What DNS Zone type should I use, a Stub, Conditional Forwarder, a Forwarder, or a Secondary Zone?? What’s the Difference??

By Ace Fekay
Originally Published 2012
Updated 3/20/2018

Intro

Ace again. DNS is a basic, yet important requirement that many still having problems wrapping their head around it.

Besides design, a huge part of DNS is understanding the differences between the zone types. Many have asked, when do I use a Stub zone, a Conditional Forwarder, or a Forwarder? Or better, what’s the difference?

I thought to put this simple comparison together compiled from past posts in the TechNet Forum.

Partner Organization DNS Resolution: What should I use, a Stub, Conditional Forwarder or Forwarder?

Secondary Zone

Secondary zones are read only copies “copied,” or “zone transferred” from a Master zone. This makes the zone data available locally (as read only, of course), instead of querying a DNS server across a WAN link. However, in many cases Secondaries are not used due to many limitations and security concerns, such as exposing all DNS zone data that a partner may not want to divulge.

In addition, Secondaries can’t be AD integrated, and the zone data is stored in a text file. So you would have to manually create a copy on all of your DNS servers.

Stub Zone

Organizations own their own AD zones. When business partners need to resolve data at a partner’s organization, there are a few options to support this requirement. Years ago, prior to Stub or Conditional Forwarders, there weren’t many options to handle this other than to use Secondary Zones and keep copies of each others zones via zone transfers.  While the solution worked well in regards to name resolution, it was not the best security-wise, due to trust level between partners, because zone data is fully exposed at the partner. This became a security concern because the partner is able to see all of their business partner’s records. When the zone was transferred to partners, who knows what they were doing with the information. If the information was made public, attackers would have a field day with all of the IPs for the networked devices.

When stub zones were made available, it became a solution to overcome this security issue. What is also beneficial about Stubs, is you can AD integrate them instead of manually creating a Stub on each individual DC. This way the zone will be available domain or forest-wide, depending on replication scope.

However, some may say due to the fact that the SOA records are included in the zone file, it may be a concern that the SOA and NS data is exposed. In such high security concerns, the better solution would be to use a Conditional forwarder.

Conditional Forwarder

This option is heavily used, and many look at them as the best regarding security concerns with zone data exposure, because no data is exposed. This option has worked very well in many environments.

With Conditional Forwarders, no information is being transerred and shared. The only thing you would need to know is one or more of your business partner’s DNS server IPs to configure it, and they don’t have to be the SOA, rather any DNS server that hosts the zone or that has a reference to the zone.

However, it does require open communication and let each other know when their DNS server IPs may change, because you must manually set them.

Windows 2003 introduced Conditional Forwarders, but it did not have the option to make it AD Integrated. If you have 10 DNS servers, you must create the Conditional Forwarder on each server manually. The AD integrated option was added to Windows 2008 or newer DNS servers, so you don’t have to manually create them on each DNS server. THis way the Conditional Forwarder will be available domain or forest-wide.

Parent-Child DNS Zone Delegation

Delegation can be used in a situation where a child domain host their own DNS zone.  Therefore in the forest root domain, you would create a delegation zone with the IPs of the DNS servers in the child domain.  This is normally performed when the child zone have their own administrators. It’s also useful they do not have access to “see” all of the forest root DNS records.

Summary

I hope this helps! If you have any questions, and I’m sure you do, please feel free to reach out to me.

Major revision – Published 3/20/2018

Ace Fekay
MVP, MCT, MCSE 2012, MCITP EA & MCTS Windows 2012|R2, 2008|R2, Exchange 2013|2010EA|2007, MCSE & MCSA 2003/2000, MCSA Messaging 2003
Microsoft Certified Trainer
Microsoft MVP – Mobility

As many know, I work with Active Directory, Exchange server, and Office 365 engineer/architect, and an MVP in Active Directory and Identity Management, and I’m an MCT as well. I try to strive to perform my job with the best of my ability and efficiency, even when presented with a challenge, and then help others with my findings in case a similar issue arises to help ease their jobs. Share the knowledge, is what I’ve always learned.

I’ve found there are many qualified and very informative websites that provide how-to blogs, and I’m glad they exists and give due credit to the pros that put them together. In some cases when I must research an issue, I just needed something or specific that I couldn’t find or had to piece together from more than one site, such as a simple one-liner or a simple multiline script to perform day to day stuff.

I hope you’ve found this blog post helpful, along with my future scripts blog posts, especially with AD, Exchange, and Office 365.

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Complete List of Technical Blogs
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This posting is provided AS-IS with no warranties or guarantees and confers no rights.


 

Active Directory DNS Single Label Names

Intro

Hey everyone, Ace again. Let’s discuss this issue. I hardly see this issue any more, because it was a previously prevalent when Active Directory was introduced, since there were some confusion about AD domain naming, and many IT admins used NT4’s domain naming guidelines. Man of us are now familiar with AD’s naming convention, and have more than likely renamed or rebuilt their AD domains. However, there are still some installations with this issue. 

