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Ask the Directory Services Team

  • Locked or not? Demystifying the UI behavior for account lockouts

    Hello Everyone,

    This is Shijo from our team in Bangalore once again.  Today I’d like to briefly discuss account lockouts, and some UI behaviors that can trip admins up when dealing with account lockouts.

    If you’ve ever had to troubleshoot an account lockout issue, you might have noticed that sometimes accounts appear to be locked on some domain controllers, but not on others.  This can be very confusing since you
    typically know that the account has been locked out, but when you inspect individual DCs, they don’t reflect that status.  This inconsistency happens because of some minor differences in the behavior of the UI between Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2012.

    Windows Server 2003

    In Windows Server 2003 the "Account is locked out" checkbox can be cleared ONLY if the account is locked out on the domain controller you are connected to. This means that if an account has been locked out, but the local DC has not yet replicated that information, you CANNOT unlock the account on the local DC.

    Windows 2003 account properties for an unlocked account.  Note that the checkbox is grayed out.


    Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2

    In Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 the "Unlock account" checkbox will always be available (regardless of the status of the account). You can tell whether the local DC knows if the account is locked out by looking at the label on the checkbox as shown in the screenshots below:

    Windows 2008 account properties showing the “Unlock Account” checkbox.  Notice that the checkbox is available regardless of the status of the account on the local DC.


    Windows 2008 (and higher) Account Properties dialog box showing locked account on this domain controller


    If the label on the checkbox is just "Unlock account" then this means that the domain controller you are connected to recognizes the account as unlocked. This does NOT mean that the account is not locked on other DCs, just that the specific DC we're working with has not replicated a lockout status yet.  However, unlike Windows Server 2003, if the local DC doesn’t realize that the account is locked, you DO have ability to unlock it from this interface by checking the checkbox and applying the change.

    We changed the UI behavior in Windows Server 2008 to help administrators in large environments unlock accounts faster when required, instead of having to wait for replication to occur, then unlock the account, and then wait for replication to occur again.


    Windows Server 2012

    We can also unlock the accounts using the Active Directory Administrative Center (available in Windows Server 2008 R2 and later).  In Windows Server 2012, this console is the preferred method of managing accounts in Active Directory. The screen shots are present below about how we can go about doing that.

    You can see from the account screenshot that the account is locked which is denoted by the padlock symbol. To unlock the account you would have to click on the “Unlock account” tab and you would see a
    change in the symbol as can be seen below.


    You can also unlock the account using the PowerShell command shown in the screenshot below.


    In this example, I have unlocked the user account named test by simply specifying the DN of the account to unlock . You can modify your powershell command to incorporate many more switches, the details of which are present in the
    following article.

    Hopefully this helps explain why the older operating systems behave slightly differently from the newer ones, and will help you the next time you have to deal with an account that is locked out in your environment! 


    If you’re looking for more information on Account Lockouts, check out the following links:

    Troubleshooting Account Lockout

    Account Lockout Policy

    Account Lockout Management Tools


    Shijo “UNLOCK IT” Joy

  • Roaming Profile Compatibility - The Windows 7 to Windows 8 Challenge

    [Editor's note:  Everything Mark mentions for Windows 8 clients here is also true for Windows 8.1 clients.  Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 clients use the same (v3) profile version, so the 8.1 upgrade will not prevent this from happening if you have roaming profiles in your environment.  Something to be aware of if you're planning to migrate users over to the new OS version. -David]


    Hi. It’s Mark Renoden, Senior Premier Field Engineer in Sydney, Australia here again. Today I’ll offer a workaround for an issue that’s causing a number of customers around the world a degree of trouble. It turns out to be reasonably easy to fix, perhaps just not so obvious.

    The Problem

    The knowledge base article "Unpredictable behavior if you migrate a roaming user profile from Windows 8 to Windows 7" - states:

    Windows 7 and Windows 8 use similar user profile formats, which do not support interoperability when they roam between computers that are running different versions of Windows. When a user who has a  windows 7 profile signs in to a Windows 8-based computer for the first time, the user profile is updated to the new Windows 8 format. After this occurs, the user profile is no longer compatible with Windows 7-based computers. See the "More information" section for detailed information about how this issue affects roaming and mandatory profiles.

    This sort of problem existed between Windows XP and Windows Vista/7 but was mitigated by Windows Vista/7 using a profile that used a .v2 extension.  The OS would handle storing the separate profiles automatically for you when roaming between those OS versions.  With Windows 7 and Windows 8, both operating systems use roaming profiles with a .v2 extension, even though Windows 8 is actually writing the profile in a newer format.

