Saturday, 16 January 2010

Manage Active Directory Users and Groups with PowerShell

With a new dawn and the SharePoint 2010 beta upon us, I figured it was finally time to a) dip my toes into the PowerShell pool and b) learn how to automate the creation of users, groups, organisational units, and other objects within Active Directory. In the PS case, it still seems like an unnecessary evil and, between all the other things on my “TO LEARN” list, it hasn’t been a high priority; that said, it seems to work and I kind of, sort of, maybe just like it. We’ll see… On the automation front, I figured I’ll probably blow away more than my fair share of development environments before my time is up so I might as well make creating the darned things a little bit easier and more repeatable.

My search for information along these lines quickly led me to Quest’s ActiveRoles Management Shell for Active Directory—a set of PowerShell commandlets. The download is free and if you grab it I’d also strongly suggest you pull down the admin guide as well—it’s comprehensive and includes examples. To install, run the .msi and finish the wizard with the defaults.

From there you’ll need to add the related snap-in in a PS window as follows:

Add-PSSnapin Quest.ActiveRoles.ADManagement

The first thing I wanted to create was a user object and this was reasonably straightforward. Be warned some of the commandlets take a lot of arguments, the names of which don’t always correspond to the UI you see in the AD Users and Computers snap-in: password is –UserPassword, for example, and Job Title is simply –Title. Here’s the command I used:

new-QADUser -name 'Bob' -ParentContainer 'OU=DirtyWords,DC=spdev,DC=mediawhole,DC=com' -SamAccountName 'Bob' -UserPassword 'TH1Smis1s' -FirstName 'Bob' -DisplayName 'Bob' -UserPrincipalName '' -Title CEO

This creates the user but new-QADUser doesn’t allow you set all of the things I want to using the standard parameters. In my case, I also want to set the account to never expire. To do this, I used the set-QADUser commandlet as well, which seems to let you get to much more detail:

set-QADUser 'CN=Bob,OU=DirtyWords,DC=spdev,DC=mediawhole,DC=com' -PasswordNeverExpires $true

Next I created a new group using the new-QADGroup commandlet:

new-QADGroup -ParentContainer 'OU=DirtyWords,DC=spdev,DC=mediawhole,DC=com' -name 'Managers' -samAccountName 'Managers' -grouptype 'Security' -groupscope 'Global'

…before adding my new user to my new group with the add-QADGroupMember commandlet:

add-QADGroupMember -identity 'CN=Managers,OU=DirtyWords,DC=spdev,DC=mediawhole,DC=com' -member 'CN=Bob,OU=DirtyWords,DC=spdev,DC=mediawhole,DC=com'

This last exercise proved somewhat troublesome as the examples in the admin guide and specific documentation about the –member parameter indicated I could supply ‘spsdev\Bob’ in place of the string above I ended up using successfully. The error message was fairly explicit about this:

Add-QADGroupMember : Cannot resolve directory object for the given identity: '\bob'.

One other commandlet I haven’t yet managed to get working is the new-QADObject commandlet to create a new OU:

new-QADObject -ParentContainer 'DC=spsdev,DC=mediawhole,DC=com' -type 'organizationalUnit' -NamingProperty 'ou' -name 'Dirty Words'

This command fails on the type parameter with;

New-QADObject : A referral was returned from the server…

+ CategoryInfo          : NotSpecified: (:) [New-QADObject], COMException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : System.Runtime.InteropServices.COMException,Quest.ActiveRoles.ArsPowerShellSnapIn.Powers

I’ll probably look back at this post one day after figuring this one out and laugh at my lack of understanding but for now it’s got me stumped.



  1. Ever find a solution to using $variables in place of strings? I cannot get add-qadGroupMember to work with multi-value string variables.

  2. @Ken -- good question but I can't say I've tried it. PS still feels remarkably foreign!

  3. Dude, I've been using Microsoft's PowerShell for AD for quite some time, and am thinking of giving Quest's ActiveRoles cmdlets a shot.

    Thanks for your article dude.


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