How did it happen? Many reasons, such as lack of research on AD’s DNS requirements, assumptions, or a simple typo when originally upgrading from NT4 or promoting your new AD domain. It doesn’t matter now, because you were brought here to find out what to do with it.

I hope you find this blog informative on this issue and what to do about it.

First, let’s discuss a little background on the necessary components at play…

FQDN

First, let’s discuss the FQDN. What is an FQDN? It stands for “Fully Qualified Domain Name.” It is multi-level, or hierarchal, such as:

domain.com
domain.net
domain.local
childdomainname.domain.local
etc

What is a Single Label DNS Domain name?
The name is reminiscent of the legacy style NT4 domain NetBIOS domain names, such as:

DOMAIN
CORP
COMPANYNAME
etc

Unfortunately, since this does not work with DNS, and Active Directory relies on DNS, therefore, it does not work with Active Directory. Stay with me. I’ll explain…

DNS

DNS is a hierarchal database. Some call it a “tree” with a root (the ‘com’ or ‘net’, etc, name), then the trunk (the ‘domain’ portion of it), and the branches (such as www, servername, etc). The Root domain name, such as com, edu, net, etc, is also known as the TLD (Tope Level Domain name).

Basically you can look at a DNS domain name as having multiple levels separated by periods. The minimal requirment for an FQDN domain name, such as microsoft.com, is two levels. Then of course are your resource names, such as www, servername, or even child domain names under it.

Notice with a single label name there is only one name for the domain, or one level? Don’t get this confused with the NetBIOS domain name, that we were familiar with in the NT4 days. AD supports the NetBIOS domain name as well, but only as a NetBIOS domain name. It’s one of the domain names chosen when a machine is promoted into a domain controller for a brand new domain in a brand new forest. NT4 wasn’t reliant nor did it use DNS for NT4 domains. However, AD is reliant, therefore it must follow DNS naming rules.

Unfortunately the old NT4 style names are not hierarchal because there is only one level.
 
Since AD requires and relies on DNS, and DNS is a hierarchal database, a single label name does not follow any sort of hierarchy. DNS fails with single label names. Windows 2008, Windows 2003, XP and Vista have problems resolving single label names because it does not follow the proper format for a DNS domain name, such as domain.com, etc.

Also, Windows 2000 SP4 and all newer machines have problems querying single label names. It’s explained below by Alan Woods. Because clients query DNS for AD resources (domain controller locations and other services), they may have difficulty finding resources.

How did it happen? As I said earlier, it doesn’t matter now, because you were brought here to find out what to do with it.

Common Mistakes When Upgrading a Windows 2000 Domain To a Windows 2003 Domain (or any AD upgrade or installation):
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/555040

Single Label Name Explanation

Another variation of the Single Label Name explanation that I had provided in a response to a post in the DNS and/or AD newsgroups at one time:

The issue is the single label name. Locally at HQ, it’s using NetBIOS to join, however remotely, it’s relying on DNS. DNS queries do not work properly with single label names on Windows 2000 SP4 and all newer machines.

Period. Why? good question. It’s based on the fact DNS is hierarchal. Hierarchal meaning it must have multi levels, a minimum of two levels.

The TLD (top level domain) is the root name, such as the com, net, etc., names. The client side resolver service algorithm (which is governed by the DHCP Client service which must be running on all machines, static or not),
relies on that name for the basis to find the second level name (the name “domain” in domain.com, etc.). If the name is a single label name, it thinks THAT name is the TLD.

Therefore it then hits the Internet Root servers to find how owns and is authoritative for that TLD.Such as when looking up Microsoft.com. It queries for the COM portion, which the roots return the nameservers responsible for the COM servers, then it queries for the servers responsible for Microsoft.com zone.

If it’s a single label, the query ends there, and it won’t go further. However what is funny (sic) is that even though the single label name is being hosted locally in DNS, it will NOT query locally first, because it believes it is a TLD, therefore goes through the normal resolution (recursion and devolution) process, which causes excessive query traffic to the internet Root servers.

How to fix it? Good question. Glad you’ve asked.

  1. The preferred “fix” (in a one line summary), is to install a fresh new domain properly named and use ADMT to migrate user, group and computer accounts into the new domain from the current domain.
  2. An alternative is to perform a domain rename, (difficulty depends on the operating system and which version of Exchange is installed).
  3. As a temporary resort, you can use the patch or band aid registry fix to force resolution and registration that is mentioned in the following link. This must be applied to every machine. Unfortunately it must be done on every machine in the domain, including the DCs, member servers, workstations and laptops.

