Blog - Title

September, 2012

  • Windows Server 2012 Shell game

    Here's the scenario, you just downloaded the RTM ISO for Windows Server 2012 using your handy, dandy, "wondermus" Microsoft TechNet subscription. Using Hyper-V, you create a new virtual machine, mount the ISO and breeze through the setup screen until you are mesmerized by the Newton's cradle-like experience of the circular progress indicator

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    Click…click…click…click-- installation complete; the computer reboots.

    You provide Windows Server with a new administrator password. Bam: done! Windows Server 2012 presents the credential provider screen and you logon using the newly created administrator account, and then…

    Holy Shell, Batman! I don't have a desktop!

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    Hey everyone, Mike here again to bestow some Windows Server 2012 lovin'. The previously described scenario is not hypothetical-- many have experienced it when they installed the pre-release versions of Windows Server 2012. And it is likely to resurface as we move past Windows Server 2012 general availability on September 4. If you are new to Windows Server 2012, then you're likely one of those people staring at a command prompt window on your fresh installation. The reason you are staring at command prompt is that Windows Server 2012's installation defaults to Server Core and in your haste to try out our latest bits, you breezed right past the option to change it.

    This may be old news for some of you, but it is likely that one or more of your colleagues is going to perform the very actions that I describe here. This is actually a fortunate circumstance as it enables me to introduce a new Windows Server 2012 feature.

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    There were two server installation types prior to Windows Server 2012: full and core. Core servers provide a low attack surface by removing the Windows Shell and Internet Explorer completely. However, it presented quite a challenge for many Windows administrators as Windows PowerShell and command line utilities were the only methods used to manage the servers and its roles locally (you could use most management consoles remotely).

    Those same two server installation types return in Windows Server 2012; however, we have added a third installation type: Minimal Server Interface. Minimal Server Interface enables most local graphical user interface management tasks without requiring you to install the server's user interface or Internet Explorer. Minimal Server Interface is a full installation of Windows that excludes:

    • Internet Explorer
    • The Desktop
    • Windows Explorer
    • Windows 8-style application support
    • Multimedia support
    • Desktop Experience

    Minimal Server Interface gives Windows administrators - who are not comfortable using Windows PowerShell as their only option - the benefit a reduced attack surface and reboot requirement (i.e., on Patch Tuesday); yet GUI management while the ramp on their Windows PowerShell skills.

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    "Okay, Minimal Server Interface seems cool Mike, but I'm stuck at the command prompt and I want graphical tools. Now what?" If you were running an earlier version of Windows Server, my answer would be reinstall. However, you're running Windows Server 2012; therefore, my answer is "Install the Server Graphical Shell or Install Minimal Server Interface."

    Windows Server 2012 enables you to change the shell installation option after you've completed the installation. This solves the problem if you are staring at a command prompt. However, it also solves the problem if you want to keep your attack surface low, but simply are a Windows PowerShell guru in waiting. You can choose Minimal Server Interface ,or you can decided to add the Server Graphical Interface for a specific task, and then remove it when you have completed that management task (understand, however, that switching between the Windows Shell requires you to restart the server).

    Another scenario solved by the ability to add the Server Graphical Shell is that not all server-based applications work correctly on server core, or you cannot management them on server core. Windows Server 2012 enables you to try the application on Minimal Server Interface and if that does not work, and then you can change the server installation to include the Graphical Shell, which is the equivalent of the Server GUI installation option during the setup (the one you breezed by during the initial setup).

    Removing the Server Graphical Shell and Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure

    Removing the Server shell from a GUI installation of Windows is amazingly easy. Start Server Manager, click Manage, and click Remove Roles and Features. Select the target server and then click Features. Expand User Interfaces and Infrastructure.

    To reduce a Windows Server 2012 GUI installation to a Minimal Server Interface installation, clear the Server Graphical Shell checkbox and complete the wizard. To reduce a Windows Server GUI installation to a Server Core installation, clear the Server Graphical Shell and Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure check boxes and complete the wizard.

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    Alternatively, you can perform these same actions using the Server Manager module for Windows PowerShell, and it is probably a good idea to learn how to do this. I'll give you two reasons why: It's wicked fast to install and remove features and roles using Windows PowerShell and you need to learn it in order to add the Server Shell on a Windows Core or Minimal Server Interface installation.

    Use the following command to view a list of the Server GUI components

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    Get-WindowsFeature server-gui*

    Give your attention to the Name column. You use this value with the Remove-WindowsFeature and Install-WindowsFeature PowerShell cmdlets.

