How to Create a Domain Controller on Linux for AD

Published:6 October 2022 - 6 min. read

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A domain controller on Linux server?! Impossible! The reaction is valid, especially for those who hear the concept for the first time. Turns out that not only can you set up a domain controller Linux server, but you can also do so for free!

Whether you opt for Linux for cost, standardization, or greener, leaner tech stack, learning how to set up a Linux DC is a good skill for every administrator.

Read on to learn how to use Samba as a reliable domain controller Linux server.

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This tutorial will be a hands-on demonstration. If you’d like to follow along, be sure you have an Ubuntu Server. This tutorial will use an Ubuntu Server 22.04 LTS with the following configuration.

  • Hostname: oddjobs-dc
  • IP Address:
  • Domain: OJI.COM
  • FQDN:

Preparing the Domain Controller on Linux Server

After meeting all the prerequisites, you must ensure there are no default operating system settings that might hamper the functioning of the DC. Don’t worry. This step is not as complicated as it may sound. Follow the below steps to accomplish this task.

Setup the Hosts File Entry

The first task is to add your server’s hostname and FQDN entries in the local hosts (/etc/hosts) file.

1. First, open your preferred SSH client and log in to your Ubuntu server.

2. Open your hosts (/etc/hosts) file in a text editor, such as nano.

sudo nano /etc/hosts

3. Delete any entry that maps your hostname or FQDN to any IP besides the static IP. For example, this server’s static IP address is, so leave this entry if it exists. Refer to the example below.

Delete unnecessary hosts entry
Delete unnecessary hosts entry

4. Next, add an entry to map your host’s FQDN and static IP address. In this tutorial, the server FQDN is, so the entry to add is: oddjobs-dc
Add your domain controller Linux server FQDN and host
Add your domain controller Linux server FQDN and host

5. Save the hosts (/etc/hosts) file and exit the editor.

Confirm Hostname and FQDN Resolution

Run the commands below to confirm the server’s hostname and that the FQDN resolves to the correct IP address.

# verify server FQDN
hostname -A

# verify FQDN resolves to your server IP address
ping -c1

As you can see below, the commands returned the expected FQDN and IP address.

Verify the FQDN and IP resolution
Verify the FQDN and IP resolution

Disable the Network Name Resolution Service

Ubuntu has a service called systemd-resolved, which takes care of the DNS resolution requests. This service is unsuitable for Samba, and you must disable it and manually configure the DNS resolver instead.

1. Disable the systemd-resolved service by running the command below.

sudo systemctl disable --now systemd-resolved
Disable the DNS resolver service
Disable the DNS resolver service

2. Next, remove the symbolic link to the file /etc/resolv.conf.

sudo unlink /etc/resolv.conf

3. Create a new /etc/resolv.conf file in your text editor. This example uses nano.

sudo nano /etc/resolv.conf

4. Populate the /etc/resolv.conf file with the following information. Replace with your server’s IP address and with your domain. Leave the nameserver as the fallback DNS resolver, which is the public DNS resolver by Cloudflare.

# your Samba server IP Address

# fallback resolver

# your Samba domain

Your /etc/resolv.conf should look similar to the screenshot below.

Update the DNS resolver file
Update the DNS resolver file

5. Save the file and exit the editor.

Installing Samba

After completing the server preparation, it is time to install Samba and other required packages to provision the domain controller.

1. First, ensure that the repository cache is up to date by running the below command.

sudo apt-get update

2. Run the command below to install the required packages for a fully functioning domain controller.

sudo apt install -y acl attr samba samba-dsdb-modules samba-vfs-modules smbclient winbind libpam-winbind libnss-winbind libpam-krb5 krb5-config krb5-user dnsutils chrony net-tools

3. On the Configuring Kerberos Authentication step, type the DNS domain in uppercase. In this example, the default realm domain is OJI.COM. Highlight Ok, and press Enter to accept the value.

Configure the default realm
Configure the default realm

4. On the next screen asking for the Kerberos servers for your realm, type the server hostname and press Enter.

Type the Kerberos server hostname
Type the Kerberos server hostname

5. On the next screen asking for the Administrative server for your Kerberos realm, type the server hostname and press Enter.

