Juggling your Active Directory FSMOs

Learn how admins can move roles from one server to another in Microsoft Active Directory.

Over the life of your Active Directory domain network, there will be cause for shifting your Flexible Single Master Operation (FSMO) roles from one system to another. System crashes, hardware failures, equipment upgrade, infrastructure design, or explosive growth are all issues that may encourage or necessitate moving an FSMO.

FSMOs are the essential roles needed by Active Directory to fully manage and administer the domain. These roles include the schema operations master, domain-naming operations master, RID (Relative ID) operations master, PDC emulation operations master, and infrastructure operations master.

There are two means by which FSMO roles can be moved from one system to another: seizing and transfer. FSMO transfer can be used when the current FSMO role server is online and functioning normally. The transfer process is simple and often problem free. FSMO seizing can be used at any time but it recommended for use only when the FSMO role server is offline and/or malfunctioning. The seizing process is a last resort action. While usually painless, it can cause serious problems if the original FSMO host is ever brought back online. For the most part, you'll want to perform FSMO transfer via the various AD console tools and FSMO seizing via command line tools.

In this tip, I'll discuss how to perform FSMO transfer for the five roles. In next week's tip, I'll discuss how to perform FSMO seizing for the file roles.

You should perform FSMO transfer of the schema master through the Schema console, but you have to register the schema console snap-in with the system before it can be used. You can do this from any DC in the domain. Perform the following steps on any domain controller:

  1. Execute "regsvr32 schmmgmt.dll" from a command prompt from within the \Windows\System32 folder.
  2. Open a blank MMC window (i.e. run "mmc.exe") and load the Active Directory Schema snap-in using the Add/Remove Snap-in command from the File menu.
  3. Right-click the Active Directory Schema item and then select Operations master. The Change Schema Master dialog box appears. Use the Change button to select a new domain controller as host.

Do an FMSO transfer of the Domain naming master role through the Active Directory Domains and Trusts console from the DC that currently hosts this role. Just right-click the Active Directory Domains and Trusts item and select Operations Masters. Then use the Change button to select a new domain controller as host.

For the other three, (RID (Relative ID) operations master, PDC emulation operations master, and infrastructure operations master) you use the Active Directory Users and Computers console from any DC in the domain. Right click over the domain name from the console and select Operations Masters. Then select the appropriate FSMO role tab and use the Change button to select a new domain controller to host.


James Michael Stewart is a partner and researcher for ITinfopros, a technology-focused writing and training organization.


This was first published in September 2003
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