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Active Directory naming

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Active Directory naming

Active Directory domain names are usually the full Domain Name System (DNS) name of the domain. However, for backward compatibility, each domain also has a pre-Windows 2000 name for use by computers running pre-Windows 2000 operating systems. The pre-Windows 2000 domain name can be used to log on to a Windows Server 2003 domain from computers running pre-Windows 2000 operating systems using the DomainName\UserName format. This same format can also be used to log on to a Windows Server 2003 domain from computers running Windows 2000, Windows XP, or servers running Windows Server 2003. Users can also log on to computers running Windows 2000, Windows XP, or servers running Windows Server 2003 using the user principal name (UPN) associated with their user account.

User accounts

In Active Directory, each user account has a user logon name, a pre-Windows 2000 user logon name (security account manager account name), and a UPN suffix. The administrator enters the user logon name and selects the UPN suffix when creating the user account. Active Directory suggests a pre-Windows 2000 user logon name using the first 20 bytes of the user logon name. Administrators can change the pre-Windows 2000 logon name at any time.

In Active Directory, each user account has a UPN based on IETF RFC 822, Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet Text Messages. The UPN is composed of the user logon name and the UPN suffix joined by the @ sign.

Note

  • Do not add the @ sign to the user logon name or to the UPN suffix. Active Directory automatically adds it when it creates the UPN. A UPN that contains more than one @ sign is invalid.

Important

  • Windows NT 4.0 and earlier domains allowed the use of a period (.) at the end of a user logon name as long as the user logon name did not consist solely of period characters. Windows Server 2003 domains do not allow the use of a period or multiple periods at the end of a user logon name.

The second part of the UPN, the UPN suffix, identifies the domain in which the user account is located. This UPN suffix can be the DNS domain name, the DNS name of any domain in the forest, or it can be an alternative name created by an administrator and used just for log on purposes. This alternative UPN suffix does not need to be a valid DNS name.

In Active Directory, the default UPN suffix is the DNS name of the domain in which user account created. In most cases, this is the domain name registered as the enterprise domain on the Internet. Using alternative domain names as the UPN suffix can provide additional logon security and simplify the names used to log on to another domain in the forest.

For example, if your organization uses a deep domain tree, organized by department and region, domain names can get quite long. The default user UPN for a user in that domain might be sales.westcoast.microsoft.com. The logon name for a user in that domain would be user@sales.westcoast.microsoft.com. Creating a UPN suffix of "microsoft" would allow that same user to log on using the much simpler logon name of user@microsoft. For more information about user accounts, see User and computer accounts and Object names.

You can add or remove UPN suffixes using Active Directory Domains and Trusts. For more information, see Add user principal name suffixes.

Computer accounts

Each computer account created in Active Directory has a relative distinguished name, a pre-Windows 2000 computer name (security account manager account name), a primary DNS suffix, a DNS host name, and a service principal name (SPN). The administrator enters the computer name when creating the computer account. This computer name is used as the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) relative distinguished name.

Active Directory suggests the pre-Windows 2000 name using the first 15 bytes of the relative distinguished name. The administrator can change the pre-Windows 2000 name at any time.

The DNS name for a host is called a full computer name and is a DNS fully qualified domain name (FQDN). The full computer name is a concatenation of the computer name (the first 15 bytes of the SAM account name of the computer account without the "$" character) and the primary DNS suffix (the DNS domain name of the domain in which the computer account exists). It is listed on the Computer Name tab in System Properties in Control Panel.

By default, the primary DNS suffix portion of the FQDN for a computer must be the same as the name of the Active Directory domain where the computer is located. To allow different primary DNS suffixes, a domain administrator may create a restricted list of allowed suffixes by creating the msDS-AllowedDNSSuffixes attribute in the domain object container. This attribute is created and managed by the domain administrator using Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI) or the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

For more information, see Object names and User and computer accounts.

The service principal name (SPN) is a multivalue attribute. It is usually built from the DNS name of the host. The SPN is used in the process of mutual authentication between the client and the server hosting a particular service. The client finds a computer account based on the SPN of the service to which it is trying to connect. The SPN can be modified by members of the Domain Admins group.

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