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How to transfer FSMO roles with PowerShell

You might need to shift Active Directory FSMO roles for a few reasons. If you need to do it more than once, there's a way to automate the procedure with PowerShell.

In the process of migrating to a new server or spreading the workload around, you might need to transfer FSMO roles in Active Directory from one domain controller to another.

AD relies on a concept called flexible server master operations roles, commonly referred to as FSMO roles. Domain controllers in an AD forest and domain hold one or more of these roles that handle different duties, such as keeping the AD schema in sync and synchronizing passwords across all domain controllers. You might need to spread these roles to other domain controllers to make AD operate more efficiently. As is the case when managing a Windows shop, you can manage much of your infrastructure either through the GUI or with PowerShell. There is no right or wrong way, but a script can be customized and reused, which saves some time and effort.

It's not always easy to figure out which domain controller holds a particular role since FSMO roles tend to get spread out among various domain controllers. Then, once you've found the FSMO role, you need to juggle multiple windows if you try to manage them with the GUI. However, if you use PowerShell, we can both find where these FSMO roles live and easily move them to any domain controller with a script.

Before you get started

Before you can find and move FSMO roles with PowerShell, be sure to install Remote Server Administration Tools found here, which also includes the AD module. The computer you use PowerShell on should be on the domain, and you should have the appropriate permissions to move FSMO roles.

Use PowerShell to find FSMO roles

It's not necessary to find the FSMO role holders before moving them, but it's helpful to know the state before you make these types of significant changes.

There are two PowerShell commands we'll use first to find the FSMO roles: Get-AdDomain and Get-AdForest. You need to use both commands since some FSMO holders reside at the forest level and some at the domain level. The AD module contains these cmdlets, so if you have that installed, you're good to go.

First, you can find all the domain-based FSMO roles with the Get-AdDomain command. Since the Get-AdDomain returns a lot more than just FSMO role holders, you can reduce the output a bit with Select-Object:

Get-ADDomain | Select-Object InfrastructureMaster,PDCEmulator,RIDMaster | Format-List

Migrating an AD domain controller

This command returns all the domain-based roles, including the Primary Domain Controller (PDC) emulator and Relative Identifier (RID) master, but we need to find the forest-level FSMO roles called domain naming master and schema master. For these FSMO roles, you need to use the Get-ADForest command.

Since Get-AdForest returns other information besides the FSMO role holders, limit the output using Select-Object to find the FSMO role holders we want.

Get-ADForest | Select-Object DomainNamingMaster,SchemaMaster | Format-List

How to transfer FSMO roles

It's not necessary to find the FSMO role holders before moving them, but it's helpful to know the state before you make these types of significant changes.

To save some time in the future, you can write a PowerShell function called Get-ADFSMORole that returns the FSMO role holders at the domain and the forest level in one shot.

function Get-ADFSMORole {

    Get-ADDomain | Select-Object InfrastructureMaster,PDCEmulator,RIDMaster
    Get-ADForest | Select-Object DomainNamingMaster,SchemaMaster

Now that you have a single function to retrieve all the FSMO role holders, you can get to the task of moving them. To do that, call the function you made and assign a before state to a variable.

$roles = Get-ADFSMORole

With all the roles captured in a variable, you can transfer FSMO roles with a single command called Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole. This command just handles moving FSMO roles. You can move each role individually by looping over each role name and calling the command, or you could do them all at once. Both methods work depending on how much control you need.

$destinationDc = 'DC01'
## Method 1
'DomainNamingMaster','PDCEmulator','RIDMaster','SchemaMaster','InfrastructureMaster' | ForEach-Object {
    Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -OperationMasterRole $_ -Identity $destinationDc

## Method 2
Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -OperationMasterRole DomainNamingMaster,PDCEmulator,RIDMaster,SchemaMaster,InfrastructureMaster-Identity $destinationDc

After you run the command, use the custom Get-ADFSMORole function created earlier to confirm the roles now reside on the new domain controller.

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