    Mark’s Workaround

    The solution is to use separate roaming profiles for each operating system by utilizing an environment variable in the profile path.


    File server for profiles:

    1. Create profile share “\\Server\ProfilesShare” with permissions configured so that users have write access
    2. In ProfilesShare, create folders “Win7” and “Win8”


    Active Directory:

    1. Create OU for Windows 7 Clients (say “Win7OU”) and create/link a GPO here (say “Win7GPO”)
    2. Create OU for Windows 8 Clients (say “Win8OU”) and create/link a GPO here (say “Win8GPO”)

    Note:As an alternative to separate OUs, a WMI filter may be used to filter according to Operating System:

    Windows 7 - SELECT version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version LIKE “6.1%” and ProductType = “1″

    Windows 8 - SELECT version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version LIKE “6.2%” and ProductType = “1″

    3. Edit Win7GPO

      1. Expand Computer Configuration -> Preferences -> Windows Settings
      2. Under Environment create an environment variable with
        1. Action: Create
        2. System Variable
        3. Name: OSVer
        4. Value: Win7

    4. Edit Win8GPO

      1. Expand Computer Configuration -> Preferences -> Windows Settings
      2. Under Environment create an environment variable with
        1. Action: Create
        2. System Variable
        3. Name: OSVer
        4. Value: Win8

    5. Set user profile paths to \\Server\ProfilesShare\%OSVer%\%username%\



    1. Log on with administrative accounts first to confirm creation of the OSVer environment variable

    2. Log in as users and you’ll observe that different user profiles are created in the appropriate folder in the profiles share depending on client OS


    I haven't run into any issues in testing but this might be one of those cases where it's important to use "wait for network". My testing suggests that using "create" as the action on the environment variable mitigates any timing issues.  This is because after the environment variable is created for the machine, this variable persists across boots and doesn't depend on GPP re-application.

    You may also wish to consider the use (and testing) of a folder redirection policy to provide users with their data as they cross between Windows 7 and Windows 8 clients. While I have tested this to work with
    “My Documents”, there may be varying degrees of success here depending on how Windows 8’s modern apps fiddle with things.

     - Mark “Square Peg in a Round Hole” Renoden



  • An update for ADMT, and a few other things too.

    So, we’ve been quiet for a few months, which is extraordinarily embarrassing after I basically told everyone that we were going to not do that. The reality of what we do in support is that sometimes it’s “All Hands on Deck”, which is where we’ve been lately.

    At any rate, here’s some assorted news, updates, and announcements. Today we’re going to talk about ADMT, SHA-1, Folder Redirection, Roaming Profiles, STOP errors, and job opportunites. Yup, all in one big post. It’s not quite a mail sack but hopefully you all will find it interesting and or useful – especially the bit at the end. We’ll try to get the regular posts moving again asap as we get into 2014.


    ADMT OS Emancipation

    Update coming to allow you to install on any supported server OS version

    News just in: There’s an updated version of ADMT on the way that will allow you to install on newer OS versions. Here’s what we got from the ADMT product team:

    In short, the update will allow ADMT to install on our newer OSs (both the ADMT and PES components). This should help alleviate some of the problems that customers have been reporting with the tool. We know that there are many of you who would like to see improvements or additional features in the tool beyond this, but we made the decision to focus this update on the OS compatibility issues, since that’s the thing that is impacting migrations the most right now.  We currently do not have any plans for further updates after this one (beyond bug fixes).

    The changes we have made require a fair bit of testing before we can release them – among other things, we have to test full-scale migrations against each combination of OS versions to make sure that nothing unexpected occurs.  Once that testing is complete, we’ll publish the new version for public download, probably as an update to the existing 3.2 version.  We don’t have an exact date right now, since it’s likely to take us a few months to finish our testing, but we’re hoping to have it out and available in the first quarter of 2014.


    Out with the old (and the insecure)

    We’ve announced the deprecation of SHA-1 algorithms

    This one comes to us from former AskDS writer Mike Stephens. Mike changed roles last summer, and most of what he works on these days we can’t talk about – but some things we can:

    Some of you may remember this security advisory where we announced the deprecation of RC4-based cryptographic algorithms. Some of you may also remember this blog post from a few months ago where we talked about the upcoming deprecation of MD5-based algorithms.

    Deprecation is a fancy word for “we don’t support it anymore moving forward, so you should look at turning it off.”

    If you’re sensing a trend here, you’re not wrong. We just announced yesterday that we are planning the deprecation of SHA-1 algorithms.

