Scripting Active Directory with PowerShell

Introduction to Scripting Active Directory with PowerShell

What makes scripting Active Directory with PowerShell tricky, is that we need so many different skills.  However, if you are a beginner don’t worry, very little knowledge is assumed.  If you are experienced with PowerShell’s commands you may prefer to jump straight to Example 4.

Topics for PowerShell and Active Directory

This Week’s Mission to Script ADUC with PowerShell

Skills Checklist

  • Active Directory Users and Computer (GUI)
  • LDAP – ADSI Edit
  • PowerShell’s | Where clause, Foreach loop and New-Object DirectoryServices

Active Directory Users and Computer (ADUC)

Scripters are born looking for shortcuts.  Their very first action was probably to copy and paste someone else’s script.  What I cannot understand therefore, is why scripters as a breed are so unwilling to use GUIs.  It’s as though a GUI is their enemy, or a cheat method that they dare not touch.

I take the view that examining the corresponding GUI compliments my script.  Perhaps I am addicted to using both in tandem, because every time I have a walk-through with the GUI, the menus give me ideas for a better script.  There is also the point that inspecting the object’s properties using ADUC, provides proof that the script has indeed executed as intended.  Or more likely, that the script has not worked, but observing the results helps me to troubleshoot a problem with the code.

What ADUC also alerts us to is the true domain name.  Is your domain name plain YourCompany, or does it have an extension, for example,  In passing, could I remind you that in LDAP dc= means domain context, and not domain controller.

A general inspection of a User’s property sheet will reveal dialog boxes labelled First name,  Last name and User logon name.  It is these fields (or similar) that I recommend we revisit after running the script.  The next connection to make is the relationship between say ‘Last Name’ and the object property called ‘sn’.  In fact, they are one and the same, but how did I know that?  The answer is to spend time researching, or just exploring with ADSI Edit.

LDAP – As Revealed by ADSI Edit

The ADSI Edit utility, which is found on the Server CD, will reveal the connection between property names, for example:

GUI – You see: Last logon name 
LDAP Property – You script: sAMAccountName

This Week’s Secret: Guy’s LDAP Learning Technique

My mission, as always, is to get you started.  So here is simple technique that I always employ when I am unsure of which name to include in my script.  Let us take it as read that you are practising on a test domain.  If you only have a live domain, then at least create a test OU with test users.

The secret is to change a value in the GUI and then see if you can find the very same string in ADSI Edit.  If so, then you have learned the equivalence between the GUI menu, and the LDAP property.  For example, go to the Last name of your test user, enter ‘Thomas’, now search through ADSI Edit until you find ‘Thomas’.  Answer, Last name: corresponds to ‘sn’.

PowerShell Active DirectoryPowerShell ADSI Edit LDAP

There is an alternative, and that is to get a list of LDAP properties, which you keep by your side when scripting.

Guy Recommends:  SolarWinds’ Free Bulk Import ToolFree Download Solarwinds Bulk Import Tool

Import users from a spreadsheet.  Just provide a list of the users with their fields in the top row, and save as .csv file.  Then launch this FREE utility and match your fields with AD’s attributes, click and import the users.

Optionally, you can provide the name of the OU where the new accounts will be born. Download your FREE bulk import tool.

If you need more comprehensive software, download a free trial of SAM (Server & Application Monitor)

PowerShell Script to Connecting to Active Directory


1) Install PowerShell

Visit Microsoft’s site and download the correct version of PowerShell for your operating system.

  • Launch PowerShell
  • Copy the lines of code below (into memory)
  • Right-click on the PowerShell symbol
  • Edit –> Paste
  • Press enter to execute the code.

2) Check Your Domain Name

To double-check that your domain is what you think it is, launch ADUC and see whether your domain is one word, or whether it has an additional, .com or .local extension.

Example 1: Simple Script to Echo the Active Directory Domain

# PowerShell Connects to Active Directory
# Connect to hard-coded root
# Author: Guy Thomas
# Version 1.3 Sept 2007 tested on PowerShell v 1.0 and RC2

$Dom = ‘LDAP://DC=cp;DC=mosel’
$Root = New-Object DirectoryServices.DirectoryEntry $Dom
Write-host "PowerShell connects to domain: $Dom"

Learning Points

Note 1:  ‘LDAP://DC=cp;DC=mosel’.  Rather than using the traditional .local namespace for non-internet domains, I prefer .mosel merely as it happens to be the road where I live!  Naturally you changed the value for this $Dom variable in your live script?  Didn’t you?

Note 2:  New-Object is such an insignificant command, yet it is vital for creating objects, which we can use for connecting connect to Active Directory.

Note 3:  DirectoryServices.DirectoryEntry is one of the key commands to connect to Active Directory.  I think of this as a pipeline to the root of my domain’s namespace.

Note 4:  I realize that Example 1 is short.  Also from a design point of view it does not achieve much.  If you are familiar with PowerShell jump to Example 4.  Else, stick with my master plan to build up gradually and go to Example 2.

Guy Recommends: Tools4ever’s UMRAUMRA The User Management Resource Administrator

Tired of writing scripts? The User Management Resource Administrator solution by Tools4ever offers an alternative to time-consuming manual processes.

It features 100% auto provisioning, Helpdesk Delegation, Connectors to more than 130 systems/applications, Workflow Management, Self Service and many other benefits. Click on the link for more information onUMRA.

Example 2: To Count the Objects in Your Active Directory

Pre-requisite.  Once again, change $Dom to reflect your domain, and not mine.

