What does the script?

The script searches within the organizational unit specified for the user accounts, combines givenname and surename with the domain prefix, and changes then the UPN for all the user accounts withing this organizational unit. In this example the new User Principal Name for a user will be „[email protected]“ (for example [email protected]).

Conclusion

To be honest it was some time needed to search for the right script parameters and test it out, to make sure everything works. But you don’t do that every time. You can save this script and customize it every time for the customer you work for. It’s a quick way to change the UPN, and it’s an easy way to save time.