    This means that moving forward, the minimum security you want on anything cryptographic is SHA-2 with a 2048-bit key. Those of you running certificate authorities should start planning on transitioning to stronger keys as soon as you can. Those you who have server or web applications in your environment (pretty much everyone) should start reviewing your applications to find any applications that are using weak certificates. Update them if you can, contact the application vendor if you can’t.

    Just like the previous updates, we’re not going to issue a hotfix that turns off SHA-1 on all your servers and workstations. We know that there are lots of older applications out there that might need to be updated before your environments are ready for this kind of change so you are in control. What we will do is give you a KB article that tells you how to turn SHA-1 off when you’re ready. That, and we’ll turn it off by default in the next version of the OS.

    That being said, two notes of caution. First, make sure you really, really check before disabling support for older cryptography algorithms in your environments. We’ve had a few cases where admins didn’t check the certificates their applications were using, and caused an outage with one or more of their applications when they turned off RC4. The point here is to test and verify application dependencies and compatibility before you make a widespread change. Second, have a plan to roll back the change if something you didn’t expect breaks. Finally, don’t wait to start transitioning your environment to stronger [using] crypto graphic algorithms. The longer your environment is using less secure cryptography, the more vulnerable you are to attacks. You can get ahead of the curve by updating your application requirements now to higher standards, and starting the work to transition your existing apps over to new certificates.


    One way, or the other…

    Folder Redirection Group Policy doesn’t apply to Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 clients when you also configure it in System Center

    This one comes to us from one of our tech leads, Kapil Chopra. Among many other duties, part of Kapil’s role is to watch for trends in the support cases that come into our frontline engineers, so that we can prioritize fixes that are affecting lots of customers.

    I had a chance to work on multiple cases where in folder redirection doesn’t gets applied on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. So I thought of posting the details to make sure that everyone is aware of the fact and should be able to resolve the issue.

    In all the cases that I addressed, we see the below mentioned symptoms on the client:

    1. In the RSOP, under the properties of User Configuration, we see that the Folder Redirection settings got applied successfully.

    2. Under the RSOP, when we browse to the User Configuration > Policies > Windows Settings, we don’t see Folder Redirection folder.

    3. Under the GPRESULT /v output we see that the folder redirection setting is showing up as N/A.

    4. There is no failures reported under the Application / System logs.

    5. Group Policy Logging states that the policy is applied as mentioned below:

    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:136 ProcessGPOs(User): Processing extension Folder Redirection
    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:136 ReadStatus: Read Extension's Previous status successfully.
    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:136 CompareGPOLists: The lists are the same.
    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:136 CompareGPOLists: The lists are the same.
    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:136 GPLockPolicySection: Sid = S-1-5-21-2130729834-1480738125-1508530778-62684, dwTimeout = 30000, dwFlags = 0x0
    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:136 ProcessGPOList: Entering for extension Folder Redirection
    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:136 UserPolicyCallback: Setting status UI to Applying Folder Redirection policy...
    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:136 ProcessGPOList: No changes. CSE will not be passed in the IwbemServices intf ptr
    GPSVC(32c.43c) 12:55:50:136 Message Status = <Applying Folder Redirection policy...>
    GPSVC(32c.b6c) 12:55:50:152 ProcessGPOList: Extension Folder Redirection returned 0x0.

    6. Under the folder redirection tracing, it isn't getting past fdeploy.dll into the shell components and is not even attempting to read the fdeploy.ini files.

    From the above symptoms, it is pretty evident that there is something that is stopping the Folder Redirection engine from proceeding further. So we went ahead looked into the Folder Redirection operational logs under “Event viewer > Application and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > Folder Redirection > Operational Logs”.

    Under the Operational logs we found an interesting event which might be causing the problem:

    Log Name: Microsoft-Windows-Folder Redirection/Operational
    Source: Microsoft-Windows-Folder Redirection
    Date: 11/4/2013 11:54:58 AM
    Event ID: 1012
    Task Category: None
    Level: Information
    User: SYSTEM
    Description: Folder Redirection configuration is being controlled by WMI configuration class Win32_FolderRedirectionUserConfiguration.