    To remove the server graphical shell, which reduces the GUI server installation to a Minimal Server Interface installation, run:

    Remove-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell

    To remove the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure, which further reduces a Minimal Server Interface installation to a Server Core installation.

    Remove-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra

    To remove the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure and the Server Graphical Shell, run:

    Remove-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell,Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra

    Adding Server Graphical Shell and Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure

    Adding Server Shell components to a Windows Server 2012 Core installation is a tad more involved than removing them. The first thing to understand with a Server Core installation is the actual binaries for Server Shell do not reside on the computers. This is how a Server Core installation achieves a smaller footprint. You can determine if the binaries are present by using the Get-WindowsFeature Windows PowerShell cmdlets and viewing the Install State column. The Removed value indicates the binaries that represent the feature do not reside on the hard drive. Therefore, you need to add the binaries to the installation before you can install them. Another indicator that the binaries do not exist in the installation is the error you receive when you try to install a feature that is removed. The Install-WindowsFeature cmdlet will proceed along as if it is working and then spend a lot of time around 63-68 percent before returning an error stating that it could not add the feature.

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    To stage Server Shell features to a Windows Core Installation

    You need to get our your handy, dandy media (or ISO) to stage the binaries into the installation. Windows installation files are stored in WIM files that are located in the \sources folder of your media. There are two .WIM files on the media. The WIM you want to use for this process is INSTALL.WIM.

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    You use DISM.EXE to display the installation images and their indexes that are included in the WIM file. There are four images in the INSTALL.WIM file. Images with the index of 1 and 3 are Server Core installation images for Standard and Datacenter, respectively. Images with the indexes 2 and 4 are GUI installation of Standards and Datacenter, respectively. Two of these images contain the GUI binaries and two do not. To stage these binaries to the current installation, you need to use indexes 2 and 4 because these images contain the Server GUI binaries. An attempt to stage the binaries using indexes 1 or 3 will fail.

    You still use the Install-WindowsFeature cmdlets to stage the binaries to the computer; however, we are going to use the -source argument to inform Install-WindowsFeature the image and index it should use to stage the Server Shell binaries. To do this, we use a special path syntax that indicates the binaries reside in a WIM file. The Windows PowerShell command should look like

    Install-WindowsFeature server-gui-mgmt-infra,server-gui-shell -source:wim:d:\sources\install.wim:4

    Pay particular attention to the path supplied to the -source argument. You need to prefix the path to your installation media's install.wim file with the keyword wim: You need to suffix the path with a :4, which represents the image index to use for the installation. You must always use an index of 2 or 4 to install the Server Shell components. The command should exhibit the same behavior as the previous one and proceeds up to about 68 percent, at which point it will stay at 68 percent for a quite a bit, (if it is working). Typically, if there is a problem with the syntax or the command it will error within two minutes of spinning at 68 percent. This process stages all the graphical user interface binaries that were not installed during the initial setup; so, give it a bit of time. When the command completes successfully, it should instruct you to restart the server. You can do this using Windows PowerShell by typing the Restart-Computer cmdlets.

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    Give the next reboot more time. It is actually updating the current Windows installation, making all the other components aware the GUI is available. The server should reboot and inform you that it is configuring Windows features and is likely to spend some time at 15 percent. Be patient and give it time to complete. Windows should reach about 30 percent and then will restart.

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    It should return to the Configuring Windows feature screen with the progress around 45 to 50 percent (these are estimates). The process should continue until 100 percent and then should show you the Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to sign in screen

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    Done

    That's it. Consider yourself informed. The next time one of your colleagues gazes at their accidental Windows Server 2012 Server Core installation with that deer-in-the-headlights look, you can whip our your mad Windows PowerShell skills and turn that Server Core installation into a Minimal Server Interface or Server GUI installation in no time.

    Mike

    "Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."

    Stephens

  • AD FS 2.0 RelayState

    Hi guys, Joji Oshima here again with some great news! AD FS 2.0 Rollup 2 adds the capability to send RelayState when using IDP initiated sign on. I imagine some people are ecstatic to hear this while others are asking “What is this and why should I care?”

    What is RelayState and why should I care?

    There are two protocol standards for federation (SAML and WS-Federation). RelayState is a parameter of the SAML protocol that is used to identify the specific resource the user will access after they are signed in and directed to the relying party’s federation server.
    Note:

    If the relying party is the application itself, you can use the loginToRp parameter instead.
    Example:
    https://adfs.contoso.com/adfs/ls/idpinitiatedsignon.aspx?loginToRp=rpidentifier

    Without the use of any parameters, a user would need to go to the IDP initiated sign on page, log in to the server, choose the relying party, and then be directed to the application. Using RelayState can automate this process by generating a single URL for the user to click and be logged in to the target application without any intervention. It should be noted that when using RelayState, any parameters outside of it will be dropped.

