How to Join Windows 8.1 to a Domain

How to Join Windows 8.1 to a Domain
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There are a couple of ways to connect your Windows 8.1 machine to a domain, plus a few things you need to know before you do so. Let's examine how to join a domain, as well as common connection problems and how to troubleshoot and fix them.

If you're at the workplace or have created a network of computers at home, you may need to connect your Windows 8.1 computer to a domain. Windows 8.1 either connects to the domain automatically, or requires configuration changes to the network settings. In this article, we'll go through the steps to successfully join a Windows 8.1 computer to a domain.

Tactics:

  • Plan A. Create a computer account ahead of time in your Active Directory.
  • Plan B. Create the computer's account 'on-the-fly' as you connect to the domain.

Prerequisites:

  1. Your Windows 8.1 machine needs an Active Directory computer account.
  2. Your Windows 8.1 machine must be able to connect to a domain controller.
  3. Your Windows 8.1 edition needs to be Professional or Enterprise (Basic edition cannot join a domain).
  4. You need to be able to log on to Windows 8.1 as a local Administrator.
  5. For Plan B you need the name and password of a domain administrator.

Connecting Windows 8.1 to a Domain

1. In the upper right corner of the screen, click on the magnifying glass icon; enter "System" in the search box, and click the "System" icon.Click on the Magnifying GlassClick on the Magnifying Glass

System Search and IconSystem Search and Icon

2.  Beneath the Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings header, click "Change settings." An admin password may be required, or you may be asked to confirm your choice.

Change SettingsChange Settings

3.  Click "Network ID" and follow the Join a Domain or Workgroup steps on your screen.

Connect Windows 8.1 to a DomainConnect Windows 8.1 to a DomainRestart to Connect to the DomainRestart to Connect to the DomainIn our example you'll see "TOMSITPRO," if this did not join my Windows 8.1 machine to the domain, I would have typed the fully qualified domain name (i.e. "tomsitpro.com"). Incidentally, you could use the same technique to join a Workgroup.  

Helpful Tip:

Windows 8.1 home users -- you're probably aware of the integration of Windows 8.1 with Windows Live accounts. The Microsoft FAQ for Windows 8.1 has the following advice:

Can I use my Microsoft account if I log onto my computer by using a domain account?

Yes. To associate your Microsoft account with your domain account on the local computer, press Windows key + I, click PC Settings, click Accounts, and then click Connect your Microsoft account.

Problems Connecting Windows 8.1 to a Domain

  • Full Computer Name - System Icon

One way of launching the System dialog is to hold down the Windows key + Pause key (some keyboards: Windows key + Fn key if "Pause" is a sub-function of a key).

My first suggestion is to align the client's computer name with the domain name.

Click on "More..." and append the full DNS name to the simple computer name, and append the full DNS name, for example "windows81.tomsitpro.com." After the reboot, try again to join Windows 8.1 to the domain.

  • Check DNS with Ipconfig

Despite your best efforts to make your Windows 8.1 machine part of an Active Directory domain, you still get error messages such as: "The following error occurred attempting to join the domain. An attempt to resolve the DNS of a DC failed."

It is vital that the Windows 8.1 computer can resolve the domain name of the Active Directory that you are trying to join. Open up your command shell (cmd) prompt for the following.

The "ipconfig /all" command always reveals interesting information, particularly the DNS configuration.

Follow up by testing with ping. Type "ping <your server>.<yourdomain>.com" at the command line.

Plain "ping <your server>," yields useful clues as to whether it's a firewall problem or a faulty DNS configuration at the Windows 8.1 client. The situation may be that ping or ICMP packets are allowed through the firewall, but the ports needed to join the domain are blocked.

The "nslookup" command may also help troubleshoot DNS problems.

  • TCP/IP Adapter Settings

Visit the Network and Sharing Center (in the Control Panel), select the adapter then click "Change adapter settings." Does it have the correct DNS server in the TCP/IPv4 property sheet?

If it already receives an IP Address and a DNS server address via DHCP, then this is less likely to be the root problem, nevertheless you could manually edit the DNS IP address: "Use the following DNS server addresses: Preferred DNS server"

  • You May Have to Update DNS

Another idea is to specifically set the DNS address to the Windows Server; normally this is one and the same machine, but if DNS has its own server, this may enable you to join Windows 8.1 to the domain. If you experiment with different values for the IP address you don't need to reboot.

Some people prefer to disable IPv6. After doing so, try again to change from a member of a Workgroup to member of a Domain.

Helpful Tip:
The "ipconfig /flushdns" clears the cache if you are trying to ping different TCP/IP addresses.
  • Client for Microsoft Networks

On rare occasions the Client for Microsoft is missing; as this is required for joining a Windows domain make sure its box is ticked.

Also there are occasional problems with a disabled Netlogon service being the root cause of a Windows 8.1 machine failing to join a domain. Check this and dependent services by launching services.msc.

Helpful Tip:
It's always worth comparing the settings on a second machine, preferably one which has successfully joined the domain.
  • Bridged Ethernet for Virtual Machines

Under virtual machine applications like VMware or VirtualBox, some documentation suggests that changing the networking setting under the Virtual Machine to Bridged Ethernet allows Windows 8.1 to connect to a domain.

Helpful Tip:
Review the system Event Log and try searching for log key words in the log under Microsoft's TechNet: technet.microsoft.com

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