    In order to confirm if it’s only the Folder Redirection or other components as well getting controlled by WMI, we ran the powershell command “gwmi Win32_UserStateConfigurationControls” and found that all components i.e. Folder Redirection / Offline Files / Roaming User Profiles were controlled by WMI.
    __GENUS : 2
    __CLASS : Win32_UserStateConfigurationControls
    __DYNASTY : Win32_UserStateConfigurationControls
    __RELPATH : Win32_UserStateConfigurationControls=@
    __DERIVATION : {}
    __NAMESPACE : root\cimv2
    __PATH : \\WIN8TEST\root\cimv2:Win32_UserStateConfigurationControls=@
    FolderRedirection : 1
    OfflineFiles : 1
    RoamingUserProfile : 1
    PSComputerName : WIN8TEST

    Now the question is, what this WMI Class “Win32_FolderRedirectionUserConfiguration” has to do with Folder redirection?

    In order to answer that, everyone should be aware of the fact that with Windows 8 we have introduced new WMI classes to manage and query Folder Redirection and Remote User Profiles configuration using WMI controls. These WMI classes are mentioned below:




    The redirection properties of a known folder


    The health of a known folder that is being redirected


    The health configuration properties for a known folder that is being redirected


    The user's folder redirection configuration settings


    Represents a roaming profile background upload operation


    The roaming profile configuration for a computer


    The slow-link parameters for roaming profiles


    Represents a roaming profile user configuration


    Represents health configuration properties for all roaming user profiles on a computer


    Represents a user profile


    Contains properties that control the user state configuration for a computer. The property value settings for this class determine whether Group Policy or WMI should be the configuration mechanism for user state components.

    So, the big question is - who is giving the control on FR/CSC/RUP to WMI?
    In all the cases that we have dealt with, we found that the machines were deployed and managed using SCCM. So there might be something in the SCCM configuration which is changing the default behavior and passing on the control to WMI. We looked into the System Center Configuration Manager and found the setting which might be causing all the pain. The exact configuration is mentioned below:

    Under the SCCM Configuration manager,
    - Select Administration
    - Select Client Settings


    - Pull up PROPERTIES of Default Client Settings configuration and click on Compliance Settings

    - Enable User Data and Profiles mentioned above is the setting which drives the control of Folder Redirection and Remote User Profiles.

    The above configuration by Default is set to NO. Once enabled (set to YES), it passes the control of Folder Redirection, Offline Files, and Remote User Profiles to WMI and stores this configuration under the registry path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\UserState\UserStateTechnologies\ConfigurationControls


    This is evident from the fact that FolderRedirection, OfflineFiles, and RoamingUserProfiles registry entry mentioned in the above snippet is set to 1.

    More details about Managing UserState via System Center Configuration is documented under the articles mentioned below:
    - How to Create User Data and Profiles Configuration Items in Configuration Manager :
    - Example Scenario for User Data and Profiles Management in Configuration Manager :


    To resolve the issue we need to change the value of “Enable User Data and Profiles” to NO under the Compliance settings in SCCM Configuration.

    Another important fact that I need to point out is, changing the value of above registry entries to “0” will resolve the issue for a while on a client but the registry entries will automatically be flipped to 1 once the SCCM configuration client piece gets executed on the Win8 or Win8.1 machines. By default, this configuration runs every hour to pull changes from the System Center Configuration Manager server. So you have to make the change in System Center if you want it to stick.

    Most customers don’t realize what they are doing when they set this value to YES, so they will want to make sure it is set to NO in their environments. If a customer does want to use it, then they will need to make sure they are managing Folder Redirection through WMI and not through Group Policy or they will run into the problems mentioned above.


    Getting Rid of Pesky STOP Errors

    Hotfix released to correct a crash in TCP/IP.

    Here is a fix you will want to test and then deploy to your servers as soon as you can. For the past few months we have been tracking a large number of cases where servers would crash (blue screen) with a STOP 0xD1 error. We’ve been tracking this issue for a long time, but we were never able to figure out what exactly caused it because it only happened under specific circumstances on multiprocessor computers It took us so long to figure this out. Those conditions used to be pretty rare but as multiprocessor computers are now the norm, problem frequency has increased.  We now have a hotfix for Windows Server 2008 R2 available just in time for the holidays.

    Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 versions of the same hotfix are being tested and will be released in January 2014 if the testing pans out.


    Making the kids play nice together

    Roaming profiles now coexist properly for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 computers.

    Some of you may recall a blog post from one of our friends in PFE about problems roaming user profiles between computers running Windows 7 and Windows 8. In the original blog, we presented a workaround that, while it helped, was not really a fix for the issue.

    Well, now we have a fix for the issue. Two of them, rather. I’ll explain.