    When can I use RelayState?

    We can pass RelayState when working with a relying party that has a SAML endpoint. It does not work when the direct relying party is using WS-Federation.

    The following IDP initiated flows are supported when using Rollup 2 for AD FS 2.0:

    • Identity provider security token server (STS) -> relying party STS (configured as a SAML-P endpoint) -> SAML relying party App
    • Identity provider STS -> relying party STS (configured as a SAML-P endpoint) -> WIF (WS-Fed) relying party App
    • Identity provider STS -> SAML relying party App

    The following initiated flow is not supported:

    • Identity provider STS -> WIF (WS-Fed) relying party App

    Manually Generating the RelayState URL

    There are two pieces of information you need to generate the RelayState URL. The first is the relying party’s identifier. This can be found in the AD FS 2.0 Management Console. View the Identifiers tab on the relying party’s property page.

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    The second part is the actual RelayState value that you wish to send to the Relying Party. It could be the identifier of the application, but the administrator for the Relying Party should have this information. In this example, we will use the Relying Party identifier of https://sso.adatum.com and the RelayState of https://webapp.adatum.com

    Starting values:
    RPID: https://sso.adatum.com
    RelayState: https://webapp.adatum.com

    Step 1: The first step is to URL Encode each value.

    RPID: https%3a%2f%2fsso.adatum.com
    RelayState: https%3a%2f%2fwebapp.adatum.com

    Step 2: The second step is to take these URL Encoded values, merge it with the string below, and URL Encode the string.

    String:
    RPID=<URL encoded RPID>&RelayState=<URL encoded RelayState>

    String with values:
    RPID= https%3a%2f%2fsso.adatum.com &RelayState= https%3a%2f%2fwebapp.adatum.com

    URL Encoded string:
    RPID%3dhttps%253a%252f%252fsso.adatum.com%26RelayState%3dhttps%253a%252f%252fwebapp.adatum.com

    Step 3: The third step is to take the URL Encoded string and add it to the end of the string below.

    String:
    ?RelayState=

    String with value:
    ?RelayState=RPID%3dhttps%253a%252f%252fsso.adatum.com%26RelayState%3dhttps%253a%252f%252fwebapp.adatum.com

    Step 4: The final step is to take the final string and append it to the IDP initiated sign on URL.

    IDP initiated sign on URL:
    https://adfs.contoso.com/adfs/ls/idpinitiatedsignon.aspx

    Final URL:
    https://adfs.contoso.com/adfs/ls/idpinitiatedsignon.aspx?RelayState=RPID%3dhttps%253a%252f%252fsso.adatum.com%26RelayState%3dhttps%253a%252f%252fwebapp.adatum.com

    The result is an IDP initiated sign on URL that tells AD FS which relying party STS the login is for, and also gives that relying party information that it can use to direct the user to the correct application.

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    Is there an easier way?

    The multi-step process and manual manipulation of the strings are prone to human error which can cause confusion and frustration. Using a simple HTML file, we can fill out the starting information into a form and click the Generate URL button.

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    The code sample for this HTML file has been posted to CodePlex.

    Conclusion and Links

    I hope this post has helped demystify RelayState and will have everyone up and running quickly.

    AD FS 2.0 RelayState Generator
    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/13172.ad-fs-2-0-relaystate-generator.aspx
    HTML Download
    https://adfsrelaystate.codeplex.com/

    AD FS 2.0 Rollup 2
    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2681584

    Supporting Identity Provider Initiated RelayState
    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj127245(WS.10).aspx

    Joji "Halt! Who goes there!" Oshima

  • MaxTokenSize and Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012

    Hello AskDS Populous, Mike here and I want to share with you some of the excellent enhancements we accomplished in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 around MaxTokenSize. Let’s review MaxTokenSize and its symptoms before we jump in to wonderful world of Windows 8 (say that three times fast).

    Wonderful World of Windows 8
    Wonderful World of Windows 8
    Wonderful World of Windows 8

    What is MaxTokenSize

    Kerberos is the default and preferred authentication protocol since the release of Windows 2000 Server. Over the last few years, Microsoft has made some significant investments in provided extensions to the protocol. One of those extensions to Kerberos is the Privilege Attribute Certificate or PAC (defined in Windows Server Protocol specification MS-PAC).

    Microsoft created the PAC to encapsulate authorization related information in a manner consistent with RFC4120. The authorization information included in the PAC includes security identifiers, user profile information such as Full name, home directory, and bad password count. Security identifiers (SIDs) included in the PAC represent the user's current SID and any instances of SID history and security group memberships to the extent of current domain groups, resource domain groups, and universal groups.

