Category Archives: HowTo

How To Troubleshot which GPOs have been applied

Sometime is not immediately obvious where to start when troubleshooting GPO delivery issues.  NetTools provides a number of features that will let confirm the GPO configuration and then verify which GPOs have been applied to the computer and user by reading the results directly from the machine.

To start troubleshooting we need to find the computer in the Active Directory and confirm which GPO will be applied to the machines.  In the quick search box enter the name of the computer that you want to troubleshoot.

Quick Search

In this case we are searching for the W2k19 which is a domain controller, click on the search button.

Search Results

The search results will show all objects that match the search name.  Now if we right click on the required item and select Use With->GPO Allocation from the context menu.

GPO Allocation Menu

The view will change to the GPO Explorer and automatically navigate to the OU that contains the computer object.  It will also display which GPOs have been assigned to the OU.  In this view you can confirm which policies have the links enabled and any WMI filters that have been applied.

GPOs Applied

By clicking a policy the details of the policy are displayed in a split screen, so you can review the settings or configuration without leaving the OU view.  While here check the version numbers of policy on the general tab, if the version number is zero, the policy will not apply as the policy engine will think its empty.

GPO Explorer tab views


The Inherited Policies tab will show which policies have been inherited down the OU structure and the order in which the policies will be applied. This view also supports the split view capability.  Confirm that the policy you are troubleshooting is listed.

Now if we select the Content tab the list of object that are in the OU are displayed. If there is more than 2000 objects in the OU, you will need to adjust the max entries field to display more.

Find your machine in the list and click on the machines and select GPO Results from the context menu.

GPO Results

This will open a separate window and display what policies have been applied to the machine.  The icons indicate if the policy was successfully applied to the machine or not.  Policies that were successfully applied will have a green indicator, while policies that failed to be applied will have a red indicator.  If you expand the policy item in the list the details why the policy failed to apply will be displayed, items that red indicator that is the reason why the policy was not applied.

For the GPO Results to be displayed the machine must be on and connected to the network.

GPO Results

Once the GPO Result window is populated, using the Quick Search field on the main form, you can now search for the user and repeat the steps to see the GPO Allocation for the user object.  You can to expand the users policies tree in the GPO Results window to see which policies were applied to the user.

For more details on the information displayed in the GPO Results window see the GPO Viewer page

How To: Display the time when members were added or removed from a group

Based on functionality in V1.30.3 and above

The standard AD tools don't expose the time when a member is added or removed from a group, and the normal method is to use the security event log to retrieve these details, however, this makes the assumptions that auditing was enabled when the change was made and the security event log hasn't wrapped and the details are still available, which is not always the case.

There is another way to get this information that doesn't rely on auditing being enabled or the size of the security event log to capture the details.  The AD does maintain when changes happened in the replication data for group objects, and this data contains the exact details of the time when these membership changes occurred.  The AD uses this information enable changes to be replicated to other domain controllers in the domain or forest.  The replication data is not easily accessible with the standard AD tools, however NetTools has a simple feature to allows you to display all the membership changes for a group, including the time they happened. The time a member was added or removed shown in corresponding column.

Group Membership Changes

The option is available on the Members tab in the AD Properties dialog, at the bottom of the tab is the Changes button, when this is clicked a separate window is displayed with all the change details.

AD Properties - Group Changes

How To Find Active Directory Effective Rights

NetTools includes the Permissions Browser option, which also allows you to see the effective rights for a nominated trustee, it also provides the ability to change the trustees rights to assess the impact this will have trustees access to objects in the AD.   In this post we will look at how to use this option to view the effective rights of a user.

Permissions Browser

To configure Permissions Browser to show the Effective Rights we need complete the following steps.

How To Display Active Directory Effective Permissions

    Select the Permissions Browser

    Open NetTools and select the Permissions Browser option under Access Control in the left hand pane.

    Display AD Permissions

    Select the Connection Profile or server to connect to.  See Connection Profiles

    Select the Context you wish to view

    Click Refresh

    You can now navigate through the AD to see the permissions set on the objects

    Select Trustee

    To display the effective rights for a trustee, we need to select the trustee using the Trustee Information dialog, click on the Trustee button

    Trustee Information

    Press the Select button to select the Trustee, enter the name of the trustee, this can be a user, computer, or group.  The click Select.