Information About Configuring Windows 2000 for Domains with Single-Label DNS Names:
http://support.microsoft.com/?id=300684

Single Label Names and being a better Internet Neighbor

The following was posted by Microsoft’s Alan Woods in 2004:

Single label names, from Alan Woods, [MSFT], posted:

—– Original Message —–
From: “Alan Wood” [MSFT]
Newsgroups: microsoft.public.win2000.dns
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 1:25 PM
Subject: Re: Single label DNS

Hi Roger,

We really would prefer to use FQDN over Single labled. There are
alot of other issues that you can run into when using a Single labeled
domain name with other AD integrated products. Exchange would be a great
example. Also note that the DNR (DNS RESOLVER) was and is designed to
Devolve DNS requests to the LAST 2 names.

Example: Single Labeled domain .domainA
then, you add additional domains on the forest.
child1.domainA
Child2.child1.domainA

If a client in the domain Child2 wants to resolve a name in domainA
Example. Host.DomainA and uses the following to connect to a share
\\host then it is not going to resolve. WHY, because the resolver is
first going to query for first for Host.Child2.child1.domainA, then it
next try HOST.Child1.domainA at that point the Devolution process is
DONE. We only go to the LAST 2 Domain Names.

Also note that if you have a single labeled domain name it causes excess
DNS traffic on the ROOT HINTS servers and being all Good Internet Community
users we definitely do not want to do that.   NOTE that in Windows 2003,
you get a big Pop UP Error Message when trying to create a single labeled
name telling you DON’T DO IT.  It will still allow you to do it, but you
will still be required to make the registry changes, which is really not
fun.

Microsoft is seriously asking you to NOT do this.  We will support you but
it the end results could be limiting as an end results depending on the
services you are using.

Thank you,

Alan Wood[MSFT]

 

Related Articles – Even though they seem old, they STILL APPLY!!!

Common Mistakes When Upgrading a Windows 2000 Domain To a Windows 2003 Domain
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/555040

Best practices for DNS client settings in Windows 2000 Server and in Windows Server 2003:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/825036

DNS and AD (Windows 2000 & 2003) FAQ:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/291382

Naming conventions in Active Directory for computers, domains, sites, and OUs (Good article on DNS and other names)
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/909264

============================================================

Summary

I hope this helps!

Published 10/15/2016

Ace Fekay
MVP, MCT, MCSE 2012, MCITP EA & MCTS Windows 2008/R2, Exchange 2013, 2010 EA & 2007, MCSE & MCSA 2003/2000, MCSA Messaging 2003
Microsoft Certified Trainer
Microsoft MVP – Directory Services

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Complete List of Technical Blogs: http://www.delawarecountycomputerconsulting.com/technicalblogs.php

This posting is provided AS-IS with no warranties or guarantees and confers no rights.

DNS Zone Types Explained, and their Significance in Active Directory

==================================================================
==================================================================
Ace Fekay, MCT, MVP, MCSE 2012/Cloud, MCITP EA, MCTS Windows 2008/R2, Exchange 2007 & 2010, Exchange 2010 Enterprise Administrator, MCSE 2003/2000, MCSA Messaging 2003
   Microsoft Certified Trainer
   Microsoft MVP: Directory Services
   Active Directory, Exchange and Windows Infrastructure Engineer and Janitor

Revisions

Original publication 4/30/2013

Prelude

Ace here again. I thought to touch base on DNS zones, and more so, focus on what AD integrated zones are and how they work. This blog almost mimics my class lecture on this topic. Check back for updates periodically, which I will notate with a timestamp above with whatever I’ve added or modified.

This topic was also briefly discussed in the following Microsoft Technet forum thread:
Technet thread: “Secondary Zones?”
http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/winserverNIS/thread/c1b0f3ac-c8af-4f4e-a5bc-23d034c85400

 

AD Integrated Zones AD Database Storage Locations

First up is a background on the various parts of the Active Directory database and what gets stored in them. This will help understand where DNS data is stored as I discuss it later in this blog.

The Active Directory Data Store (the AD database):

There are three possible storage locations for DNS zone storage in the Active Directory database:

  • DomainNC – This was the only available location with Windows 2000. This replicates to all DCs only in a specific domain.
  • DomainDnsZones partition – Introduced in Windows 2003 and used in all newer operating systems. This replicates to all DCs only in a specific domain in the forest.
  • ForestDnsZones partition. This replicates to all DCs in the forest.

You can see how not all partitions are replicated forest wide. It depends on the partition:

 

Ok, Now the DNS Basics:

  • A Secondary is a read-only copy
  • A Secondary zone stores it’s data in a text file (by default in the system32\dns folder)
  • A Secondary gets a copy of the zone data from the Primary
  • A Primary is the writeable copy
  • A Primary stores it’s zone data in a text file (by default in the system32\dns folder)
  • There can only be one Primary, but as many Secondary zones as you want.
  • You must allow zone transfer capabilities from the Primary zone if you want to create a Secondary.
  • AD integrated zones do NOT need zone transfers to be allowed (see below for specifics)

Active directory Integrated Zones changes this a bit:

AD Integrated zones are similar to Primary zones, however their data is stored as binary data in the actual AD database and not as a text file. The specific place in the AD database depends on the DC’s operating system version and replication scope, which means what “logical” part of the physical AD database it’s stored in, which will affect which DCs in the forest it will replicate to.