    Kerberos uses a buffer to store authorization information and reports this size to applications using Kerberos for authentication. MaxTokenSize is the size of buffer used to store authorization information. This buffer size is important because some protocols such as RPC and HTTP use it when they allocate memory for authentication. If the authorization data for a user attempting to authenticate is larger than the MaxTokenSize, then the authentication fails for that connection using that protocol. This explains why authentication failures resulted when authenticating to IIS but not when authenticating to folder shared on a file server. The default buffer size for Kerberos in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008R2 is 12k.

    Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012

    Let's face the facts of today's IT environment… authentication and authorization is not getting easier; it's becoming more complex. In the world of single sign-on and user claims, the amount of authorization data is increasing. Increasing authorization data in an infrastructure that has already had its experiences with authentication failures because a user was a member of too many groups justifies some concern for the future. Fortunately, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 have features to help us take proactive measures to avoid the problem.

    Default MaxTokenSize

    Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 benefit from an increased MaxTokenSize of 48k. Therefore, when HTTP relies on the MaxTokenSize value as the value used for memory allocation; it will allocate 48k of memory for the authentication buffer, which hold a substantially more authorization information than in previous versions of Windows where the default MaxTokenSize was only 12k.

    Group Policy settings

    Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 introduce two new computer-based policy settings that help combat against large service tickets, which is the cause of the MaxTokenSize dilemma. The first of these policy settings is not exactly new-- it has been in Windows for years, but only as a registry value. Use the policy setting Set maximum Kerberos SSPI context token buffer size to change the MaxTokenSize using group policy. Looking closely at this policy setting in the Group Policy Management Editor, you'll notice the icon for this setting is slightly different from the others around it.

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    This difference is attributed to registry location the policy setting modifies when enabled or disabled. This registry setting is the actual MaxTokenSize registry key and value name that has been used in earlier versions of Windows

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\Kerberos\Parameters\MaxTokenSize

    Therefore, you can use this computer-based policy setting to manage Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, and earlier versions of Windows. The catch here is that this registry location is not a managed policy location. Managed policy locations are removed and reapplied during policy refreshes to avoid persistent settings in the registry after the settings in a Group Policy object become out of scope. That behavior does not occur with this key, as the setting applied by this policy setting is not removed during application. Therefore, the policy setting persists even if the Group Policy object providing the setting falls out of scope.

    The second policy setting is very cool and answers the question that customers always asked when they encounter a problem with MaxTokenSize: "How big is the token?" You might be one of those people that went on the crusade of a lifetime using TOKENSZ.EXE and spent countless hours trying to determine the optimal MaxTokenSize for your environment. Those days are gone.

    A new KDC policy settings Warning events for large Kerberos tickets provides you with a way to monitor the size of Kerberos tickets issued by KDCs. When you enable this policy setting, you then must configure a ticket threshold size. The KDC uses the ticket threshold size to determine if it should write a warning event to the system event log. If the KDC issues a ticket that exceeds the ticket threshold size, then it writes a warning. This policy setting, when enabled, defaults to the 12k, which is the default MaxTokenSize of previous version of Windows.

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    Ideally, if you use this policy setting, then you'd likely want to set the ticket threshold value to approximately 1k less than your current MaxTokenSize. You want it lower than your current MaxTokenSize (unless you are using 12k, that is the minimum value) so you can use the warning events as a proactive measure to avoid an authentication failure due to an incorrectly sized buffer. Setting the threshold too low will just train you to ignore the Event 31 warnings because they'll become noise in the event log. Setting it too high and you're likely to be blindsided with authentication failures rather than warning events.

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    Earlier I said that this policy setting solves your problems with fumbling with TOKENSZ and other utilities to determine MaxTokenSize-- here's how. If you examine the details of the Kerberos-Key-Distribution-Center Warning event ID 31, you'll notice that it gives you all the information you need to determine the optimal MaxTokenSize in your environment. In the following example, the user Ned is a member of over 1000 groups (he's very popular and a big deal on the Internet). When I attempt to log on Ned using the RUNAS command, I generated an Event ID 31. The event description provides you with the service principal name, the user principal name, the size of the ticket requested and the size of the threshold. This enables you to aggregate all the event 31s and identify the maximum ticket size requested. Armed with this information, you can set the optimal MaxTokenSize for your environment.

