Redirect Computers Container in Active Directory

When joining a Computer to an Active Directory domain using the Domain Join UI in Windows or a command line tool such as NETDOM.EXE, by default the computer object is stored in the Computers container which is defined as the default Container in Active Directory for new created Computer objects.

The disadvantage of this is that you cannot link any Group Policies to the Computers container which prevents you from applying any Computer security or configuration settings to these clients.

Before we’re going to change this behavior let’s have a look at where this information is actually stored. Open the Active Directory Users and Computers or the ADSI Edit snap-in and select the Domain Properties from the context right click menu, then select the Attribute Editor Tab.

The default Container data for new Computer objects is stored within the wellKnownObjects attribute.

imageBut when you double click the Attribute, you will get an error that there is no editor registered to handle that attribute type. I did not look any further into this, but assume that this attribute is protected against manual changes. To still get access to the data that is stored within this attribute I used the Active Directory Explorer from the Sysinternals Suite.

The wellKnownObjects Attribute contains the following data:

98 39 240 175 31 194 65 13 142 59 177 6 21 187 91 15, CN=NTDS Quotas,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
244 190 146 164 199 119 72 94 135 142 148 33 213 48 135 219, CN=Microsoft,CN=Program Data,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
9 70 12 8 174 30 74 78 160 246 74 238 125 170 30 90, CN=Program Data,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
34 183 12 103 213 110 78 251 145 233 48 15 202 61 193 170, CN=ForeignSecurityPrincipals,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
24 226 234 128 104 79 17 210 185 170 0 192 79 121 248 5, CN=Deleted Objects,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
47 186 193 135 10 222 17 210 151 196 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=Infrastructure,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
171 129 83 183 118 136 17 209 173 237 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=LostAndFound,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
171 29 48 243 118 136 17 209 173 237 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=System,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
163 97 178 255 255 210 17 209 170 75 0 192 79 215 216 58, OU=Domain Controllers,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
170 49 40 37 118 136 17 209 173 237 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=Computers,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
169 209 202 21 118 136 17 209 173 237 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=Users,DC=LABHOME,DC=local

Now that we know where the information is stored, let’s change it. I mentioned before that editing the wellKnownObjects Attribute through the AD snap-in tools isn’t possible, and that’s probably for a good reason. But Microsoft has been kind enough to provide a command line tool for this called redircomp.exe which is located in the %SystemRoot%\System32 folder on Windows Server 2003/2008 systems.

Before running redircomp.exe a new Organizational Unit must be created where we want to store the computer objects. For this example I created an OU called StagedComputers. I then ran the following command:  redircmp OU=StagedComputers,DC=LABHOME,DC=local

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Now let’s go back to the Active Directory Explorer and open the wellKnownObjects Attribute where we will see the change.

170 49 40 37 118 136 17 209 173 237 0 192 79 216 213 205, OU=StagedComputers,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
98 39 240 175 31 194 65 13 142 59 177 6 21 187 91 15, CN=NTDS Quotas,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
244 190 146 164 199 119 72 94 135 142 148 33 213 48 135 219, CN=Microsoft,CN=Program Data,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
9 70 12 8 174 30 74 78 160 246 74 238 125 170 30 90, CN=Program Data,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
34 183 12 103 213 110 78 251 145 233 48 15 202 61 193 170, CN=ForeignSecurityPrincipals,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
24 226 234 128 104 79 17 210 185 170 0 192 79 121 248 5, CN=Deleted Objects,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
47 186 193 135 10 222 17 210 151 196 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=Infrastructure,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
171 129 83 183 118 136 17 209 173 237 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=LostAndFound,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
171 29 48 243 118 136 17 209 173 237 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=System,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
163 97 178 255 255 210 17 209 170 75 0 192 79 215 216 58, OU=Domain Controllers,DC=LABHOME,DC=local
169 209 202 21 118 136 17 209 173 237 0 192 79 216 213 205, CN=Users,DC=LABHOME,DC=local

Finally I joined a Windows XP client called VMXP-001 to the LABHOME domain and the Computer object was automatically created within the StagedComputers OU.

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Note that the same can be done for User Objects as well. For more Information read the Microsoft KB Redirecting the users and computers containers in Active Directory domains

5 thoughts on “Redirect Computers Container in Active Directory

  1. Thanks for the detailed article.

    You are strictly correct in stating that you can’t apply group policies to built in containers (which are not OUs).
    But the wording “you cannot link any Group Policies to the Computers container which prevents you from applying any Computer security or configuration settings to these clients” seems to imply that this means computer objects there cannot have policies applied to them. Just to be clear for those who don’t already know, it just means that you can’t link a policy to those containers explicitly; there is nothing stopping you from linking policies to the domain and sites and these will be successfully applied to the computer or user objects as appropriate. So you can’t apply a policy to the computers container so it will be different than the rest of the domain, for example.

    I used to use this at one point to implement a policy at domain level which would apply to any machine lazily left in the default container, with a logon message and some basic lockdown policies to make sure that the IT admin had to move all computers to properly designated OUs according to the machine’s usage, home site or whatever. Our aproach was always to pre-create computer accounts in the right OU and then join the machines to the domain, rather than allowing creation while joining, but if the latter was done in error it was very obvious very quickly, and the logon prompt message told the user to ask for it to be fixed.

    The idea of being able to force the default OU instead would be great so the lockdown policy could be applied there instead, rather than having lockdown across the domain and then un-lockdown on every OU where computers were supposed to be located.

    (Alex, I am sure you understand this properly by the way, but I know some of your readers who are less clear on workings of GP might be slightly confused)

  2. I had an issue seeing the wellKnownObjects attribute in ADSIEdit.msc. Not sure if it was because ADSIEdit.msc was 32bit running on a 64bit 2003 DC or what, but you can also view the wellknownobjects attribute at the domain NC with this command:

    ldifde -f c:\domainnc.txt -p base -d “dc=,dc=”

    Open the file c:\domainnc.txt or whatever you piped it to and you’ll see the wellknownobjects listing there.

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