  • The “only one Primary Zone” rule is changed by introducing the Multi-Master Primary feature. This is because the data is not stored as a text file, rather it is stored in the actual, physical AD database (in one of 3 difference logical locations or what we call the Replication Scope), and any DC that has DNS installed (based on the replication scope) will be a writeable copy.
  • The zone data is replicated to other DCs in the replication scope where the data is stored (based on one of the 3 logical locations)
  • Each DC in the replication scope that has DNS installed, will automatically make available the zone data in DNS
  • Each DC that hosts the zone can “write” to the zone, and the changes get replicated to other DCs in the replication scope of the zone/
  • The DC that makes a change becomes the SOA at that point in time, until another DC makes a change to the zone, then it becomes the SOA
  • An AD Integrated zone can be configured to allow zone transfers to a Secondary, but the Secondary CANNOT be a DC in the same replication scope as the zone you are trying to create as a Secondary, otherwise the DC you are attempting to create the Secondary on will automatically change it to AD integrated, since it “sees” it in the AD database. In some cases, if this is forced or done incorrectly, it can lead to duplicate or conflicting zones in the AD database, which is problematic until fixed.

And if you install DNS on another DC, the zone data will *automatically* appear because DNS will recognize the data in the AD database. AD integrated zones can also act as a Primary zone for secondary zones, whether they are on Windows machines, BIND (on Unix) or any other name brand.

Remember, AD integrated zones still follow the RFCs, but have more features.

 

Duplicate or Conflicting zones?

Since I touched based on duplicate and conflicting zones, you may want to check if they exist in your AD database. You have to check each partition, and if you have more than one domain, you have to check the DomainDnsZones and DomainNC of each domain. You may even have to check it on multiple DCs in various AD Sites to see if they all “see” the same copy or different copies. You would be surprised what I’ve seen with AD replication problems and seeing different DCs “seeing” something different in its own database. This issue also manifests as a symptom in more than just a DNS problem, where you create a user on one DC and it never replicates to another DC.

Using ADSI Edit to Resolve Conflicting or Duplicate AD Integrated DNS zones
http://msmvps.com/blogs/acefekay/archive/2009/09/02/using-adsi-edit-to-resolve-conflicting-or-duplicate-ad-integrated-dns-zones.aspx

 

Primary Standard Zone, Secondary Standard Zones & Zone Transfers

Zone transfers allow you to create a read only copy (a Secondary zone) on another DNS server, that will pull a copy (transfers) from the read/writable zone (the Primary zone).

Primary and Secondary zones store their data as text files.

On a Windows machine, the zone files can be found in the \system32\dns folder with a file name such as “domain.com.dns”. You can have numerous read only copies, but there can only be one read/write of that zone.

Please keep in mind, the authoritative DNS server listed in the registrar for a public domain name (zone) does not have to be a Primary, it’s just the host nameserver listed as authoritative. It can get it’s data from a Primary that is not listed, hence the writable copy is actually hidden and protected from public access.

Do I need Zone transfers Allowed for AD Integrated Zones if I do not have Secondaries Zones?

The short answer: NOPE.

The reason is that the term “AD Integrated” means the zone is stored in the AD database, and the zone will replicate to other domain controllers within the same replication scope (domain-wide or forest-wide) automatically as part of the AD replication process.

By default, AD integrated zones are configured to not allow zone transfers.

Allowing zone transfers is an option provided to support non-DC DNS servers, BIND or any other name brand DNS server that you want to allow zone transfers to a secondary on those servers.

Rotating SOA

Additional security options of AD integrated zones, is one of the feature of AD integrated zones, as well as the fact that there can be more than one Primary zone copy of it. This is because all DNS servers that host the zone in a domain or forest has the ability to be a writable copies and becomes the actual “start of authority” (SOA) of that zone when a specific DC/DNS accepts a write operation, such as a client machine registering, or the DC itself updating its SRV records.

For example, if a DC updates it’s SRV and other records at the default 60 minute interval (all other machines register every 24 hours), it will update its data into the DNS server listed as the first DNS address in the network card. This server now writes it into DNS and NOW becomes the SOA of the zone. That data is replicated to other DC/DNS servers with default AD replication. Now all other DC/DNS servers will see the change.