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    KDC Resource SID Compression

    Kerberos authentication inserts security identifiers (SIDs) of the security principal, SID history, all the groups to which the user is a member including universal groups and groups from the resource domain. Security principals with too many group memberships greatly affect the size of the authentication data. Sometimes the authentication data is larger than the allocated size reported by Kerberos to applications. This can causes authentication failure in some applications. SIDs from the resource domain share the same domain portion of the SID, these SIDs can be compressed by only providing the resource domain SID once for all SIDs in the resource domain.

    Windows Server 2012 KDCs help reduce the size of the PAC by taking advantage of resource SID compression. By default, a Windows Server 2012 KDC will always compress resource SIDs. To compress resource SIDs, the KDC stores SID of the resource domain to which the target resource is a member.  Then, it inserts only the RID portion of each resource SID into the ResourceGroupIds portion of the authentication data. 

    Resource SID Compression reduces the size of each stored instance of a resource SID because the domain SID is stored once rather than with each instance. Without resource SID Compression, the KDC inserts all the SIDs added by the resource domain in the Extra-SID portion of the PAC structure, which is a list of SIDs.  [MS-KILE]

    Interoperability

    Other Kerberos implementations may not understand resource group compression and therefore are not compatible. In these scenarios, you may need to disable resource group compression to allow the Windows Server 2012 KDC to interoperate with the third-party Kerberos implementation.

    Resource SID compression is on by default; however, you can disable it. You disable resource SID compression on a Windows Server 2012 KDC using the DisableResourceGroupsFields registry value under the HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System\Kdc\Parameters registry key. This registry value has a DWORD registry value type. You completely disable resource SID compression when you set the registry value to 1. The KDC reads this configuration when building a service ticket. With the bit enabled, the KDC does not use resource SID compression when building the service ticket.

    Wrap up

    There's the skinny on the Kerberos enhancements included in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 that specifically target large service ticket and MaxTokenSize scenarios. To summarize:

    · Increased default MaxTokenSize from 12k to 48k

    · New Group Policy setting to centrally manage MaxTokenSize

    · New Group Policy setting to write warnings to the system event log when a service ticket exceeds a designated threshold

    · New Resource SID compression to reduce the storage size of SIDs from the resource domain

    Keep an eye out for more Windows 8 and Kerberos needful

    Mike "~Mike" Stephens

  • Windows Server 2012 GA

    Hey folks, Ned here again to tell you what you probably already know: Windows Server 2012 is now generally available: 

    I don’t often recommend “vision” posts, but Satya Nadella – President of Server and Tools – explains why we made the more radical changes in Windows Server 2012. Rather than start with the opening line, I’ll quote from the finish:

    In the 1990s, Microsoft saw the need to democratize computing and made client/server computing available at scale, to customers of all sizes. Today, our goal is to do the same for cloud computing with Windows Server 2012.

    On a more personal note: Mike Stephens, Joseph Conway, Tim Quinn, Chuck Timon, Don Geddes, and I dedicated two years to understanding, testing, bug stomping, design change requesting, documenting, and teaching Windows Server 2012. Another couple dozen senior support folks – such as our very own Warren Williams - spent the last year working with customers to track down issues and get feedback. Your feedback. You will see things in Directory Services that were requested through this blog.

    Having worked on a number of pre-release products, this is the most Support involvement in any Windows operating system I have ever seen. When combined with numerous customer and field contributions, I believe that Windows Server 2012 is the most capable, dependable, and supportable product we’ve ever made. I hope you agree.

    - Ned “also, any DS issues you find were missed by Mike, not me” Pyle

  • Monthly Mail Sack: I Hope Your Data Plan is Paid Up Edition

    Hi all, Ned here again with that thing we call love. Blog! I mean blog. I have a ton to talk about now that I have moved to the monthly format, and I recommend you switch to WIFI if you’re on your phone.

    This round I answer your questions on:

    I will bury you!

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    With screenshots!

    Question

    Is there a way to associate a “new” domain controller with an “existing” domain controller account in Active Directory? I.e. if I have a DC that is dead and has to be replaced, I have to metadata clean the old DC out before I promote a replacement DC with the same name.

    Answer

    You can “reinstall” DCs, attaching an existing objects that were not removed by demotion/MD cleanup. In Windows Server 2012 this is detected and handled by the AD DS config wizard right after you choose a replica DC and get to the DC Options page, or with the Install-AddsDomainController cmdlet using the -AllowDomainControllerReinstall argument.

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    Neato

    If using an older operating system, no such luck (this actually existed in dcpromo.exe /unattend in 2008 R2, but didn't work AFAIK). You should use DSA.MSC or NTDSUTIL to metadata cleanup that old domain controller before promoting its replacement.

