Windows Server Troubleshooting - Distinguished Name

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Objects in a tree structure are normally named with a naming scheme that can uniquely identify each object. Most of these naming schemes specify the entire path to the object in the hierarchy. In file systems, we can refer to a file by using its familiar full path as shown in the address bar of the following explorer dialog.

When Active Directory objects are view with explorer, the address bar can display the object's full path in the URL Universal Resource Locator format.  URLs are the same address format used for web servers, eg. http://teamapproach.ca, or for FTP servers, eg. ftp://ftp.microsoft.com. This address format is familiar to users of the internet and is displayed to normal users as they explore My Network Places.

Although the object path is displayed in the URL format in explorer, the full path of Active Directory objects is stored internally as a X.500 style Distinguished Name. You will see these Distinguished names when you use ADSIEdit to examine the Active Directory. Distinguished names consist of three parts, each referred to as a RDN Relative Distinguished Name.

  • The CN Common Name of the object
  • The path through the OUs
  • The name of the domain
  1. File system paths start with the root directory and proceed through the path to the file.
  2. URLs start with the root of the web server and proceed to the web page file.
  3. Distinguished Names use the opposite order, starting with the Common Name, then the path, and finally the root domain name.

The ADSIEdit utility shows the Distinguished Names of each object as shown below.