    To set expectations: Windows 8 uses a new profile format (just like Windows 7 had a new format when compared to XP). Windows 8.1 uses a third (or fourth) new profile format. So, if you want to move data between computers running Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1, you will need to use Folder Redirection…. OR you can consider using the cool new feature called Work Folders, which we’ll be adding support for Windows 7 in the coming months. But if you don’t do one of these things, then the two profiles are separate – no data gets shared between the two OS versions.

    KB 2887239 and KB 2890783 allow roaming profiles to “roam” properly even if you’re in a mixed OS environment. That means users will be able to log in seamlessly to different devices without having to follow the workaround mentioned in Mark’s blog post.


    Last, but definitely not least:  We’re hiring.

    I mentioned at the start of this that the last few months for us in DS (and really in all of support) have been “All Hands on Deck”. And while things slow down a little over the holidays, we have more work to do than we have hands and minds to do it right now.

    So we’re hiring. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys fixing hard problems, who likes getting into the guts of how software works, and who’s not afraid to constantly be asked to learn something new, you really should check out our careers page. There are positions available in Charlotte, NC, in Las Colinas, TX, and in Fargo, ND. And this isn’t just for DS – it’s for all of our Windows support teams (and others). If you’re interested, look for Support Engineer positions and send in your resume.

    What we do is possibly the most technically demanding and challenging infrastructure job there is. Every day we work on problems that impact hundreds or thousands of users out there in the world, and some with more impact with that. It’s not an *easy* job. But it is a very fulfilling one.

    If you’re interested in applying, check out these two blog posts we put up a while back, and we’ll look forward to talking to you.

    Post-Graduate AD Studies

    Accelerating Your IT Career

  • Important Announcement: AD FS 2.0 and MS13-066

    Update (8/19/13):

    We have republished MS13-066 with a corrected version of the hotfixes that contributed to this problem.  If you had held off on installing the update, it should be safe to install on all of your ADFS servers now.


    The updated security bulletin is here:


    Thanks everyone for your patience with this one.  If anyone is still having trouble after installing the re-released update, please call us and open a support case so that our engineers can get you working again!




    Hi everyone, Adam and JR here with an important announcement.

    We’re tracking an important issue in support where some customers who have installed security update MS13-066 on their AD FS 2.0 servers are experiencing authentication outages.  This is due to a dependency within the security update on certain versions of the AD FS 2.0 binaries.  Customers who are already running ADFS 2.0 RU3 before installing the update should not experience any issues.

    We have temporarily suspended further downloads of this security update until we have resolved this issue for all ADFS 2.0 customers. 

    Our Security and AD FS product team are working together to resolve this with their highest priority.  We’ll have more news for you soon in a follow-up post.  In the meantime, here is what we can tell you right now.


    What to Watch For

    If you have installed KB 2843638 or KB 2843639 on your AD FS server, you may notice the following symptoms:

    1. Federated sign-in fails for clients.
    2. Event ID 111 in the AD FS 2.0/Admin event log:

    The Federation Service encountered an error while processing the WS-Trust request. 

    Request type: 

    Additional Data 

    Exception details: 

    System.Reflection.TargetInvocationException: Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation. ---> System.TypeLoadException: Could not load
    type ‘Microsoft.IdentityModel.Protocols.XmlSignature.AsymmetricSignatureOperatorsDelegate' from assembly 'Microsoft.IdentityModel, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35'.

       at Microsoft.IdentityServer.Service.SecurityTokenService.MSISSecurityTokenService..ctor(SecurityTokenServiceConfiguration securityTokenServiceConfiguration)

       --- End of inner exception stack trace ---

       at System.RuntimeMethodHandle._InvokeConstructor(Object[] args, SignatureStruct& signature, IntPtr declaringType)

       at System.Reflection.RuntimeConstructorInfo.Invoke(BindingFlags invokeAttr, Binder binder, Object[] parameters, CultureInfo culture)

       at System.RuntimeType.CreateInstanceImpl(BindingFlags bindingAttr, Binder binder, Object[] args, CultureInfo culture, Object[] activationAttributes)

       at Microsoft.IdentityModel.Configuration.SecurityTokenServiceConfiguration.CreateSecurityTokenService()

       at Microsoft.IdentityModel.Protocols.WSTrust.WSTrustServiceContract.CreateSTS()

       at Microsoft.IdentityModel.Protocols.WSTrust.WSTrustServiceContract.CreateDispatchContext(Message requestMessage, String requestAction, String responseAction, String
    trustNamespace, WSTrustRequestSerializer requestSerializer, WSTrustResponseSerializer responseSerializer, WSTrustSerializationContext serializationContext)

       at Microsoft.IdentityModel.Protocols.WSTrust.WSTrustServiceContract.BeginProcessCore(Message requestMessage, WSTrustRequestSerializer requestSerializer, WSTrustResponseSerializer responseSerializer, String requestAction, String responseAction, String trustNamespace, AsyncCallback callback, Object state)

