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Troubleshooting Account Lockout

Updated: June 9, 2008

Applies To: Windows Server 2003 with SP1

In an environment where you set the account lockout feature, you may notice a large number of lockouts that occur. To determine if these lockouts are false lockouts or a real attack:

  1. Verify that the domain controllers and client computers are up-to-date with service packs and hotfixes. For more information, see the "Recommended Service Packs and Hotfixes" section in this document.

  2. Configure your computers to capture data:

    1. Enable auditing at the domain level.

    2. Enable Netlogon logging.

    3. Enable Kerberos logging.

    For more information, see the "Appendix Two: Gathering Information to Troubleshoot Account Lockout Issues" section in this document.

  3. Analyze data from the Security event log files and the Netlogon log files to help you determine where the lockouts are occurring and why.

  4. Analyze the event logs on the computer that is generating the account lockouts to determine the cause.

    For more information, see the Account Lockout Tools section in this document.

The following section further describes the account lockout troubleshooting process.

Common Causes for Account Lockouts

This section describes some of the common causes for account lockouts The common troubleshooting steps and resolutions for account lockouts are also described in this section.

To avoid false lockouts, check each computer on which a lockout occurred for the following behaviors:

  • Programs: Many programs cache credentials or keep active threads that retain the credentials after a user changes their password.

  • Service accounts: Service account passwords are cached by the service control manager on member computers that use the account as well as domain controllers. If you reset the password for a service account and you do not reset the password in the service control manager, account lockouts for the service account occur. This is because the computers that use this account typically retry logon authentication by using the previous password. To determine whether this is occurring, look for a pattern in the Netlogon log files and in the event log files on member computers. You can then configure the service control manager to use the new password and avoid future account lockouts.

  • Bad Password Threshold is set too low: This is one of the most common misconfiguration issues. Many companies set the Bad Password Threshold registry value to a value lower than the default value of 10. If you set this value too low, false lockouts occur when programs automatically retry passwords that are not valid. Microsoft recommends that you leave this value at its default value of 10. For more information, see "Choosing Account Lockout Settings for Your Deployment" in this document.

  • User logging on to multiple computers: A user may log onto multiple computers at one time. Programs that are running on those computers may access network resources with the user credentials of that user who is currently logged on. If the user changes their password on one of the computers, programs that are running on the other computers may continue to use the original password. Because those programs authenticate when they request access to network resources, the old password continues to be used and the users account becomes locked out. To ensure that this behavior does not occur, users should log off of all computers, change the password from a single location, and then log off and back on.

    noteNote
    Computers running Windows XP or a member of the Windows Server 2003 family automatically detect when the users password has changed and prompt the user to lock and unlock the computer to obtain the current password. No logon and logoff is required for users using these computers.

  • Stored user names and passwords retain redundant credentials: If any of the saved credentials are the same as the logon credential, you should delete those credentials. The credentials are redundant because Windows tries the logon credentials when explicit credentials are not found. To delete logon credentials, use the Stored User Names and Passwords tool. For more information about Stored User Names and Passwords, see online help in Windows XP and the Windows Server 2003 family.

    noteNote
    Computers that are running Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Millennium Edition do not have a Stored User Names and Passwords file. Instead, you should delete the user's .pwl file. This file is named Username.pwl, where Username is the user's logon name. The file is stored in the Systemroot folder.

  • Scheduled tasks: Scheduled processes may be configured to using credentials that have expired.

  • Persistent drive mappings: Persistent drives may have been established with credentials that subsequently expired. If the user types explicit credentials when they try to connect to a share, the credential is not persistent unless it is explicitly saved by Stored User Names and Passwords. Every time that the user logs off the network, logs on to the network, or restarts the computer, the authentication attempt fails when Windows attempts to restore the connection because there are no stored credentials. To avoid this behavior, configure net use so that is does not make persistent connections. To do this, at a command prompt, type net use /persistent:no. Alternately, to ensure current credentials are used for persistent drives, disconnect and reconnect the persistent drive.

  • Active Directory replication: User properties must replicate between domain controllers to ensure that account lockout information is processed properly. You should verify that proper Active Directory replication is occurring.

  • Disconnected Terminal Server sessions: Disconnected Terminal Server sessions may be running a process that accesses network resources with outdated authentication information. A disconnected session can have the same effect as a user with multiple interactive logons and cause account lockout by using the outdated credentials. The only difference between a disconnected session and a user who is logged onto multiple computers is that the source of the lockout comes from a single computer that is running Terminal Services.

  • Service accounts: By default, most computer services are configured to start in the security context of the Local System account. However, you can manually configure a service to use a specific user account and password. If you configure a service to start with a specific user account and that accounts password is changed, the service logon property must be updated with the new password or that service may lock out the account.

noteNote
You can use the System Information tool to create a list of services and the accounts that were used to start them. To start the System Information tool, click Start, click Run, type winmsd, and then click OK.

Other Potential Issues

Some additional considerations regarding account lockout are described in the following sections.

Account Lockout for Remote Connections

The account lockout feature that is discussed in this paper is independent of the account lockout feature for remote connections, such as in the Routing and Remote Access service and Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS). These services and programs may provide their own unrelated account lockout features.

Internet Information Services

By default, IIS uses a token-caching mechanism that locally caches user account authentication information. If lockouts are limited to users who try to gain access to Exchange mailboxes through Outlook Web Access and IIS, you can resolve the lockout by resetting the IIS token cache. For more information, see "Mailbox Access via OWA Depends on IIS Token Cache" in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

MSN Messenger and Microsoft Outlook

If a user changes their domain password through Microsoft Outlook and the computer is running MSN Messenger, the client may become locked out. To resolve this behavior, see "MSN Messenger May Cause Domain Account Lockout After a Password Change" in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

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