    Question

    I’ve read in the past – from you - that DFSR using SYSVOL supports the change notification flag on AD DS replication links or connection objects. Is this true? I am finding very inconsistent behavior.

    Answer

    Not really (and I updated my old writing on this – yes, Ned can be wrong).

    DFSR always replicates immediately and continuously with its own internal change notification, as long as the schedule is open; these scheduled windows are in 15 minute blocks and are assigned on the AD DS connection objects.

    If the current time matches an open block, you replicate continuously (as fast as possible, sending DFSR change notifications) until that block closes.

    If the next block is closed, you wait for 15 minutes, sending no updates at all. If that next block had also been open, you continue replicating at max speed. Therefore, to replicate with change notification, set the connection objects to use a fully opened window. For example:

    image

    To make DFSR SYSVOL slower, you must close the replication schedule windows on the connections. But since the historical scenario is a desire to make group policy/script replication faster - and since it is better that SYSVOL beat AD DS, since SYSVOL contains files called once AD DS is updated - this scenario is less likely or important. Not to mention that ideally, SYSVOL is pretty static.

    Question

    I was using the new graphical Fine Grained Password Policy in Windows Server 2012 AD Administrative Center. I realized that it lets me set a minimum password length of 255 characters.

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    When I edit group policy in GPMC, it doesn’t let me set a minimum of more than 14 characters!

    image

    Did I find a bug?

    Answer

    Nope. The original reason around the 14 character password was to force users to set a 15 character password and force the removal of LM password hashes (which is sort of silly at this point, as we have a security setting called Do not store LAN Manager hash value on next password change that makes this moot and is enabled by default in our later operating systems). The security policy editor enforces the 14 character limit, but this is not the actual limit. You can use ADSIEDIT to change it, for example, and that will work.

    The true maximum limit in Active Directory for your password is 255 unicode characters and that’s what ADAC is enforcing. But many pieces of Windows software limit you to 127 character passwords, or even fewer; for example, the NET USE command: if you set a password to 254 characters and then attempt to map a drive with NET USE, it ignores the other characters beyond 127 and you always receive “unknown user name or bad password.” So be careful here.

    It goes without saying that if you are requiring a minimum password length of even 25 characters, you are kind of a jerk :-D. Time for smartcard logons, dudes and dudettes; there is no way your users are going to remember passwords that long and it will be on Post-It notes all over their cubicles.

    Totally unrelated note: the second password shown here is exactly 127 characters:

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    Awesome

    Question

    I am using USMT 4.0 and running scanstate on a computer with multiple fixed hard drives, like C:, D:, E:. I want to migrate to new Windows 7 machines that only have a C: drive. Do I need to create a custom XML file?

    Answer

    I could have sworn I wrote something up on this before but darned if I can find it. The short answer is – use migdocs.xml and it will all magically work. The long answer and demonstration of behavior is:

    1. I have a computer with C: and D: fixed drives (OS is unimportant, USMT 4.0 or later).

    2. On the C: drive I have two custom folders, each with a custom file.

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    3. On the D: drive I have two custom folders, each with a custom file.

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    4. One of the folders is named the same on both drives, with a file that is named the same in that folder, but contains different contents.

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    5. Then you scanstate with no hardlinks (e.g. scanstate c:\store /i:migdocs.xml /c /o)

    6. Then you go to a machine with only a C: drive (in my repro I was lazy and just deleted my D: drive) and copy the store over.

    7. Run loadstate (e.g. loadstate c:\store /i:migdocs.xml /c)

    8. Note how the folders on D: are migrated into C:, merging the folders and creating renamed copies of files when there are duplications:

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    Question

    Where does Active Directory get computer specific information like Operating System, Service Pack level, etc., for computer accounts that are joined to the domain? I'm guessing WMI but I'm also wondering how often it checks.

    Answer

    AD gets it from attributes (for example).

    AD relies on the individual Windows computers to take care of it – such as when joining the domain, being upgraded, being service packed, or after reboot. Nothing in AD confirms it or maintains outside those “client” processes, so if I change my OS version info using ADSIEDIT, that's the OS as far as AD is concerned and it's not going to change back unless the Windows computer makes it happen. Which it will!

    Here I change a Win2008 R2 server to use nomenclature similar to our Linux and Apple competitors:

    image

    And here it is after I reboot that computer:

    image

    That would be a good band name, now that I think about it.

    Question

    I’d like to add a DFSR file replication filter but I have hundreds of RFs and don’t want to click around Dfsmgmt.msc for days. Is there a way to set this globally for entire replication groups?

    Answer

    Not per se; DFSR file filters are set on each replicated folder in Active Directory.