    System.TypeLoadException: Could not load type 'Microsoft.IdentityModel.Protocols.XmlSignature.AsymmetricSignatureOperatorsDelegate' from assembly 'Microsoft.IdentityModel, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35'.

       at Microsoft.IdentityServer.Service.SecurityTokenService.MSISSecurityTokenService..ctor(SecurityTokenServiceConfiguration securityTokenServiceConfiguration)


    What to do if the problem occurs:

    1. Uninstall the hotfixes from your AD FS servers.
    2. Reboot any system where the hotfixes were
    3. Check back here for further updates.

    We’ll update this blog post with more information as it becomes available, including links to any followup posts about this problem.

  • MD5 Signature Hash Deprecation and Your Infrastructure

    Hi everyone, David here with a quick announcement.

    Yesterday, MSRC announced a timeframe for deprecation of built-in support for certificates that use the MD5 signature hash. You can find more information here:

    Along with this announcement, we've released a framework which allows enterprises to test their environment for certificates that might be blocked as part of the upcoming changes (Microsoft Security Advisory 2862966). This framework also allows future deprecation of other weak cryptographic algorithm to be streamlined and managed via registry updates (pushed via Windows Update).


    Some Technical Specifics:

    This change affects certificates that are used for the following:

    • server authentication
    • code signing  
    • time stamping
    • Other certificate usages that used MD5 signature hash algorithm will NOT be blocked.

    For code signing certificates, we will allow signed binaries that were signed before March 2009 to continue to work, even if the signing cert used MD5 signature hash algorithm.

    Note:  Only certificates issued under a root CA in the Microsoft Root Certificate program are affected by this change.  Enterprise issued certificates are not affected (but should still be updated).


    What this means for you:

    1) If you're using certificates that have an MD5 signature hash (for example, if you have older web server certificates that used this hashing algorithm), you will need to update those certificates as soon as possible.  The update is planned to release in February 2014; make sure anything you have that is internet facing has been updated by then.

    You can find out what signature hash was used on a certificate by simply pulling up the details of that certificate's public key on any Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 machine.  Look for the signature hash algorithm that was used. (The certificate in my screenshot uses sha1, but you will see md5 listed on certificates that use it).

    If you are on Server Core or have an older OS, you can see the signature hash algorithm by using certutil -v against the certificate.

    2) Start double-checking your internal applications and certificates to insure that you don't have something older that's using an MD5 hash.  If you find one, update it (or contact the vendor to have it updated).

    3) Deploy KB 2862966 in your test and QA environments and use it to test for weaker hashes (You are using test and QA environments for your major applications, right?).  The update allows you to implement logging to see what would be affected by restricting a hash.  It's designed to allow you to get ahead of the curve and find the potential weak spots in your environment.

    Sometimes security announcements like this can seem a little like overkill, but remember that your certificates are only as strong as the hashing algorithm used to generate the private key.  As computing power increases, older hashing algorithms become easier for attackers to crack, allowing them to more easily fool computers and applications into allowing them access or executing code.  We don't release updates like this lightly, so make sure you take the time to inspect your environments and fix the weak links, before some attacker out there tries to use them against you.

    --David "Security is everyone's business" Beach

  • DFS Replication in Windows Server 2012 R2 and other goodies, now available on the Filecab blog!

    Over at the Filecab blog, AskDS alum and all-around nice guy Ned Pyle has posted the first of several blogs about new features coming your way in Windows Server 2012 R2.  If you're a DFS administrator or just curious, go take a look!

    Ned promises more posts in the near future, and Filecab is near and dear to our hearts here in DS (they make a bunch of things we support), so if you don't already have it on your RSS feed list, it might be a good time to add it.

  • Adding shortcuts on desktop using Group Policy Preferences in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

    Hi All!

    My name is Saurabh Koshta and I am with the Core Team at Microsoft. Currently I work in the client space so supporting all aspects of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 is my primary role.

    We very often get calls from customers who are evaluating Windows 8/Windows 8.1 for deployment, but are concerned about some of the changes in the UI that may confuse their users. A typical concern we hear is that users are used to having shortcuts on the desktop for Computer, Documents, and Network. So, I wanted to take a minute to show you how you can easily add those shortcuts (or others) to desktops using Group Policy Preferences.

