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Q. How can I force a client to validate its logon against a specific domain controller?

Q. How can I force a client to validate its logon against a specific domain controller?

A. Before answering this it is best to understand what happens when a login occurs.

When a logon request is made to a domain, the workstation sends out a request to find a domain controller for the domain. The domain name is actually a NetBIOS name that is a 16-character name with the 16th character used by Microsoft networking services to identify the NetBIOS type.

The type used for a domain controller is <1C> and so the NetBIOS name for domain controller of domain "SAVILLTECH" would be "SAVILLTECH <1C>" The NetBIOS type has to be the 16th character, hence the name of the domain has to be filled with blanks to make its length up to 15 characters.

If the client is WINS enabled then a query for the resolution of "<domain name> <1C>" will be sent to the WINS server as defined in the clients TCP/IP properties. The WINS server will return up to 25 IP addresses that correspond to domain controllers of the requested domain, a \mailslot\net\ntlogon is broadcast to the local subnet and if the workstation receives a response then it will attempt logon with the local domain controller.

If WINS is not configured then it is possible to manually configure the LMHOSTS file on the Workstations to specify the Domain Controller. This file is located in the %systemroot%\system32\drivers\etc directory.

An example entry in LMHOSTS would be as follows titanic #PRE #DOM:savilltech #savilltech domain controller

The above sets up IP address to be host Titanic, which is the domain controller for savilltech and instructs the machine that this entry is to be preloaded into the cache.

To check the NetBIOS name cache you can use command nbtstat -c, which will show all the entries including their type. If WINS is not configured and there is no entry in LMHOSTS then the Workstation will send out a series of 3 broadcasts. In the situation where no response is received and WINS is configured to use DNS for WINS resolution a request to the DNS server will be sent and finally the HOSTS file checked. If all of this fails then an error "A domain controller for your domain could not be contacted.

To force a client to use a specific domain controller we need only do the following:

  1. Start the registry editor
  2. Move to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\NetBT\Parameters
  3. From the Edit menu select New - DWORD value
  4. Enter a name of NodeType and press ENTER
  5. Double click on the new value and set to 4 (this sets the network to an M-mode/mixed which means it will perform a broadcast before querying name servers for resolution). By default a system is 1 if no WINS servers are configured (B-node/broadcase) or 8 if at least one WINS server is configured (H-node/queries name resolution first then broadcasts)
  6. Double click on the EnableLMHOSTS value and set to 1. If it does not exist select New - DWORD value from the Edit menu and enter a name of EnableLMHOSTS
  7. Close the registry editor
  8. Reboot the machine

The machine is now configured to broadcase for a domain controller on a local subnet and then query a name server. If no domain controllers are found on the WINS server, or WINS is not used it will then search the LMHOSTS file. The next stage is to edit this file.

  1. Check for the LMHOSTS file
    C:\>dir %systemroot%\system32\drivers\etc\lmhosts
  2. If the file does not exist copy the sample host file
    C:\>copy %systemroot%\system32\drivers\etc\lmhosts.sam %systemroot%\system32\drivers\etc\lmhosts
    1 file(s) copied.
  3. Edit the file using edit.exe, don't use notepad.exe
    C:\>edit %systemroot%\system32\drivers\etc\lmhosts
  4. Goto the end of the comments and add a new line of the format
    <ip address> <name of DC> #PRE #DOM:<domain name> #<comment>
    e.g. titanic #PRE #DOM:savilltech #savilltech domain controller 
  5. Save the changes to the file and exit edit.exe
  6. Force the machine to reload the LMHOSTS file (or just reboot)
    C:\>NBTSTAT -R
    Note: The -R must be in capitals, the command is case sensitive
  7. Check the cache
    C:\>NBTSTAT -c
  8. At this point the configuration is complete and a reboot is advisable.

Service Pack 4 includes a new utility, SETPRFDC.EXE, which will direct a secure channel client to a preferred list of domain controllers.

The syntax is:

C:\> SETPRFDC <Domain Name> <DC1, DC2, ....., DCn>

SETPRFDC will try each DC in the list in order, until a secure channel is established. If DC1 does not respond, DC2 is tried, and so on. Once you run SETPRFDC on a WinNT 4.0, SP4 computer, the list is remembered until you change it. You can run SETPRFDC in batch, via the scheduler, or even in a logon script (for future logons). Don't forget to undo any LMHOSTS entries you might have set.

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