Introduction to Active Directory
Updated: January 21, 2005
Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2
Introduction to Active Directory
Active Directory can be installed on servers running Microsoft® Windows Server® 2003, Standard Edition; Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition; and Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition. Active Directory stores information about objects on the network and makes this information easy for administrators and users to find and use. Active Directory uses a structured data store as the basis for a logical, hierarchical organization of directory information.
This data store, also known as the directory, contains information about Active Directory objects. These objects typically include shared resources such as servers, volumes, printers, and the network user and computer accounts. For more information about the Active Directory data store, see Directory data store.
Security is integrated with Active Directory through logon authentication and access control to objects in the directory. With a single network logon, administrators can manage directory data and organization throughout their network, and authorized network users can access resources anywhere on the network. Policy-based administration eases the management of even the most complex network. For more information about Active Directory security, see Security overview.
Active Directory also includes:
A set of rules, the schema, that defines the classes of objects and attributes contained in the directory, the constraints and limits on instances of these objects, and the format of their names. For more information about the schema, see Schema.
A global catalog that contains information about every object in the directory. This allows users and administrators to find directory information regardless of which domain in the directory actually contains the data. For more information about the global catalog, see The role of the global catalog.
A query and index mechanism, so that objects and their properties can be published and found by network users or applications. For more information about querying the directory, see Finding directory information.
A replication service that distributes directory data across a network. All domain controllers in a domain participate in replication and contain a complete copy of all directory information for their domain. Any change to directory data is replicated to all domain controllers in the domain. For more information about Active Directory replication, see Replication overview.
Support for Active Directory client software, which makes many features on Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Professional or Windows XP Professional available to computers running Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT® Server 4.0. To client computers not running Active Directory client software, the directory will appear like a Windows NT directory. For more information about client software, see Active Directory clients.
You cannot install Active Directory on a server running Windows Server 2003, Web Edition, but you can join the server to an Active Directory domain as a member server. For more information about Windows Server 2003, Web Edition, see Overview of Windows Server 2003, Web Edition.