    I have an OU in my domain called “Domain Computers”, which has Windows 8 machines.


    The next step is to create a policy and link in to the “Domain Computers” OU. In this case it is called “Shortcut”


    Edit the policy and go to the following location:

    Computer Configuration -- > Preferences -- > Windows Settings -- > Shortcuts

    Highlight Shortcuts and on the right pane, right click and select new Shortcut


    In the ‘New Shortcut Properties’, make the following changes so the values look like below:

    1. Action : Update

    2. Target type : Shell Object

    3. Location : All Users Desktop

    4. For Target object, click on the browse option and then chose ‘Computer’

    5. Name : My Computer

    Leave rest of the options as default. Once you have made all the changes, it would look like below:


    Similarly for Network the options are:

    1. Action : Update

    2. Target type : Shell Object

    3. Location : All Users Desktop

    4. For Target object, click on the browse option and then chose ‘Network’

    5. Name : My Network Places


    And for Libraries the options are:

    1. Action : Update

    2. Target type : Shell Object

    3. Location : All Users Desktop

    4. For Target object, click on the browse option and then chose ‘Libraries’

    5. Name : My Documents


    So we have the following three shortcuts


    Restart the client and once logged in with a domain user, the desktop would have the three shortcuts as listed above and it would look something like below:


    The above steps also work with Windows 8.1. Here is how it looks:


    Hope you all find this information useful.


    Saurabh Koshta

  • Interesting findings on SETSPN -x -f

    Hello folks, this is Herbert from the Directory Services support team in Europe!

    Kerberos is becoming increasingly mandatory for really cool features such as Protocol Transition.  Moreover, as you might be painfully aware, managing Service Principal Names (SPN’s) for the use of Kerberos by applications can be daunting at times.

    In this blog, we will not be going into the gory details of SPNs and how applications are using them. In fact, I’m assuming you already have some basic knowledge about SPN’s and how they are used.

    Instead, we’re going to talk about an interesting behavior that can occur when an administrator is doing their due diligence managing SPN’s.  This behavior can arise when you are checking the status of the account the SPN is planned for, or when you are checking to see if the SPN that must be registered is already registered in the domain or forest.

    As we all know, the KDC’s cannot issue tickets for a particular service if there are duplicate SPN’s, and authentication does not work if the SPN is on the wrong account.

    Experienced administrators learn to use the SETSPN utility to validate SPNs when authentication problems occur.  In the Windows Server 2008 version of SETSPN, we provide several options useful to identifying duplicate SPNs:

    -      If you want to look for a duplicate of a particular SPN: SETSPN /q <SPN>

    -      If you want to search for any duplicate in the domain: SETSPN /x

    You can also use the “/f” option to extend the duplicate search to the whole Forest. Many Active Directory Admins use this as a proactive check of the forest for duplicate SPNs.

    So far, so good…

    The Problem

    Sometimes, you’ll get an error running SETSPN -x -f:

    c:\>SETSPN -X -F -P
    Checking forest DC=contoso,DC=com
    Operation will be performed forestwide, it might take a while.
    Ldap Error(0x55 -- Timeout): ldap_get_next_page_s

    “-P” just tells the tool not to clutter the output with progress indications, but you can see from that error message that we are not talking only about Kerberos anymore. There is a new problem.


    What are we seeing in the diagnostic data?

    In a network trace of the above you will see a query against the GC (port 3268) with no base DN and the filter (servicePrincipalName=*)”. SETSPN uses paged queries with a page size of 100 objects. In a large Active Directory environment this yields quite a number of pages.

    If you look closely at network capture data, you’ll often find that Domain Controller response times slowly increase towards the end of the query. If the command completes, you’ll sometimes see that the delay is longest on the last page returned. For example, when we reviewed data for a recent customer case, we noted:

    ”Customer also noticed that it usually hangs on record 84.”


    Troubleshooting LDAP performance and building custom queries calls for the use of the STATS Control. Here is how you use it in LDP.exe:

    Once connected to port 3268 and logged on as an admin, you can build the query in the same manner as SETSPN does.

