Windows Server Troubleshooting - FSMO

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FSMO Transfers

The first domain controller established in a new forest initially contains all of the FSMO roles. The first domain controller in each domain initially contains all three of the domain FSMO roles (RID, PDC, Infrastructure). Once additional domain controllers are promoted, FSMO roles can be transferred. Provided the source and target role holder domain controllers are online, FSMO roles can be transferred using MMC consoles.

Before demoting a domain controller, transfer the roles to other reliable domain controllers. If a domain controller holds a FSMO role at the time of a demotion, it will attempt to automatically transfer the role to another domain controller.

Active Directory Users and Computers Manager is used to transfer the three domain roles (RID, PDC, Infrastructure).

Active Directory Domain and Trusts Manager is used to transfer the Domain Naming Master.

Schema Manager is used to transfer the Schema Master.

Seizing a FSMO Role when a role holder fails

If a domain controller holding a FSMO role fails, try to get the server online again. None of the FSMO roles are immediately critical, so it is not a problem to them to be unavailable for hours or even days. If a domain controller becomes unreliable, get it operational, and transfer the FSMO roles to a reliable computer. If a domain controller with a FSMO role cannot be restarted, it is possible for another domain controller to seize the FSMO role. If the RID, schema, or domain naming FSMOs are seized, then the original domain controller must not be activated in the forest again. It is necessary to reinstall Windows if these servers are to be used again. In the case of the PDC and infrastructure FSMO roles, it is possible to transfer the role back to the original domain controller. Only seize a FSMO role if absolutely necessary when the original role holder is not connected to the network.  All roles can be seized by running NTDSUTIL from the command line.

Before seizing a FSMO role, determine which server is most up-to-date with respect to the failed server. Each domain controller maintains a USN Update Sequence Number, showing how up-to-date it is with other domain controllers. The USNs can be displayed using the REPADMIN /SHOWVECTOR command.

A working server can seize a FSMO role from a dead server, but it is easier to transfer the role when both servers are operational.

The following table summarizes the utility used to seize a FSMO role.

FSMO Role Utility Later Actions
PDC MMC or NTDSUTIL Can transfer back to original
Infrastructure MMC or NTDSUTIL Can transfer back to original
RID NTDSUTIL Original must be reinstalled
Schema NTDSUTIL Original must be reinstalled
Domain Naming NTDSUTIL Original must be reinstalled


FSMO management is restricted to the appropriate administration group.

FSMO Role Administrative Group
Domain Naming Enterprise Admins
Schema Schema Admins
RID, PDC, Infrastructure Domain Admins