Transferring FSMO Roles

by Daniel Petri - January 8, 2009

How can I transfer FSMO Roles from one domain controller (DC) to another?

Windows 2000/2003 Active Directory domains utilize a Single Operation Master method called Flexible Single Master Operation (FSMO), as described in "Understanding FSMO Roles in Active Directory."

In most cases an administrator can keep the FSMO role holders, all 5 of them, on the same DC as they've been configured by the Active Directory installation process. However, there are scenarios where an administrator would want to move one or more of the FSMO roles from the default holder DC to a different DC.

Moving the FSMO roles while both the original FSMO role holder and the future FSMO role holder are online and operational is called transferring, which is described in this article.

Transferring an FSMO role is the suggested to move a FSMO role between domain controllers. The transfer process can be initiated by the administrator. The process can also be initiated by demoting a domain controller. However, the transfer process is not initiated automatically by the operating system. FSMO roles are not automatically relocated during the shutdown process, which must be considered when shutting down a domain controller that has an FSMO role for maintenance, for example.

In a graceful transfer of an FSMO role between two domain controllers, a synchronization of the data that is maintained by the FSMO role owner to the server receiving the FSMO role is performed prior to transferring the role to ensure that any changes have been recorded before the role change.

However, when the original FSMO role holder went offline or became non-operational for a long period of time, the administrator might consider moving the FSMO role from the original, non-operational holder, to a different DC. The process of moving the FSMO role from a non-operational role holder to a different DC is called seizing, which is described in the Petri IT Knowledgebase article, "Seizing FSMO Roles."

You can transfer FSMO roles by using the Ntdsutil.exe command-line utility or by using an MMC snap-in tool. Depending on the FSMO role that you want to transfer, you can use one of the following three MMC snap-in tools:

  • Active Directory Schema snap-in
  • Active Directory Domains and Trusts snap-in
  • Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in

To transfer the FSMO role the administrator must be a member of the following group:

FSMO Role Administrator must be a member of
Schema Schema Admins
Domain Naming Enterprise Admins
RID Domain Admins
PDC Emulator
Infrastructure

Transferring RID Master, PDC Emulator, & Infrastructure Masters via GUI

To Transfer the Domain-Specific RID Master, PDC Emulator, and Infrastructure Master FSMO Roles:

  1. Open the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in from the Administrative Tools folder.
  2. If you are not logged onto the target domain controller, in the snap-in, right-click the icon next to Active Directory Users and Computers and press Connect to Domain Controller.
  3. Select the domain controller that will be the new role holder, the target, and press OK.
  4. Right-click the Active Directory Users and Computers icon again and press Operation Masters.
  5. Select the appropriate tab for the role you wish to transfer and press the Change button.
  6. Press OK to confirm the change.
  7. Press OK all the way out.

Transferring the Domain Naming Master via GUI

To Transfer the Domain Naming Master Role:

  1. Open the Active Directory Domains and Trusts snap-in from the Administrative Tools folder.
  2. If you are not logged onto the target domain controller, in the snap-in, right-click the icon next to Active Directory Domains and Trusts and press Connect to Domain Controller.
  3. Select the domain controller that will be the new role holder and press OK.
  4. Right-click the Active Directory Domains and Trusts icon again and press Operation Masters.
  5. Press the Change button.
  6. Press OK to confirm the change.
  7. Press OK all the way out.
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Transferring the Schema Master via GUI

To Transfer the Schema Master Role:

  1. Register the Schmmgmt.dll library by pressing Start > RUN and typing:
regsvr32 schmmgmt.dll
  1. Press OK. You should receive a success confirmation.
  2. From the Run command open an MMC Console by typing MMC.
  3. On the Console menu, press Add/Remove Snap-in.
  4. Press Add. Select Active Directory Schema.
  5. Press Add and press Close. Press OK.
  6. If you are NOT logged onto the target domain controller, in the snap-in, right-click the Active Directory Schema icon in the Console Root and press Change Domain Controller.
  7. Press Specify .... and type the name of the new role holder. Press OK.
  8. Right-click right-click the Active Directory Schema icon again and press Operation Masters.
  9. Press the Change button.
  10. Press OK all the way out.

Transferring the FSMO Roles via Ntdsutil

Caution: Using the Ntdsutil utility incorrectly may result in partial or complete loss of Active Directory functionality. To transfer the FSMO roles from the Ntdsutil command:

  1. On any domain controller, click Start, click Run, type Ntdsutil in the Open box, and then click OK.
Microsoft Windows [Version 5.2.3790]
(C) Copyright 1985-2003 Microsoft Corp.

C:\WINDOWS>ntdsutil
ntdsutil:
  1. Type roles, and then press ENTER.
ntdsutil: roles
fsmo maintenance:

Note: To see a list of available commands at any of the prompts in the Ntdsutil tool, type ?, and then press ENTER.

  1. Type connections, and then press ENTER.
fsmo maintenance: connections
server connections:
  1. Type connect to server <servername>, where <servername> is the name of the server you want to use, and then press ENTER.
server connections: connect to server server100
Binding to server100 ...
Connected to server100 using credentials of locally logged on user.
server connections:
  1. At the server connections: prompt, type q, and then press ENTER again.
server connections: q
fsmo maintenance:
  1. Type transfer <role>. where <role> is the role you want to transfer.

For example, to transfer the RID Master role, you would type transfer rid master:

Options are:

Transfer domain naming master
Transfer infrastructure master
Transfer PDC
Transfer RID master
Transfer schema master
  1. You will receive a warning window asking if you want to perform the transfer. Click on Yes.
  2. After you transfer the roles, type q and press ENTER until you quit Ntdsutil.exe.
  3. Restart the server and make sure you update your backup.
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