Installing a Windows Server 2012 Domain Controller

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Microsoft has made a variety of changes to Windows Server 2012. From the minute that you install your first Windows Server 2012 system, you will see these changes front and center as the new operating system and are greeted with the new management interface, which provides administrators with the ability to centrally manage all Windows Server 2012 servers. Microsoft has made great progress in their attempts to streamline the overall management paradigm for Windows Server; centralizing management enables administrators to be more efficient with their tasks.

In this article, I will provide you with the first in a series of “getting reacquainted with Windows” articles intended to bridge the gap and help identify and cover the changes that have taken place between Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012. This article covers the creation of a new domain controller in a brand new Windows Server 2012 domain. I’m going to start the process on the assumption that you’ve already installed Windows Server 2012 and are just getting into the initial configuration.

Before you begin

There are a few important items to note before you begin the process or creating a domain controller in Windows Server 2012:

  • dcpromo is gone and is no longer a supported method for creating a domain controller.
  • Make sure you’ve named your server something other than the default – if you want to – before you start the process described below.
  • It’s highly recommended that the server you intend to transform into a domain controller be assigned a static IP address.

The process – Part 1

When you first install a Windows Server 2012 system, it’s configured to start Server Manager automatically. The Server Manager dashboard is shown in Figure 1. To get started creating a new domain controller, click the Add roles and features option.

Figure 1:
The Windows Server 2012 Server Manager dashboard

The first screen of the wizard provides you with an overview of the process that is about to take place. Click the Next button to proceed.

Figure 2:
The before you begin page

Windows Server 2012 breaks role and feature installation apart from Remote Desktop Services installation. Choose the option marked Role-based or feature-based installation and then click the Next button to proceed.

Figure 3:
Choose role-based or feature-based installation

Here, we’re interested in installation Active Directory Domain Services, shown below in Figure 4. When you click in the box next to that option, the window you see in Figure 5 pops up. This pop up window describes the services that will be added to the Windows Server 2012 system.

Figure 4:
Choose Active Directory Domain Services

Figure 5:
Additional features are automatically selected for you

As roles are added, you may find it necessary to add additional features to support those roles. On the Select features page of the installation wizard, decide whether or not you wish to add additional features. In general, all of the features that are required to support the target role are already selected so you can just click the Next button to continue.

Figure 6:
No additional features beyond the default are required

The next screen of the wizard is for informational purposes only and provides details about the role you’re installing. Just click the Next button to continue (Figure 7).

Figure 7:
Some general notes about Active Directory Domain Services

Some roles and features require that the server be restarted to complete the installation. You can choose to let this happen automatically or do it manually. If you select the checkbox next to Restart the destination server automatically if required, the restart will happen without administrator intervention. Otherwise, you have to reboot manually. The warning message in Figure 9 will make sure you are aware that restarts will happen by themselves.

Click the Install button on the screen shown in Figure 8 to initiate the deployment of the Active Directory Domain Services role.

Figure 8:
The server needs to be restarted from time to time

Figure 9:
A warning appears regarding restarts

You’re provided with a status progress bar for the installation, as shown in Figure 10. Once the installation finishes, click the Close button.

Figure 10:
The installation is proceeding

However, you’re not done yet. While Active Directory Domain Services is installed, it’s not yet configured. Let’s get that done.

The process – Part 2

Now, it’s time to kick off the configuration. From the Server Manager dashboard, click the flag icon with the exclamation point and click the option marked Promote this server to a domain controller.

Figure 11:
Start the second part of the process

For this article, I’m creating both a new forest and a new domain. You may want to just add an additional domain controller to an existing forest. For my purposes, I chose the Add a new forest option. Click the Next button to continue.

Figure 12:
Add a whole new forest

On the next screen of the wizard, you get to choose a domain and forest functional levels and tell the wizard that you’d like to add the DNS server, which is a requirement for your Active Directory implementation. On this screen, shown below in Figure 13, you can also see that the Domain Controller Options page also asks you to provide a Directory Services Restore Mode password. Provide the requested information and click the Next button to proceed.

Figure 13:
Add appropriate domain controller options

Since this is the first forest and domain and the only existing DNS “server” is the VMware Fusion host upon which this Windows Server 2012 virtual machine is running, Windows can’t find a delegation for the DNS server. You will get some warnings to this effect. Click the OK button and then click Next to continue.

Figure 14:
Respond to DNS delegation warning

NetBIOS is still in use! Active Directory needs to make sure that the NetBIOS name you’ve selected for your domain is available on the network and is not a duplicate. If it is, you need to change the NetBIOS name on this screen (Figure 15) and then click the Next button to continue.

Figure 15:
Establish a NetBIOS domain name

Active Directory is just a grouping of a database and log files. The first two paths you see in Figure 16 are the database and log files. On this screen you also see the default for SYSVOL. You can either accept the defaults of choose a different location. Many people move database and log file folders to a non-system drive. Click the Next button to proceed.

Figure 16:
Choose paths for Active Directory database and SYSVOL

Before you commit to your selections, you have the opportunity to review your changes, as shown in Figure 17. Click the Next button to continue.

Figure 17:
Summary of selected options

You may see some warnings on the Prerequisites Check screen. These are generally expected. Run through them and make sure that there’s nothing egregious and click the Install button to continue.

Figure 18:
Check for necessary prerequisites

Again, you’re showed progress.

Figure 19:
Track your progress

And that’s the process.

PowerShell method for Part 2

You can also use PowerShell to perform the process above. The script to do so is shown below:

# Windows PowerShell script for AD DS Deployment
Import-Module ADDSDeployment
Install-ADDSForest `
-CreateDnsDelegation:$false `
-DatabasePath "C:\Windows\NTDS" `
-DomainMode "Win2012" `
-DomainName "" `
-DomainNetbiosName "LOWELAB2" `
-ForestMode "Win2012" `
-InstallDns:$true `
-LogPath "C:\Windows\NTDS" `
-NoRebootOnCompletion:$false `
-SysvolPath "C:\Windows\SYSVOL" `

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