Type the administrative server hostname
Type the administrative server hostname

6. After the configuration, disable the unnecessary services (winbind, smbd, and nmbd).

sudo systemctl disable --now smbd nmbd winbind
Disable unnecessary services
Disable unnecessary services

7. Enable and activate the samba-ad-dc service. This service is what Samba needs to act as an Active Directory domain controller Linux server.

# unmask the samba-ad-dc service
sudo systemctl unmask samba-ad-dc

# enable samba-ad-dc service
sudo systemctl enable samba-ad-dc
Activate and enable the samba-ad-dc service
Activate and enable the samba-ad-dc service

Provisioning the Domain Controller Linux Server

Using the samba-tool binary, you can now provision the domain controller upon your Samba installation. Samba-tool is a configuration tool to interact with and configure various aspects of a Samba-based AD.

1. For good measure, backup the existing /etc/samba/smb.conf and /etc/krb5.conf files.

sudo mv /etc/samba/smb.conf /etc/samba/smb.conf.bak
sudo mv /etc/krb5.conf /etc/krb5.conf.bak

2. Run the below command to promote the Samba to an Active Directory domain controller Linux server.

The –use-rfc2307 switch enables the Network Information Service (NIS) extension, which allows the DC to manage UNIX-based user accounts appropriately.

sudo samba-tool domain provision --use-rfc2307 --interactive

3. Answer the prompts as follows.

  • Realm – the tool automatically detects your Kerberos realm. In this example, the realm is OJI.COM. Press Enter to accept the default.
  • Domain – the tool automatically detects the NetBIOS domain name. In this example, the NetBIOS is OJI. Press Enter to continue.
  • Server role – the tool automatically populates the server role as a domain controller (dc). Press Enter to continue.
  • DNS backend – the default is SAMBA_INTERNAL. Press Enter to accept the default.
  • DNS forwarder IP address – type the fallback resolver address you specified in resolve.conf earlier, which is Press Enter to continue.
  • Retype password – retype the default domain administrator password and press Enter.
Configure the domain controller Linux server
Configure the domain controller Linux server

At the end of the configuration, you’ll see the following information.

Domain provisioning results
Domain provisioning results

4. The samba-tool command generated the Samba AD Kerberos configuration file at /var/lib/samba/private/krb5.conf. You must copy this file to /etc/krb5.conf. To do so, run the following command.

sudo cp /var/lib/samba/private/krb5.conf /etc/krb5.conf

5. Finally, start the samba-ad-dc service.

sudo systemctl start samba-ad-dc
sudo systemctl status samba-ad-dc

As you can see below, the service status is now active (running).

active (running)
active (running)

Testing the Domain Controller Linux Server

The Samba AD DC server is now running. In this section, you will perform a few post-installation tests to confirm key components are functioning as desired. One such test is to attempt logging into the default network shares on the DC.

Run the smbclient command to log on as the default administrator account and list (ls) the contents of the netlogon share.

smbclient //localhost/netlogon -U Administrator -c 'ls'

Enter the default admin password. The share should be accessible without errors if the DC is in a good state. As you can see below, the command listed the netlogon share directory.

List the netlogon share
List the netlogon share

Verifying DNS Resolution for Key Domain Records

Run the commands below to look up the following DNS records.

  • TCP-based LDAP SRV record for the domain.
  • UDP-based Kerberos SRV record for the domain.
  • A record of the domain controller.
host -t SRV
host -t SRV
host -t A

Each command should return the following results, indicating that the DNS resolution works.

Query the DNS SRV and A records
Query the DNS SRV and A records

Testing Kerberos

The last test is to attempt to issue a Kerberos ticket successfully.

1. Execute the kinit command for the administrator user. The command automatically appends the realm to the user account. For example, the administrator will become [email protected], where is the realm.

kinit administrator

2. Type the administrator password on the prompt and press Enter. If the password is correct, you’ll see a Warning message about the password expiration, as shown below.

Acquiring a Kerberos ticket
Acquiring a Kerberos ticket

3. Run the klist command below to list all tickets in the ticket cache.


The screenshot below shows that the Kerberos ticket for the administrator account is in the ticket cache. This result indicates that Kerberos authentication works on your domain controller Linux server.

View Kerberos tickets in the ticket cache
View Kerberos tickets in the ticket cache

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Congratulations on reaching the end of this tutorial. You have now learned to stand up an Active Directory domain controller Linux server quickly. Deepen your knowledge on the subject by learning to create users and join client computers in the domain.

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