To further explain, since the zone is AD integrated, each and every DC in the replication scope of the zone, can accept changes, due to an AD integrated zone’s Multi-Master Primary Zone features. Based on the definition of what an SOA is, that is being the DNS server that’s authoritative to accept writes, therefore, whichever DC/DNS accepted a change to the zone, that specific DC/DNS will become the SOA for that moment in time. Then when the next DC/DNS that accepts a change, it will now become the new SOA. The SOA constantly changing in an AD environment is accepted, and default behavior.

That is why you can watch the SOA name on AD integrated zones change. The data is replicated automatically as part of the AD replication process because it is stored in the AD database.

Active Directory-integrated DNS zone serial number behavior (SOA default behavior) 
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/282826 

 

References

Configure AD Integrated Zones
(When converting to AD integrated zones)
Quoted: “Only primary zones can be stored in the directory. If a zone is configured on other domain controllers as a secondary zone, these zones will be converted to primary zones when you convert the zone to AD integrated. This is because the multimaster replication model of Active Directory removes the need for secondary zones when a zone is stored in Active Directory. Conversion of the zone from secondary to primary will occur when AD DS is restarted.”
 http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee649181(v=ws.10)

Understanding DNS Zones
http://www.tech-faq.com/understanding-dns-zones.html

Understanding stub zones: Domain Name System(DNS)
Jan 21, 2005 – The master servers for a stub zone are one or more DNS servers authoritative for the child zone, usually the DNS server hosting the primary …
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc779197(v=ws.10).aspx

Using ADSI Edit to Resolve Conflicting or Duplicate AD Integrated DNS zones

Using ADSI Edit to Resolve Conflicting or Duplicate AD Integrated DNS zones

Revisions:

Original publication 3/2006
Recompiled 6/10/2010
Updated 12/9/2010
Updated 8/31/2014

Prologue

Ace here again. I’m cleaning up my blogs for technical and syntax errors. If you see anything that needs correction, please let me know.

Preface and Scope Of this Article

This blog explains how to use ADSI Edit to determine if duplicate zones exists in the AD database and to delete them.

When  using ADSI Edit, the duplicate zones show up in the partitions with names that are prefixed with an “In Progress….” or “CNF…” and suffixed with a long GUID number. You will be checking EACH DC. When you find them, you will simply delete them. because they are useless and cause substantial problems.

This blog also explains how duplicate zones will appear to make zone records disappear.

Introduction to Duplicate Zones

Duplicate zones can cause numerous issues for the mere fact that the DNS zone that DNS is showing you on a specific DC may not have the latest up to date data. It literally may be missing data that you see on other DCs. If there are duplicate or conflicting zones, the zone data can’t replicate, resulting in each DC may have a different copy of the zone, which then results in unreliability and AD issues.

And to further complicate it, there are three different storage locations that AD can store AD integrated DNS zones – DomainDnsZones, ForestDnsZones, and the DomainNC partitions. You can read more on specifics in one of my other blogs:

DNS Zone Types Explained, Storage Locations in the AD database, and their Significance in Active Directory.
https://blogs.msmvps.com/acefekay/2013/04/30/dns-zone-types-explained-and-their-significance-in-active-directory/

Symptoms?

You may have a duplicate zone or a conflicting zone if a zone exists in both the Domain NC and/or in one of the Application Partitions. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Trying to change the replication scope, you receive an unusual error message stating, “The name limit for the local computer network adapter card was exceeded.”

DNS Duplicate zone - Scope Replication error - The Replication scope could not be set- The name limit for the local computer network adapter was exceeded.

  • Event ID 4515
  • An admin may see the data on a different DC is not there and will manually create records.
  • Zone data is disappearing, or it appears to be. This can be caused by:
  • The data on each DC is different, and you are wondering why replication isn’t brining the zone data up to date, but it won’t because replication will either not occur or won’t occur if AD sees a duplicate.
  • Causes?

    • You’ve installed DNS on another DC and you don’t see the zone under DNS that is on the other DCs, so you manually created the AD zone because you didn’t have the patience to wait for replication to occur, which it would have automatically populated.
    • You’ve promoted a new DC in another site and didn’t have the patience to wait for the zone data to replicate.
    • Antivirus not configured to exclude AD communications (common cause).
    • At one time, or currently, the AD environment is a mixed Windows 2000/2003/2008 environment and DNS is installed on all operating system versions. On Windows 2000, if the zone is AD Integrated, it is in the DomainNC partition of the AD database, and should be set the same in Windows 2003’s or newer DC/DNS server to keep the zone data compatible and allow both operating system versions to be able to read and use them.
    • Someone must have attempted to change it in Windows 2003 or 2008 DNS to place the zone in the DomainDnsZones partition no realizing the implications, hence the duplicate. In a scenario such as this where you want to use the Windows 2003 application partitions, you then must insure the zone on the Windows 2003 is set to the DomainNC, then uninstall DNS off the Win2000 machine, then once that’s done and AD replication has been given time to occur, you can go to the Windows 2003 or newer DNS and change the partition’s replication scope to one of the application partitions.
    • A new domain controller was promoted into the domain, and the administrator manually created the zone name in DNS. This causes a duplicate. The proper way was to simply install DNS, and allow AD replication to occur. The zone will auto-populate into DNS.