# PowerShell Counts objects in Active Directory
# Connect to hard-coded root
# Author: Guy Thomas
# Version 1.5 Sept 2007 tested on PowerShell v 1.0 and RC2

$Dom = ‘LDAP://DC=cp;DC=mosel’
$Root = New-Object DirectoryServices.DirectoryEntry $Dom

# Create a selector and start searching from the Root of AD
$selector = New-Object DirectoryServices.DirectorySearcher
$selector.SearchRoot = $root
$adobj= $selector.findall()
"There are $($adobj.count) objects in the $($ domain"

Learning Points

Note 1:   If you get a result greater than zero, then your script is working.  If the number is blank, then check for a typo in your $Dom domain name.  The following result, would mean an error with $Dom:
There are     objects in the domain.  Whereas,  ‘There are  173  objects in the domain’.  Means you edited $DOM to reflect YOUR domain name.

Challenge:  One of the best ways of learning is to see if you can alter the script, and still get a meaningful result.  My challenge is to amend the script to count only the objects in the Users container.  Thus amend, or redefine $DOM to include CN=Users;. 
 $Dom = ‘LDAP://CN=Users;DC=cp;DC=mosel’

If you examine ADUC, the yellow Users folder does not have the tiny OU icon / motif, thus is a container object and not actually an Organizational Unit.

Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT) IP Tracker

Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets.  IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:

For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges. 

For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker

Example 3: Adding a Where Clause


  • Practice with this clause: | Where{$} until you understand its syntax.
  • Research LDAP properties with ADSI Edit.  In particular, understand the possible values for objectCategory.

# PowerShell Counts Person Objects in Active Directory
# Author: Guy Thomas
# Version 2.3 Sept 2007 tested on PowerShell v 1.0

$Dom = ‘LDAP://DC=cp;DC=mosel’
$Root = New-Object DirectoryServices.DirectoryEntry $Dom
# Create a selector and start searching from the Root of AD
$selector = New-Object DirectoryServices.DirectorySearcher
$selector.SearchRoot = $root
$adobj= $selector.findall() |`
where {$ -match "CN=Person"}
"There are $($adobj.count) objects in the $($ domain"

Learning Points

Note 1:  The key parameter, or switch, is -match.  Again, to truly understand how it works, try substituting -like for -match.  What you find is that with -like you need to add the wildcard *, for example, "CN=Person*".

Note 2:  To see why I choose ‘Person’ and not ‘User’, try a simple substitution, "CN=User"

Challenge: To learn more about LDAP properties try this:
where {$ -match "User"}.

My point is that objectClass is different from objectCategory.  Bizarrely, ‘User’ includes Computers as well as User accounts.  Furthermore, I truly believe that learning PowerShell will teach you more about Active Directory.

Example 4: Adding a Foreach Loop


  • Experiment with the foreach loop in isolation so that you understand its mechanism.
  • Research more LDAP properties.  For example the relationship between, GivenName (First name) and SN (Surname) and CN (Full name) .

# PowerShell Displays Firstname and surname of Users
# Author: Guy Thomas
# Version 4.3 Aug 2007 tested on PowerShell 1.0
$Dom = ‘LDAP://DC=cp;DC=mosel’
$Root = New-Object DirectoryServices.DirectoryEntry $Dom
# Create a selector and start searching from the Root of AD
$selector = New-Object DirectoryServices.DirectorySearcher
$selector.SearchRoot = $root
$adobj= $selector.findall() |`
where {$ -match "CN=Person"}
foreach ($person in $adobj){
Write-host "First name: $($prop.givenname) " `
"Surname: $($ User: $($"
"Total $i"

Learning Points

Note 1:  Let us examine what is inside the foreach loop.  Firstly, we create a new variable called $prop to hold the object’s properties.  Next we Write-host, the properties that we are interested in starting with givenname.

Note 2:  I added a loop counter, $i.  At the top of the script I set the value to zero, then I increment with $i++.

Challenge:  Part of the reason that I added to the $i loop counter is to compare different scripts.  For instance, if you add an ‘if’ filter you should drastically reduce the number of objects.  Here is my challenge, add this code after the $prop and before $i++
if ($ -ne $Null){

Important: Add a balancing brace bracket }.  Placing a second bracket before the existing } will do nicely.

See here for the answer / result of Guy’s Challenge

Tim de Vries has an improvement

Tim has written kindly pointing out that while the above script is ok for a small number of users, for a large domain you need to declare a larger pagesize, for example:

$Root.pagesize = 1000

Tim suggests this modification:

# Create a selector and start searching from the Root of AD
$selector = New-Object DirectoryServices.DirectorySearcher
$selector.SearchRoot = $root
$Root.pagesize = 1000

Thank you Tim.

Brian Suggests

$selector.pagesize = 1000   (Instead of $Root.pagesize = 1000 )

Summary of PowerShell and Active Directory

It was with much relief that I discovered that PowerShell supplied a mechanism to query Active Directory.  The secret is starting with new-object, then choosing the specific Com objects, DirectoryServices.DirectoryEntry and DirectoryServices.DirectorySearcher.  How easy you find the rest of my script depends on your experience of pure PowerShell techniques, for example foreach loops, and ‘Where’ clauses.

If you like this page then please share it with your friends


See more Microsoft PowerShell tasks:

PowerShell Home   • Shell Application   • New-Object   • PowerShell Add Printer   • PowerShell -com

PowerShell Logon Script  • Map Network Drive  • PowerShell Create Shortcut  • Free CSV Import Tool

Invoke-Expression   • Invoke-Command   • Invoke-Item   • PowerShell Expression v Command Mode

Please email me if you have a better example script. Also please report any factual mistakes, grammatical errors or broken links, I will be happy to correct the fault.