Everything you need to get started with Active Directory

As a Microsoft Premier Field Engineer I frequently get asked for more information on Active Directory topics.  Most of the time I end up passing along one or more of the links in today's post.  I finally decided to put these all in one place for quick reference.  This list will be extremely valuable for anyone who wants to get started with Active Directory or even for a seasoned AD admin who wants to go deeper.

Blog etiquette says that I shouldn't use long, ugly URLs in the text of my post.  But today I am including the full URL of each link in case you decide to copy and paste the links into an email


AD 101

Active Directory Domain Services Overview

What is Active Directory?

Active Directory Services Overview (wiki)

Microsoft Active Directory: An Introduction (Microsoft Virtual Academy video series)

Wiki: Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) Portal (Fantastic!)

Wiki: Active Directory Features in Different Versions of Windows Server


AskDS / AskPFEPlat

The AskDS blog remains the most amazing place on the internet to find deep technical answers to all of your AD questions.  Here are links to some of their best articles related to learning Active Directory.  Each of these posts contain links to key Active Directory information that every admin should know.
http://blogs.technet.com/b/askds/archive/2010/06/25/friday-mail-sack-1970-s-conversion-van-edition.aspx (scroll to bottom)
And here are two bonus posts that I couldn't pass up.

First, Do No Harm (DCPROMO checklist, highly recommended)


White Paper Downloads

Active Directory Domain Services Operations Guide

Best Practice Guide for Securing Active Directory Installations

Best Practices for Delegating Active Directory Administration

Windows Server 2008: Planning for Active Directory Forest Recovery

Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Branch Office Guide

Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC) Branch Office Guide

Planning and Deploying Read-Only Domain Controllers

Infrastructure Planning and Design: Active Directory Domain Services

Active Directory Migration Tool (ADMT) Guide: Migrating and Restructuring Active Directory Domains


TechNet Library

How Active Directory Replication Topology Works

How Operations Masters Work

How the Windows Time Service Works

How the Data Store Works

Active Directory Maximum Limits - Scalability

How Domain and Forest Trusts Work

Capacity Planning for Active Directory Domain Services


Understanding FSMOs

Phantoms, tombstones and the infrastructure master

FSMO placement and optimization on Active Directory domain controllers

Windows 2000 Active Directory FSMO roles


Support KBs

Virus scanning recommendations for Enterprise computers that are running currently supported versions of Windows

Service overview and network port requirements for the Windows Server system

Things to consider when you host Active Directory domain controllers in virtual hosting environments



How DNS Works

How DNS Support for Active Directory Works

DNS Technical Reference

DNS in Small Networks Step-by-Step Guide

DNS Best Practices
Scroll half way down the article.


DNS Scavenging

Understanding Aging and Scavenging
Note that Windows Server 2008 changed the way DNS records are refreshed. Be sure to note which version of the documentation you read based on your server operating system.

Optimizing your network to keep your DNS squeaky clean

Don't be afraid of DNS Scavenging. Just be patient.

A Complicated Scenario Regarding DNS and the DC Locator SRVs

How DNS Scavenging and the DHCP Lease Duration Relate



Any administrator worth their salt MUST know PowerShell.  Here are some great links to help you get started.

Microsoft Virtual Academy - PowerShell

Microsoft Virtual Academy - PowerShell for Active Directory



Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 (SP1)
This download gives you the admin tools on Windows 7. Enable them from Control Panel - Programs - Turn Windows features on or off - Remote Server Administration Tools.
MCITP Certification & Exams
Use the exam guides linked here for a great list of topics to measure your knowledge.  If you see a term you don't recognize, then study it. 
TechNet Virtual Lab: Windows Server 2008 R2: What’s New in Active Directory
This is a free online lab where you can practice with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Active Directory.  It includes a 2008 R2 domain controller, a Server Core member server, and a Windows 7 client.
Windows Command Reference
Wow! This CHM (compressed HTML) help file contains syntax and examples of nearly every Windows command line utility, including Active Directory commands. Every administrator needs a copy of this. Note: After downloading the file be sure to unblock it (Right click the file, Properties, click the Unblock button, OK). Then you will be able to view the contents.


Comments (18)
  1. anonymouscommenter says:

    Terrific list.  You might also consider adding a section for commercial products such as books and training material. I know of several I would suggest.

  2. DavidReller says:

    This could be the greatest blog post ever… 🙂

  3. WOOOWWW!! thx for sharing.. can be the best reference post !! thank you so much ..

  4. VenkatSP says:

    Amazing collection of articles about AD. I request you to add some nice links about DFS and DFSR (if possible). Thanks a lot.

  5. anonymouscommenter says:

    Great list of links. Thanks for compiling all of these.

  6. You point to some really great resources here.  Thanks!

  7. anonymouscommenter says:

    and in 2014, the content is still exactly what I’m looking for!!! THANK YOU, wish Microsofts Training was more real world.. learn the book stuff and them boot camp was more like front lines to help engineers really learn this stuff.

  8. anonymouscommenter says:

    I was looking for some online AD Virtual environments that would allow someone to get real time experience but this is a great post with great references to learning, AD

  9. Hi John,
    You can use the TechNet Virtual Labs for free online VMs to try AD.
    Ashley @GoateePFE

  10. anonymouscommenter says:

    Welcome! Today’s post includes demo scripts and links from the Microsoft Virtual Academy event: Using PowerShell for Active Directory . We had a great time creating this for you, and I hope you will share it with anyone needing to ramp up their

  11. Markus Kreft says:

    Great collection! I think the second link "What is Active Directory?" might be broken though. You get forwarded to a general page about Windows Server 2012 R2.

  12. anonymouscommenter says:

    Thank you Ashley, very useful and valuable info.

  13. Thanks a lot for this one 🙂

  14. Ranjan David says:

    Many links are dead. Please remove or update.

  15. Elma says:

    A oferta é possível que morrer sem aviso prévio. http://hisyoup.jp/archives/365

  16. sakusuma says:

    Is there any documentation from Microsoft Side for the Site topology best practices?

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