    I usually don’t want to assume someone’s deleting data. That’s would be the far end of the spectrum, especially if more than one DC is showing inconsistent zone data.

    I feel the best approach to find out which is occurring is to first find out if there is a duplicate zone. This is because auditing is time consuming, and you need to parse through all the events generated in the Event Security Logs. It’s easier to run ADSI Edit to find if there are duplicates. Once you’ve determined it’s not a duplicate zone issue, then you can move on to DNS auditing. If it is a duplicate zone issue, follow the procedure below to remove them.

    *

    AD Integrated Zones Storage Locations

    First, a quick review on the partitions. Hopefully you’ve taken a few moments to read my blog link that I posted above to understand the partitions. If not, I’ll just touch base on it here so you understand it and can relate to it. For specifics and the nitty gritty, read my other blog above.

    Windows 2000:

    the physical AD database is broken up into 3 logical partitions, the DomainNC (Domain Name Context, or some call the Domain Name Container), the Configuration Partition, and the Schema Partition. The Schema and Configuration partitions replicate to all DCs in a forest.

    The DomainNC is specific only to the domain the DC belongs to. That’s where a user, domain local or global group is stored. The DomainNC only replicates to the DCs of that specific domain.

    When you create an AD Integrated zone in Windows 2000, it gets stored in the DomainNC. This causes a limitation if you want this zone to be available on a DC/DNS server that belongs to a different domain. The only way to get around that is for a little creative designing using either delegation, or secondary zones. This was a challenge for the _msdcs.contoso.com zone, which must be available forest wide to resolve the forest root domain, which contains the Schema and Domain Name Masters FSMO roles.

    Windows 2003 and newer:

    There were two additional storage locations added to the AD database for DNS storage use. These areas are called “partitions,” specifically the DomainDnsZones and ForestDnsZones Application Partitions, specifically to store DNS data. They were conceived to overcome the limitation of Windows 2000’s AD Integrated zones. Now you can store an AD Integrated zone in either of these new partitions instead of the DomainNC. If stored in the DomainDnsZones app partition, it is available only in that domain’s DomainDnsZones partition. If you store it in the ForestDnsZones app partition, it will be available to any DC/DNS server in the whole forest. This opens many more design options. It also ensures the availability of the _msdcs.contoso.com zone to all DCs in the forest. By default in Windows 2003, the _msdcs.contoso.com zone is stored in the ForestDnsZones application partition.

    Selecting the Replication Scope in Windows 2003 and newer:

    When selecting a zone replication scope in Win2003, in the zone’s properties, click on the “Change” button. Under that you will see 3 options:

    • “To all DNS servers in the AD forest example.com”  The top button. This option puts the zone is in the ForestDnsZones Application Partition. This setting will allow the zone data to replicate to all domain controllers to every domain in the forest, including if additional Trees exist in the forest.
    • “To all DNS servers in the AD domain example.com”  The middle button. This option means the zone is in the DomainDnsZones Application Partition. This setting allows the zone to be stored and replicated in the DomainDnsZones Application Partition in the specific domain that it exists in. This setting is not compatible with Windows 2000 domain controllers. If Windows 2000 domain controllers exist in the domain, then the bottom option (below) will need to be used.
    • “To all domain controllers in the AD domain example.com”  The bottom button. This option means the zone is in the DomainNC (Domain Name Context) portion of the actual AD database. This is only for Windows 2000 compatibility, that is if you have any Windows 2000 domain controllers in that specific domain you are administering.

    If you receive an Event ID 4015 or the following error, it may indicate there is a duplicate or conflicting zone that exists in the DomainNC, the DomainDnsZones Application partition and/or in the ForestDnsZones partition.

    DNS Duplicate zone - Scope Replication error - The Replication scope could not be set- The name limit for the local computer network adapter was exceeded.

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    Non-AD Integrated Primary and Secondary Zones

    A Primary or Secondary zone that is not stored in AD is stored in a text file in the system32\dns folder. This type of zone storage has nothing to do with the above types ONLY unless it is truly a secondary with the Master being a DC transferring a copy of the zone. This types of zone storage is obviously not secure.

    Now **IF** you did manually create a zone (whether intentionally or unknowingly) on one DC while it already existed on another DC, then you may have a duplicate.

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    Duplicate zone names will start with the letters,  “CNF…” or “InProgress…”

    If there is a duplicate, you can use either ntdsutil or ADSI Edit to take a look. I will outline in this article on how to use ADSI Edit to look for the duplicate.