    Select Trustee

    The Trustee Information dialog will be updated with the SIDs that user in a member of, this is the user's access token, this information will be used to determine the effective rights of the user.

    Trustee Information

    View Effective Rights

    The ACL list is now filtered showing only the permissions that will be applied to the trustee when they try to access the AD object.  In this example for the selected user only one effective permission is shown on the Computers folder and this will be applied to the user when they access the object.

    See the Permissions Browser page for information on the icons and there meanings.

    Permissions Browser - Effective Permissions

    Modelling Effective Rights

    One of the features of the Trustee Information dialog is that we can model changes to the trustees effective rights.  By using the add and remove buttons we can add or remove groups included in the trustee's access token, which is used to display the effective rights, this allows you to model how group  changes will impact Trustee's access.

    Trustee Information - Added Domain Admins

    In this example above, the access token of the Trustee has been modified to include the Domain Admins group.  Below is the Permissions Browser is showing the effective permissions based on the updated access token for the Trustee.  Now two permissions are shown based on the updated access token.

    AD Permissions Browser - Effective Rights

    You can now browser the AD to see what rights that the Trustee has on the objects in AD.  To turn off the Effective Rights view, click on the Clear button in the Trustee Information dialog.

    How To: Clear the group membership for a list of users

    In this post we will look at how to remove the membership of a number of users using the NetTools LDAP Search option. This action is typical in a user deprovisioning activity where user accounts are moved to a separate OU and group membership of the users are removed.

    We could also use LDAP Search to move the user objects to the OU as well, but we will assume that the user accounts are already in the target OU.

    To complete this operation we need to complete the following steps:

    Clear Group Membership Steps

      Get a list of groups that users are a member of

      First go to the LDAP Search option and click on the populate button.


      Click on the OU Selector and select the OU that contains the users that need their group membership cleared.

      OU Selector

      The Base DN will be set to the required OU.

      To limit the scope of the query to only the users that are disabled and have group membership, change the filter to (&(objectclass=user)(useraccountcontrol|=2)(memberof=*))

      Set the Attributes field to memberof

      Change the Search Scope to either One Level or Subtree as required

      Click the More button

      Select the Single Line option -  this will cause each of the user’s group memberships to be displayed on a separate line

      You should have something like this:

      List Group Membership

      Click Go

      You should get a complete list of the group membership for all the users, with each group membership on a separate line in the table view.  The DN field is the DN of the user, and Memberof is the group that the user is a member of.

      Group List Output

      Remove users from groups based on list produced in step 1

      We are going to use the input mode functionality with an update query to remove the users from the groups.  As users are added to groups, so the update query will target the groups and remove the users from each group.

      Right click on the table view and select the Table Input Mode or select Table Input in the options

      Input Mode

      The column headers will change to ##Input and ##Input2, the entries in the columns can now be used as input to the query.   See Input Mode for more details.

      Change the Base DN field to read ##input2 -  which will target the group based on the list of DNs in the ##input2 column in the table

      Input Mode Column Headers

      We now need to change the query to remove the users from the groups.

      Change the Filter to (objectclass=group)

      Change the Attributes field to member=-##input

      Change the Search Scope to Base Level

      Select the Enable Updates options, for more details see Update Queries.

      Deselect the Display Results – this is to increase performance, the remaining membership of the group will not be displayed.

      Remove Group Members

      With the Preview option selected click Go.

      Check all the entries to confirm that each line has a DN and member entry added.  If one or both of these fields are missing on a line, it means that, the group on that line doesn’t exist.  This shouldn’t happen as we just exported the group membership, but someone else might have changed the group membership between the steps being run.

      Preview Results

      Once confirmed unselect the Preview option and click Go

      You will get a warning message, click Yes

      The member field will be changed to Updated if the user was successfully removed from the group, if the update failed an error message will be displayed.

      Update Results

      The details in the table view can be copied and pasted into a spreadsheet to record what changes have been made.  It can also be used to undo the changes that have been made.  By change the Attributes field to member=+##input and running the update query again, the users will be added back into the groups.

