Monday, December 22, 2008

"ConnectComputer" Tips

Tip #1: Do not wirelessly connect a computer to a Windows Small Business Server 2003 domain using the ConnectComputer browser wizard.

If you do, the wizard has you disable the computer's ethernet adapter before you can run the wizard. At the end of the process, the machine is rebooted to complete the wizard and login to the domain. But, Windows does not load the wireless adapter before it tries to log in, so Windows does not find the network/domain to authenticate the user, and since there are no cached credentials yet, you cannot get past the login screen. And the wizard does not complete the domain join.

When this happened to me, I had to boot the computer into safe mode and try to log in as a local administrator. If the local administrator password has been set and nobody knows what it has been set to, you are in for some serious problems. I was lucky, and somebody knew it had to be one of a finite number of words, and we got in.

Once in as a local administrator, I enabled the ethernet adapter and disabled the wireless adapter. Following a normal boot and local administrator login, I plugged in the ethernet cable and re-ran ConnectComputer, joining the domain with a different/new computer name. Once the wizard rebooted and finished joining the domain, I logged into the domain with the machine's principal user's username and password to cache the credentials, enabled the wireless adapter and unplugged the ethernet cable. Success!

Tip #2: Change the name of the computer you are joining to the domain to be the same as it will be after you join the domain.

  • Alternatively, if it is consistent with the naming conventions for the computers in the domain, when you create a computer name in Active Directory for the new computer, make it the same name as the computer already has.

Sometimes when you join a computer to a domain using ConnectComputer, the computer name changes to the name you select for it from Active Directory but/and the old name of the computer is added to Active Directory and taken by or assigned to the newly added machine. Thus, subsequent logins from the newly joined computer fail because Active Directory does not find machine name among the active resources of the domain.

To fix the problem, you have to follow the advice in Tip #2 and run the wizard again.

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