    A duplicate zone name will appear in ADSI Edit that starts with an “In Progress….” or “CNF…” with a long GUID number after it.

    • The CNF…” means it’s in conflict due to a duplicate in the AD database.
    • The “In Progress….” means it is trying to replicate, but it can’t because there’s another identical zone name but with a different USN version number (USNs are used for replication control between DCs) on another domain controller, which also means there’s a duplicate zone.

    You can simply delete them, which will clean up the whole problem. Yep, a simple deletion. The “CNF” data is not used by AD, but yet it will conflict with the zone that is actually used, and needs to be deleted.

    But before doing anything about it just yet, let’s read on to explain more about this and what may have caused it.

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    Preventing Duplicate Zones

    AD Integrated Zones will auto-populate when adding replica domain controllers

    If an AD integrated zone exists on a DC, and the DNS service is install DNS on another DC in the domain or forest, depending on the replication scope, it will automatically appear on the new DNS installation without any interaction on your part. You may have to wait a certain period of time for it to populate depending on if the other DC is in the same AD Site or not, but it WILL AUTO-POPULATE.

    However, if you attempted to manually create the zone, believing that you need to do this to make the zone available on that DC, then you’ve just introduced a duplicate zone in the AD database. It doesn’t matter if the zone say originally exists in the DomainNC, and you manually create the zone on the other DC and put it into the DomainDnsZones application partition, AD will still recognize it in the AD database.

    Duplicate zones cause numerous AD communication and access problems.

    The point is, AD is smarter than you think. Let it do it’s thing.

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    An Example of what an AD Duplicate Zones looks like in ADSI Edit

    This image shows “In Progress…” entries. They need to be deleted.

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    Using ADSI Edit to look at  your AD Partitions

    This is a manual step by step. For a screenshot step by step, see the next section.

    This section assumes you have a little familiarity withe ADSI Edit. If not, I suggest to get yourself familiar with it once you’ve connected into the various partitions as outlined below. Be careful deleting anything, for once deleted, it’s a destructive process and basically it’s gone. There is no “Back Button” or “Undelete,” or “Undo”  button. To restore data, you will need to run an Authoritative Restore from your backup program restoring that specific object that was deleted.

    Determine if there are any duplicate zone.

    While in ADSI Edit, if you see the same exact named zone in multiple partitions, such as seeing the same zone name in the Domain NC (Name Container) Partition, in the DomainDnsZones App partition), and/or in the ForestDnsZones application partition, you have duplicate zones. If this is the case, then you must choose which zone you want to keep.

    I will select a DC that isn’t having a problem and delete the duplicates and conflicts off all other DCs.

    Multiple domains or multiple tree forest?

    If the AD forest is a multidomain forest with child domains and/or multiple trees, you must look at each domain’s DomainNC and DomainDnsZones partition, because each domain has one.

    To view the DomainNC Partition (Default Naming Context)

    • In ADSI Edit, rt-click ADSI Edit, choose “Connect To,” in the Connection Point click on “Well known Naming Context”, then in the drop-down box, select “Domain”.  If this is Windows 2003 or newer, this option shows up as “Default Naming Context”
    • Expand DomainNC or Default Naming Context, then expand your domain name. Drill down to CN=System. Under that you will see CN=MicrosoftDNS.
      You will see any zones that are in the DomainNC partition under the MicrosoftDNS folder.
    • If you see anything that starts with an “In Progress….” or “CNF…” with a long GUID number after it, that’s a duplicate zone. Delete them!
    •  

    To view the ForestDnsZones Application Partition:

    [ForestDNSZones]

    1. Click Start, click Run, type adsiedit.msc, and then click OK.
    2. In the console tree, right-click ADSI Edit, and then click “Connect To.”
    3. Click Select or type a Distinguished Name or Naming Context, type the following text in the list, and then click OK:
      DC=ForestDNSZones, DC=contoso, DC=com
    4. In the console tree, double-click DC=ForestDNSZones, DC=contoso, DC=com.
      Double-click CN=MicrosoftDNS, and click the zone (contoso.com).
    5. You should now be able to view the DNS records which exist in this DNS partition.

    If you see anything that starts with anIn Progress….” or “CNF…” with a long GUID number after it, that’s a duplicate zone. Delete them!

    To view the DomainDnsZones Application Partition

    [DomainDNSZones]

    1. Click Start, click Run, type adsiedit.msc, and then click OK.
    2. In the console tree, right-click ADSI Edit, and then click “Connect To.”
    3. Click Select or type a Distinguished Name or Naming Context, type the following text in the list, and then click OK: DC=DomainDNSZones,DC=contoso,DC=com.
    4. In the console tree, double-click DC=DomainDNSZones,DC=contoso,DC=com
      Double-click CN=MicrosoftDNS, and click the zone (contoso.com).
    5. You should now be able to view the DNS records which exist in this DNS partition.