      How To: Using Search Stats OID 1.2.840.113556.1.4.970

      Active Directory and LDS provide a server side control which when added to a query will provides statistics on the efficiency of the query that was executed, the specific control is OID 1.2.840.113556.1.4.970 - LDAP_SERVER_GET_STATS_OID and the details can be found here.

      The NetTools LDAP Search option provides a simple checkbox option to enable this server side control to be added to queries.  The option is found in the Server Side Controls section, called Search Statistics.  When the query is run and the user has the appropriate permissions the search statistics will be returned.

      When the query is executed the Statistics are displayed in the output panel after the results of the query.  Below are the statistics returned by Windows 2016 server.

      The version of the operating system running on the server, will determine the statistics that will be returned.  As Windows evolved the level details returned by the server has also increased.  Windows 2000 only provided 4 different statistics, Windows 2003 increased this to 6, and for Windows 2008 this increased to 15 and it also introduced a new format which provides more details but the fields are dynamic, rather than the older static fields.

      NetTools detects the Domain Controller Functional level of the server and automatically adjust the control parameters to select the highest level of detail available for the server.

      The table below shows which statistics level are returned by each version of Windows

      2000 2003/R2 2008/R2 2012/R2 2016 2019
      StatsResponseValueV1 x
      StatsResponseValueV2 x
      StatsResponseValueV3 x x x x
      StatsResponseValueV4 x x x x

      The details for each set of Stats can be found below.  

      While NetTools will automatically select the stats level based on the domain controller functional level, it is possible to manually specify the required stats level using the Server Side Controls dialog.  To do this, first uncheck the Search Statistics option, then click on the Controls button in the Server Side Control section and add a control as shown below, the Value to 1 for the corresponding V1,V2, or V3 supported by the server or a Value of 5 for the V4 stats.

      These are the Statistics returned by a Windows 2019 server with the Value set to 1:

      Search Stats:
        Thread Count: 1
        Call Time (ms): 0
        Entries Returned: 3
        Entries Visited: 4
        Filter: ( & (objectClass=user) (name=gary*) ) 
        Index: idx_name:4:N;
        Pages Referenced: 126
        Pages Read: 0
        Pages Pre-Read: 0
        Clean Pages Modified: 0
        Dirty Pages Modified: 0
        Log Records Generated: 0
        Log Records Bytes Generated: 0

      These are the Statistics returned by the same query, with the Value set to 5

      Search Stats:
        Thread count: 1
        Call time (in ms): 0
        Entries Returned: 0
        Entries Visited: 0
        Used Filter: ( & (objectClass=user) (name=gary*) ) 
        Used Indexes: idx_name:4:N;
        Pages Referenced: 27
        Pages Read From Disk: 0
        Pages Pre-read From Disk: 0
        Clean Pages Modified: 0
        Dirty Pages Modified: 0
        Log Records Generated: 0
        Log Record Bytes Generated: 0
        Indices required to optimize: 
        Query optimizer state: ( & (objectClass=user:878204) (name=gary*:4) ) 
        Atq Delay: 0
        CPU Time: 0
        Search Signature: b4cce897-7577-b624-5d18-2f5a9e90754f
        Memory Usage: 26744
        JET LV Read: 0
        JET LV Created: 0
        Total call time (in ms): 0
        Total CPU time: 0
        Number of retries: 0
        Correlation ID: e2a4641a-0714-44cc-b1bf-a0b0ca8e055c
        Links Added: 0
        Links Deleted: 0

      These are the various Stats data lists:

      StatsResponseValueV1 ::= SEQUENCE {
        threadCountTag            INTEGER
        threadCount               INTEGER
        coreTimeTag               INTEGER
        coreTime                  INTEGER
        callTimeTag               INTEGER
        callTime                  INTEGER
        searchSubOperationsTag    INTEGER
        searchSubOperations       INTEGER
      StatsResponseValueV2 ::= SEQUENCE {
        threadCountTag        INTEGER
        threadCount           INTEGER
        callTimeTag           INTEGER
        callTime              INTEGER
        entriesReturnedTag    INTEGER
        entriesReturned       INTEGER
        entriesVisitedTag     INTEGER
        entriesVisited        INTEGER
        filterTag             INTEGER
        filter                OCTET STRING
        indexTag              INTEGER
        index                 OCTET STRING
      StatsResponseValueV3 ::= SEQUENCE {
        threadCountTag INTEGER
        threadCount INTEGER
        callTimeTag INTEGER
        callTime INTEGER
        entriesReturnedTag INTEGER
        entriesReturned INTEGER
        entriesVisitedTag INTEGER
        entriesVisited INTEGER
        filterTag INTEGER
        filter OCTET STRING
        indexTag INTEGER
        index OCTET STRING
        pagesReferencedTag INTEGER
        pagesReferenced INTEGER
        pagesReadTag INTEGER
        pagesRead INTEGER
        pagesPrereadTag INTEGER
        pagesPreread INTEGER
        pagesDirtiedTag INTEGER
        pagesDirtied INTEGER
        pagesRedirtiedTag INTEGER
        pagesRedirtied INTEGER
        logRecordCountTag INTEGER
        logRecordCount INTEGER
        logRecordBytesTag INTEGER
        logRecordBytes INTEGER
      StatsResponseValueV4 ::= SEQUENCE OF SEQUENCE {
            statisticName         OCTET STRING
            CHOICE {
               intStatistic [0]       INTEGER
               stringStatistic [1]    OCTET STRING

      How To: Display what members were removed from a group

      Features shown are only available in NetTools v1.29.11 or later

      In this post we look at how to show which members, i.e. users, computers, groups etc, have been removed from a group.  Within NetTools this is a simple task using the AD Properties dialog, the Members tab shows the current members of the group and also which objects have been removed and when, as shown in the screenshot below.

      To understand how NetTools is able to display this information, we need to look at the msDS-ReplValueMetaData attribute for the group. This attribute contains the details of the metadata for each value of an attribute for the object. We can view the details of the attribute in the Meta Data dialog, which can be opened from the AD Properties dialog using the Meta Data button or from the various context menus within Nettools.

      Here is the Meta Data dialog for the same group shown above, the top section of the dialog shows the details of the msDS-ReplAttributeMetaData attribute used to store the replication details for the attributes of the object, the lower section shows the meta data details from the msDS-ReplValueMetaData attribute showing the replicated values for attributes that have Object (DN-DN) data types, i.e. member.

      In this example you can see the list of changes that have be made to the member’s attribute of the object, each change to the member attribute is listed as a separate line, the line includes a Originated, Create and Delete time columns.  The Create and Delete columns are used to record when an item was added or removed from the attribute.  When an item is added, only the created time is populated, and then when the item is subsequentially removed both the create and delete times are set. The created time still exists to ensure that the AD replication is consistent.  NetTools AD Properties dialog will enumerate the msDS-ReplValueMetaData entries and display the entries that have the deleted time set in the Removals section of the Member tab.

      Also See:
      NetTools Basics
      NetTools AD Properties Dialog
      How Group Changes Works
      Display when members were added or removed from a group

      How To: Decode LogonHours Attribute

      In this post we look at the LogonHours attribute, which is used to restrict when a user is allowed to logon, and how to decode this attribute.

      The LogonHours attribute has a octet data type that is used to store a 21 byte value which defines when a user is allowed to logon, outside of these hours the user will receive the following error message when they try to logon:

      This may be seen as one of the following errors:

      Error 1327: Account restrictions are preventing this user from signing in. For example: blank passwords aren't allowed, sign-in times are limited, or a policy restriction has been enforced

      Error 1328: Your account has time restrictions that keep you from signing in right now.

      The LogonHours attribute is used to define when a user is permitted to log on, it uses the 21 byte data structure to represent the day’s of the week.  It uses three bytes to represent each day of the week. The three bytes represent the hours of the day, the diagram below shows the mapping of the bytes to days and hours.

      The user's permitted logon hours are displayed in the properties of the user in Active Directory User and Computers under the Account tab. 