    1. Launch LDP as an administrator.

    2. Open the Search Window using Browse\Search or Ctrl-S.

    3. Enter the empty base DN and the filter, specify “Subtree” as the scope. The list of attributes does not matter here. 

    4. Go to Options:


    5. Specify an “Extended” query as we want to use controls. Note I have specified a page size of 100 elements, but that is not important, as we will see later. Let’s move on to “Controls”:


    5. From the List of Controls select “Search Stats“. When you select it, it automatically checks it in.

    6. Now “OK” your way out of the “Controls” and “Options” dialogs.

    7. Hit “Run” on the “Search” dialog.


    You should get a large list of results, but also the STATS a bit like this one:


    Call Time: 62198 (ms)

    Entries Returned: 8508

    Entries Visited: 43076

    Used Filter: (servicePrincipalName=*)

    Used Indices: idx_servicePrincipalName:13561:N

    Pages Referenced          : 801521

    Pages Read From Disk      : 259

    Pages Pre-read From Disk  : 1578

    Pages Dirtied             : 0

    Pages Re-Dirtied          : 0

    Log Records Generated     : 0

    Log Record Bytes Generated: 0


    What are these stats telling us?

    We have a total of 8508 objects in the “Entries Returned” result set, but we have visited 43076 objects. That sounds odd, because we used an Index idx_servicePrincipalName”. This does not really look as if the query is using the index.


    So what is happening here?

    At this point, we experience the special behavior of multi-valued non-linked attributes and how they are represented in the index. To illustrate this, let me explain a few data points:


    1. A typical workstation or member server has these SPNs:










    2. When you look at the result set from running setspn, you notice that you’re not getting all of the SPNs you’d expect:

    dn:CN=HQSCCM2K3TEST,OU=SCCM,OU=Test Infrastructure,OU=Domain Management,DC=contoso,DC=com
    servicePrincipalName: WSMAN/sccm2k3test
    servicePrincipalName: WSMAN/

    If you look at it closely, you notice all the SPN’s start with characters very much at the end of the alphabet, which also happens to be the end of the index. These entries do not have a prefix like “HOST”.


    So how does this happen?

    In the resultant set of LDAP queries, an object may only appear once, but it is possible for an object to be in the index multiple times, because of the way the index is built. Each time the object is found in the index, the LDAP Server has to check the other values of the indexed attribute of the object to see whether it also matches the filter and thus was already added to the result set.  The LDAP server is doing its diligence to avoid returning duplicates.

    For example, the first hit in the index for the above workstation example is HOST/HERBERTM5“.

    The second hitHOST/ kicks off the algorithm.

    The object is read already and the IO and CPU hit has happened.

    Now the query keeps walking the index, and once it arrives at the prefix WSMAN”, the rate of objects it needs to skip approaches 100%. Therefore, it looks at many objects and little additional objects in the result set.

    On the last page of the query, things get even worse. There is an almost 100% rate of duplicates, so the clock of 60 seconds SETSPN allows for the query is ticking, and there are only 8 objects to be found. If the Domain Controller has a slow CPU or the objects need to be read from the disk because of memory pressure, the SETSPN query will probably not finish within a minute for a large forest.  This results in the error Ldap Error(0x55 -- Timeout): ldap_get_next_page_sThe larger the index (meaning, the more computers and users you have in your forest), the greater the likelihood that this can occur.

    If you run the query with LDIFDE, LDP or ADFIND you will have a better chance the query will be successful. This is because by default these tools do not specify a time-out and thus use the values of the Domain Controller LDAP Policy. The Domain Controller LDAP policy is 120 seconds (by default) instead of 60 seconds.

    The problem with the results generated by these tools is that you have to correlate the results from the different outputs yourself – the tools won’t do it for you.


    So what can you do about it?

    Typically you’ll have to do further troubleshooting, but here are some common causes/resolutions that I’ve seen:

    1. If a domain controller is short on memory and encounters many cache misses and thus substantial IO. You can diagnose this using the NTDS performance counters in Performance Monitor.  You can add memory to reduce the IO rate and speed things up.
    2. If you are not experiencing memory pressure, the limiting factor could be the “Single-Thread-Performance” of the server. This is important as every LDAP query gets a worker thread and runs no faster than one logical CPU core can manage.  If you have a low number of logical cores in a system with a high amount of CPU activity, this can cause the threads to delay long enough for us to see an  nconsistent query return.  In this situation your best bet is to look for ways to reduce overall processor load on the domain controller – for example, moving other services off of the machine.
    3. There is an update for Windows Server 2012 which helps to avoid the problem:

    2799960          Time-out error when you run SETSPN.exe in Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012

    The last customer I helped had a combination of issues 1 and 2 and once he chose a beefier DC with more current hardware, the command always succeeded.  Another customer had a much bigger environment and ended up using the update I listed above to overcome the issue.

    I hope you have enjoyed this journey explaining what is happening on such a SETSPN query.


    Herbert "The Thread Master" Mauerer