    But setting it via a Windows PowerShell loop is not hard. For example, in Win2008 R2, where I imported the activedirectory module - here I am (destructively!) setting a filter to match the defaults plus add a new extension on all RFs in this domain:

    image

    Question

    Is there a way to export and import the DFS Replication configuration the way we do for DFSN? It seems like no but I want to make sure I am not missing anything.

    Answer

    DFSRADMIN LIST shows the configuration and there are a couple export/import commands for scheduling. But overall this is going to be a semi-manual process for you unless they write their own tool or scripts. Ultimately, it’s all just LDAP data, after all – this is how frs2dfsr.exe works.

    Once you list and inventory everything, the DFSRADMIN BULK command is useful to recreate things accurately.

    Question

    Does USMT migrate Internet Explorer Autocomplete Settings?

    image

    Answer

    I really should make you figure this out for yourself… but I am feeling pleasant today. These settings are all here:

    image
    Hint hint – Process Monitor is always your friend with custom USMT coding

    Looking at the USMT 5.0 replacement manifest:

    • MICROSOFT-WINDOWS-IE-INTERNETEXPLORER-REPL.MAN (from Windows 8)

    I see that we do get the \Internet Explorer\and all sub-data (including Main and DomainSuggestion) for those specific registry values with no exclusions. We also get the Explorer\Autocomplete in that same manifest, likewise without exclusion.

    • MICROSOFT-WINDOWS-IE-INTERNETEXPLORER-DL.MAN (from XP)

    Ditto. We grab all this as well.

    Question

    I have read that Windows Server 2008 R2 has the following documented and supported DFSR limits:

    The following list provides a set of scalability guidelines that have been tested by Microsoft on Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008:

    • Size of all replicated files on a server: 10 terabytes.
    • Number of replicated files on a volume: 8 million.
    • Maximum file size: 64 gigabytes.

    Source: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/f9b98a0f-c1ae-4a9f-9724-80c679596e6b(v=ws.10)#BKMK_00

    What happens if I exceed these limits? Should I ever consider exceeding these limits? I want to use much more than these limits!

    (Asked by half a zillion customers in the past few weeks)

    Answer

    With more than 10TB or 8 million files, the support will only be best effort (i.e. you can open a support case and we will attempt to assist, but they may reach a point where have to say “this configuration is not supported” and we cannot assist further). If you need us to fully support more end-to-end, you need a solution different than Win2008 R2 DFSR.

    To exceed the 10TB limit – which again, is not supported nor recommended – seriously consider:

    1. High reliability fabric to high reliability storage – i.e. do not use iSCSI. Do not use cheap disk arrays. Dedicated fiber or similar networks only with redundant paths, to a properly redundant storage array that costs a poop-load of money.
    2. Store no more than 2TB per volume – There is one DFSR database per volume, which means if there is a dirty shutdown, recovery affects all replicated data on that volume. 1TB max would be better.
    3. Latest DFSR hotfixes at all timeshttp://support.microsoft.com/kb/968429. This especially includes using http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2663685, combined with read-only replication when possible.

    Actually, just read Warren’s common DFSR mistakes post 10 times. Then read it 10 more times.

    Hmm… I recommend all these even when under 10TB…

    Other stuff

    RSAT for Windows 8 RTM is… RTM. Grab it here.

    I mentioned mall hair in last month’s mail sack. When that sort of thing happen in MS Support, colleagues provide helpful references:

    clip_image001
    I hate you, Justin

    Speaking of the ridiculous group I work with, this what you get when Steve Taylor wants to boost team morale on a Friday:


    Couldn’t they just have the bass player record one looped note?

    Canada, what the heck happened?!

    clip_image002[5]

    Still going…

    clip_image003[5]

    I mean… Norway? NORWAY IN THE SUMMER GAMES? They eat pickled herring and go sledding in June! I’ll grant that if you switch to medal count, you’re a respectable 13th. Good work, America’s Hat.

    In other news bound to depress canucks, the NHL is about to close up shop yet again. Check out this hilarious article courtesy of Mark.

     

    Finally

    I am heading out to Redmond next week to teach a couple days of Certified DS Master, then on to San Francisco and Sydney to vacate and yammer even more. I’ll be back in a few weeks; Jonathan will answer your questions in the meantime and I think Mike has posts aplenty to share. When I return – and maybe before – I will have some interesting news to share.

    See you in a few weeks.

    - Ned “don’t make me take off my shoe” Pyle

  • Let the Blogging begin…

    Hello AskDS Readers. Mike here again. If you notice, Ned posted one of our first Windows Server 2012 RTM blogs a while back (Managing RID Issuance in Windows Server 2012). Yes friends, the gag order has been lifted and we are allowed to spout mountains of technical goodness about Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8.