      One of the challenges with decoding the LogonHours attribute is that the data is saved based on UTC, as shown in the mapping above, however, Active Directory Users and Computers will display the details based on the local time zone of the computer running ADUC, and will adjust the times based on the time zone offset.   Below we can see that the left hand picture shows the Logon Hours on a computer with the time zone set to UTC, while the right shows the same details but the computer has a time zone set to Melbourne (UTC+10).

      The time zone of the Domain Controller, which authenticates the user will be used to determine, if they can log on, or not.

      This is the value of the attribute based on the permitted logon hours of Monday to Friday 6am to 7pm on a machine with time zone set to UTC, as shown in the left picture above.

      DN> CN=Teena Lee,OU=Domain Users,DC=w2k12,DC=local
      > logonHours: 00 00 00 C0 FF 03 C0 FF 03 C0 FF 03 C0 FF 03 C0 FF 03 00 00 00

      We can see that this aligns with the mapping above, with the Sunday and Saturday bytes set to zeros. Next, this is the value set for the same time window on a machine with the time zone set to Melbourne (UTC+10)

      DN> CN=Teena Lee,OU=Domain Users,DC=w2k12,DC=local
      > logonHours: 00 00 F0 FF 01 F0 FF 01 F0 FF 01 F0 FF 01 F0 FF 01 00 00 00 00

      The Sunday bytes now have values set, as the time was adjusted by -10 hours before it was saved. Next, this is the value set for the same time window on a machine with the time zone set to Pacific Time (UTC-10)

      DN> CN=Teena Lee,OU=Domain Users,DC=w2k12,DC=local
      > logonHours (BIN): 00 00 00 00 C0 FF 07 C0 FF 07 C0 FF 07 C0 FF 07 C0 FF 07 00 00 

      With this one, the hours data is now written into the Saturday bytes due to the UTC-10 offset.

      The LogonHours functionality is limited to a single time zone, and can potentially cause logon issues, if a user travels, or authenticates to a Domain Controller which has a different time zone set.

      The AD Properties dialog in NetTools has a Restrictions tab which displays the Logon Hours, by default it will use the local time zone to display this information, however, there is an option to allow you to manually adjust the time zone to see the impact the user's ability to logon.

      Below is the code used to display the LogonHours in NetTools, the function is called for each square in the grid, the ACol and ARow defining the square that is being queried, the function will colour the square blue, if the LogonHour is set.  The function also automatically adjusts the LogonHours based on the local or user selected time zone.

      void dgHoursDrawCell(TObject *Sender, int ACol, int ARow, TRect &Rect, TGridDrawState State)
      int Index, Col,Row, Mask;
      int Val, Bias;
         // use Col and Row to reflect tz offset
         Col = ACol;
         Row = ARow;
         // change start of week to Monday
         if (Row==6){
            Row = 0;
         } else {
         if (chkLocalTime->Checked){
            Bias = tz.Bias/60;  // get local time zone, tz populated when form is loaded
         } else {
            try {
                Bias = StrToInt(cmbTZOffset->Text);  // get user selection
                Bias = 0;
         Col += Bias;  // add time zone offset
         if (Col > 23) {  // rap pointer to start of next day
            Col -= 24;
         if (Col < 0) {  // rap pointer to end of the previous day
            Col += 24;
         if (Row > 6) Row = 0; // rap pointer to valid data
         if (Row < 0) Row = 6;
         if (Col >=0 && Col <=7) Index=0;  // select the correct hours offset bytes
         if (Col >=8 && Col <=15) Index=1;
         if (Col >=16 && Col <=23) Index=2;
         Index += (3 * Row);  // get correct byte
         Mask = 0x1 << (Col % 8);  // create bit mask for hour based on col number
         Val = HourBuffer[Index] & Mask;  // apply mask to check if set
         if (Val){  // Val is non zero set square to blue
             dgHours->Canvas->Brush->Color = clBlue;
         } else {
             dgHours->Canvas->Brush->Color = clWhite;
         dgHours->Canvas->FillRect(Rect);  // draw the square


      How To: Dump the Active Directory Database

      Sometimes when troubleshooting complex issues it can be useful to dump the contents of the AD database, this can then be used to confirm an object exists, or to retrieve the DNT of an object, which will enable other troubleshooting activities, or just being a bit geeky and wanting to look under the hood.