    If you see anything that starts with an “In Progress….” or “CNF…” with a long GUID number after it, that’s a duplicate zone. Delete them!

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    Procedure with Screenshots:

     

     

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    Procedure to Delete the Duplicate zones

    The easiest is to simply delete any duplicates you find in ADSI Edit. Choice #1, to delete them, can actually be safely done during production. Matter of fact, things may just start to work after you delete them! But Choice #2, which is a lengthy procedure, must be done during non-production hours.

    Choice #1 (Recommended)

    Just go into ADSI Edit and delete the duplicate zones you’ve found.

    You can do this during production, and frankly, I’ve done it with a large infrastructure during production hours without any problems. This is my personal choice as long as there are no true duplicate zones, that is if there are duplicate zones without seeing any zone names prefixed with either an “In Progress….” or “CNF…” with a long GUID number after, and you truly see a duplicate of your actual zone, such as a domain.com in any of the partitions, then you must perform Choice #2.

    Choice #2 (Not recommended)

    This is a multi-step process to first change the zone to a Standard Primary Zone, which removes it from the AD database, allow AD replication to complete, delete the duplicates, then change the zone to AD integrated, and allow AD replication to complete.

    • Choose only one DC to perform this action.
      • For example, if the duplicate is in the DomainDnsZones partition or DomainNC partition of a child domain, perform it only on a DC in that domain.
      • If the Duplicate is in the ForestDnsZones partition, you can choose any DC in the forest.
    • Right-click the zone name, Choose Properties.
    • Under the General  tab, click on the “Change” button next to the “Type” section.
    • Then uncheck the box that says “Store the zone in Active Directory (available only if the DNS servers is a domain controller.”
    • Click Ok, Don’t click Ok again just yet. Just click on Apply.
    • IMPORTANT – You must allow AD replication to occur to replicate the change to all DCs that are in the replication scope of the zone. If you have DCs in another AD Site and have replication schedule set for example, to 3 hours, then you must WAIT for 3 hours.
    • This action makes the zone a Standard Primary zone. This means it is now stored in the system32\dns\ZoneName.com.dns text file and is no longer in the AD database.
    • You can also force replication, as well.  If there are AD Sites configured, and the replication schedule on the Site Connection objects is say 3 hours, you can reduce the replication schedule on the Site Connection objects to the minimal time allowed, which is 15 minutes. Then force replication by choosing the partner DC’s NTDS Setting, right –click, and choose Replicate Now.
    • Once confirmed that replication has occurred, and refreshing the ADSI Edit window and seeing the zones no longer exist in any of the partitions, then you can now safely delete the duplicate zones.
    • Note: Just to be clear, you will be deleting any zone names that you find that are prefixed with an “In Progress….” or “CNF…” and suffixed with a long GUID number after it.
    • Also Note: Deleting a zone is a destructive operation. Make sure you are only deleting duplicates!
  • Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Administrative Tools, and then click DNS.
  • In the console tree, right-click contoso.com, point to All Tasks, and then click Restart.
  • Change the zone back to AD Integrated into the Replication Scope it’s supposed to be in.
  • Once the duplicates have been deleted, once again, you MUST allow AD replication to occur. If you had changed the Replication Schedule on the Site Connection objects to quicken AD replication, you will want to reset them to their original setting.
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    References

    DNS zone replication in Active Directory
    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc779655(WS.10).aspx

    Oops, our AD Integrated DNS zone’s are missing in Windows 2003!
    http://blogs.technet.com/b/networking/archive/2007/05/10/oops-our-ad-integrated-dns-zone-s-are-missing-in-windows-2003.aspx

    Directory Partitions:
    http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/Windows/2000/server/reskit/en-us/distrib/dsbg_dat_favt.asp

    kbAlertz- (867464) – Explains how to use ADSI Edit to resolve app partitions issues:
    http://www.kbalertz.com/kb_867464.aspx

    Event ID 4515 is logged in the DNS Server log in Windows Server 2003
    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/867464

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    Summary

    It seems like a lot of steps, but it really isn’t. Just read it over a few times to get familiar with the procedure. You may even want to change it into a numbered step by step list if you like. If you only have one DC, and one Site, then it’s much easier since you don’t have to mess with secondary zones or play with the site objects.

    I hope that helps!

    Ace Fekay
    MVP, MCT, MCSE 2012, MCITP EA & MCTS Windows 2008/R2, Exchange 2013, 2010 EA & 2007, MCSE & MCSA 2003/2000, MCSA Messaging 2003
    Microsoft Certified Trainer
    Microsoft MVP – Directory Services
    Complete List of Technical Blogs and Videos: http://www.delawarecountycomputerconsulting.com/technicalblogs.php

    This blog is provided AS-IS with no warranties or guarantees and confers no rights.

    Suggestions, Comments and Corrections are Welcomed!