    "So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it." Windows Server 2012 has many cool features that Ned and I have been waiting to share with you. Here is a 50,000-foot view of the technologies and features we are going to blog in the next few weeks and months-- in no specific order.

    I'll start by highlighting some of the changes with security, PKI, authentication, and authorization. The Windows Server 2012 Certificate Services role has a few feature changes that should delight many of the certificate administrators out there. With new installation, deployment, and improved configuration-- it's probably the easiest certificate authority to configure.

    Windows Server 2012 authentication is a healthy technology with a ton of technical goo just seeping at the seams; starting with the mac-daddy of them all-- Kerberos. In a few weeks, we will begin publishing the first of many installments of Kerberos changes in Windows 8/Windows Server 2012. As a teaser, the lineup includes KDC Proxy Server, the latest and greatest way to configured Kerberos Constrained Delegation-- "It really whips the lama's @#%." We'll take some exhaustive time explaining some Kerberos enhancements such as Kerberos Armoring and Compound Identity. We have tons more to share in the area of authentication including Virtual Smartcard Readers, and Picture Password logon.

    Advanced client security highlights features like Server Name Indicator (SNI) for Windows Server 2012, Certificate Lifecycle Notification, Weak Key Protection (most of which is published in Jonathan Stephen's latest blog, RSA Key Blocking is Here!), Implicit binding, which is the infrastructure behind the new Centralized Certificate Store IIS feature, and Client certificate hints. Advanced client security also includes a wicked-cool security-enhancement to PFX files and new a PKI module for Windows PowerShell

    At some point in our publishing timeline, we'll launch into the saga of all sagas, Dynamic Access Control. We've hosted guest posts here on AskDS to introduce this radical, amazingly cool new way to perform file-based authorization. This isn't your grandfather's authorization either. Dynamic Access Control or DAC as we’ll call it, requires planning, diligence, and an understanding of many dependencies, such as Active Directory, Kerberos, and effective access. Did I mention there are many knobs you must turn to configure it? No worries though, we'll break DAC down into consumable morsels that should make it easy for everyone to understand.

    The concept of claims continues by showing you how to use Windows Server 2012's Active Directory Federation Services role to leverage claims issued by Windows domain controllers. Using AD FS, you can pass-through the Windows authorization claims or transform them into well-known SAML-based claim types.

    No, I'm not done yet. I'm going introduce a well-hidden feature that hasn't received much exposure, but has been labeled "pretty cool" by many training attendees. Access Denied Assistance is a gem of a feature that is locked away within the File Server Resource Manager (FSRM). It enables you to provide a SharePoint-like experience for users in Windows Explorer when they experience access denied or file not found to a shared file or folder. Access Denied Assistance provides the user with a "Request Access" interface that sends an email to the share owner that provides details on the access requested and guidance for the share owner can follow to remediate the problem. It's very slick.

    Wait there is more; this is just my list of topics to cover. Ned has a fun-bag full of Active Directory related material that he'll intermix with these topics to keep things fresh. I'm certain we'll sneak in a few extras that may not be directly related to Directory Services; however, they will help you make your Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 experience much better. Need to run for now, this blog post just wrote checks my body can't cash.

    The line above and below this were intentionally left blank using Microsoft Word 2013 Preview Edition

    Mike "There's no earthly way of knowing; which direction they are going... There's no knowing where they're rowing..." Stephens

  • Updated Group Policy Search service

    Mike here with an important service announcement.  In June of 2010, guest poster Kapil Mehra introduced the Group Policy Search service.  The Group Policy Search (GPS) service is a web application hosted on Windows Azure, which enables you to search for registry-based Group Policy settings used in Windows operating systems.

    It’s a "plezz-shzaa" to announce that GPS version 1.1.4 is live at http://gps.cloudapp.net.  Version 1.1.4 includes registry-based policy settings from Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, performance improvements, bug fixes, and a few little surprises.  It's the easiest way to search for a Group Policy setting. 

    So, the next time you need to search for a Group Policy settings, or want to know the registry key and value name that backs a particular policy setting-- don't look for a antiquated settings spreadsheet reference.  Get your Group Policy Search on!!

    And, if you act now-- we'll throw in the Group Policy Search Windows Phone 7 application-- for free! That's right, take Group Policy Search with you on the go. What an offer! Group Policy Search and Group Policy Search Windows Phone 7 application -- for one low, low price -- FREE!  Act now and you'll get free shipping.

    This is Mike Stephens and "Ned Pyle" approves this message!