      In this post we will be looking at the RootDSE Modify Operations.  There are a number of RootDSE Modify Operations that are available which provide advanced operations on the domain controllers.  The full list of available modifiers is available here.

      We will be looking at the DumpDatabase operator which allows us to dump the contents of the AD to a single text file.  The dump file will be written to the NTDS folder on the domain controller.  By default this is %systemroot%\NTDS with the file name of NTDS.dmp.

      Note: as this is going to dump every object in the AD database, make sure you have sufficient space available on the volume hosting the NTDS directory on the selected domain controller before running this query.

      By default the dump file contains the following fields:


      We can also specify additional attributes to be included in the dump file, however some security sensitive fields can't be included i.e. passwords.  We are going to use one of the NetTools predefined queries to complete this task.  This task can be completed on the domain controller itself or executed remotely, you just need domain admin rights on the domain controller to run the query.

      In NetTools select the LDAP Search option in the left hand pane under the LDAP section

      As the AD database dump query is an update query we need to complete a few extra steps to run the query:

          1. Click on the Populate button
          2. Select the AD: RootDSE Modify - Dump Database from the list of Favorites
          3. Make sure that the BaseDN field is blank, to write to the RootDSE
          4. Click on the More button to display the more options
          5. Uncheck the Preview option
          6. Click Go
          7. Confirm that you want to run the query

      Once the query is complete the ntds.dmp will be created in the NTDS directory on the domain controller specified in the Server field. The query is configured to include the description and cn attributes in the dump file, you can specify additional attributes if required, the entry in the speech marks on the Attributes field needs to be updated with a space-separated list of attributes.  If a security sensitive attribute is specified the dump file will contain an error message that the attribute was not found.

      One of the limitations of the database dump, is that it will limit the number of characters that are returned per field, so if you are trying to dump the contents of a long binary field i.e. NTSecurityDescriptor the field will be truncated.

      Here is a sample of the database dump:

      How To: Retrieve BitLocker Passwords

      If you have configured BitLocker to store the recovery keys in AD, you can use NetTools to retrieve the BitLocker Recovery Key.  With NetTools the process to retrieve the recovery key is really simple.

      Select the User - Search option in the left hand pane and make sure that the Return Users Only is deselected, and then complete the following steps:

      1. Enter the name of the computer
      2. Click Go
      3. Open the AD Properties for the computer

      Select the BitLocker tab

      Select the Recovery Key ID that is displayed on the BitLocker Recovery screen

      Note: the BitLocker tab will only be displayed if msFVE-RecoveryInformation object exist on the computer object and you have the rights to read the object 

      How To: Retrieving gMSA Password Details

      Group Managed Service Account provide accounts that automatically manage password changes, for more details see this article.

      This article covers how to use NetTools to view the details of the Group Managed Service Accounts (gMSA) and also view the current and previous password for the accounts.  The gMSAs are stored in the domain partition in the Managed Service Accounts OU.   The Easiest way to retrieve the password is to use the AD Properties dialog, which allows you to copy the password to the clipboard, however to be able to view the password the account retrieving the password must be specified in the msDS-GroupMSAMembership attrtibute of the Group Managed Service Account.

      The details in the Password section of the dialog are stored in the msDS-ManagedPassword and msDS-ManagedPasswordId attributes of the object, these can be returned in LDAP Search, however, it does require a specific setup of LDAP Search to return the details as they are protected attributes.

      If you create a basic LDAP query you will receive the following error:

      In order to retrieve the password details the connection must be encrypted for the attribute details to be return. To encrypt the connection you must use the LDAP Session Options to enable encryption.  The screenshot below shows the steps to complete the configuration.

      1. Click on the Session Options buttons at the end of the server field
      2. Check the tick box for the LDAP_OPT_ENCRYPT option
      3. Double click on the item to configure the option
      4. Change the setting to On and click OK and close the Session Options dialog

      Once the Session Option are configured and encryption is enabled on the connection the details of the attribute are returned.