How to Transfer FSMO Roles Using PowerShell?

When you create a new Active Directory domain, by default all FSMO roles are assigned to the first domain controller in the forest. You can transfer FSMO roles from one DC to another using both the Active Directory graphics snap-ins and the PowerShell command prompt.

There are several tools to manage FSMO roles in an AD domain: MMC snap-ins, Ntdsutil.exe command-line utility, and PowerShell. In our opinion, PowerShell is the most convenient way to manage AD FSMO roles today. The only drawbacks are the unusual syntax. Otherwise, there are only positive things, PowerShell allows you to transfer, or seize roles with just a single command.

Active Directory Domain Services has 5 special roles for domain controllers called Flexible Single Master Operations (FSMO or Operations Master).

The five FSMO roles are:

  • Schema Master;
  • Domain Naming Master;
  • PDC;
  • RID pool Master;
  • Infrastructure Master.

FSMO roles can be assigned to a single domain controller or spread across different DCs, depending on your requirement. You can move the FSMO role between domain controllers in one of the two ways:

  • Role transfer — involves transferring a role from the original role holder to a new DC when both servers are online and considered healthy. Role transfers occur when you need to decommission a domain controller, perform routine maintenance on a physical server or underlying hardware;
  • Role seizure — forced transfer of FSMO roles caused by unexpected circumstances such as failure or crash of the role holder.

Transfer FSMO roles using PowerShell cmdlets using the Active Directory PowerShell module has the following benefits:

  • You do not need to connect with the MMC snap-ins to the source or target role owner;
  • Transferring or seizing FSMO roles does not require a connection to the current or future role owner. You can run AD-PowerShell module cmdlets on a Windows 10 desktop client or on a member server running Windows Server (with the RSAT package installed);
  • To seize the FSMO role (if the current owner is not available), use the additional -force parameter.

Finding Active Directory FSMO Role Holders with PowerShell

You can identify domain controllers with the FSMO roles using the Active Directory snap-in GUI, but this can be quickly checked using the command prompt and PowerShell.

Import Active Directory module to the current PowerShell session:

Import-Module activedirectory

Tip. In Windows Server 2012 or later, the Active Directory module for PowerShell is loaded by default.

To get the forest level FSMO role holders in the specified domain (Domain Naming Master and Schema Master roles) use the following PowerShell command:

Get-ADForest| ft DomainNamingMaster, SchemaMaster

To view domain-wide FSMO role owners (Infrastructure Master, PDC Emulator, and Relative Identifier Master roles):

Get-ADDomain | ft InfrastructureMaster, PDCEmulator, RIDMaster

transfer fsmo roles powershell

In this example, holds all FSMO roles.

Or you can get information about all roles in your AD using the following PowerShell one-liner:

et-ADDomainController -Filter * | Select-Object Name, Domain, Forest, OperationMasterRoles | Where-Object {$_.OperationMasterRoles}

Transfer FSMO Roles Using PowerShell

To transfer FSMO roles between Active Directory domain controllers use the PowerShell cmdlet Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole.The Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole cmdlet allows moving one or more operations master roles to a new directory server.

To use the Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole cmdlet, your environment must meet the following requirements:

  • There must be at least one domain controller with a version of Windows Server 2008 R2 or newer;
  • Installed PowerShell 3.0 or newer;
  • Imported Active Directory module (2.0 or newer).

Check the current Active Directory schema version:

Get-ADObject (Get-ADRootDSE).schemaNamingContext -Property objectVersion

move fsmo roles powershell

In this case, the AD objectVersion is 87. This corresponds to the version of the AD schema in Windows Server 2016, so we can transfer the FSMO roles from PowerShell.

Unlike the Ntdsutil.exe utility, the Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasteRole cmdlet can be performed from any domain computer.

Note. In order to migrate the Operations Master roles, your account must be a member of privileged domain groups: Domain admins and Enterprise Admins.

For example, to transfer the PDC Emulator role to a domain controller named dc2, use the command:

Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -Identity "dc2" PDCEmulator

You can run this command on any domain controller, including one that is neither the old nor the new role holder.

It is possible to transfer several roles at once:

Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -Identity “dc2” –OperationMasterRole DomainNamingMaster,PDCEmulator,RIDMaster,SchemaMaster,InfrastructureMaster

Tip. To simplify the Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole cmdlet usage, you can replace the names of roles with numbers from 0 to 4. The correspondence of names and numbers is given in the following table:


Thus, the last command can be replaced by a shorter one:

Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole “dc2” –OperationMasterRole 0,1,2,3,4

powershell move fsmo roles

Do you want to move role ‘PDCEmulator’ to server ‘dc2.theitbros.loc’ ?

[Y] Yes  [A] Yes to All  [N] No  [L] No to All  [S] Suspend  [?] Help (default is “Y”): A

After entering the FSMO transfer command for all or several roles, a prompt appears asking whether you want to confirm your actions or cancel them. To transfer all roles press A > Enter. To skip confirmation, you can add the -Confirm:$false parameter to the previous command.

You can move the forest-wide operations master roles to a directory server in a different domain in the same AD forest.

If you want to execute the FSMO transfer command under another user account, you can use the -Credential parameter:

$cred = Get-Credential
Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -OperationMasterRole SchemaMaster -Identity AD -Verbose -Force -Credential $cred

powershell transfer fsmo roles

You can verify if the transfer task was completed successfully by running the Get-ADForest and Get-ADDomain cmdlets again.

If you receive an “Access Denied” error when you run Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole, make sure you are a member of the Enterprise Admins group. Add your account to this group, log out and log back in.


Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole : Access is denied

At line:1 char:1

+ Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -Identity dc01 …

+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

+ CategoryInfo : NotSpecified: (dc02:ADDirectoryServer) [Move-ADDirector…ationMasterRole], AD Exception + FullyQualifiedErrorId : ActiveDirectoryServer:0,Microsoft.ActiveDirectory.Management.Commands.MoveADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole

Seizing FSMO Roles Using PowerShell

If the current owner of one or all of the FSMO roles fails, you can receive the following error when trying to use the Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole cmdlet:

Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole : The directory service is unavailable

In this case, you can force the transfer (seize) of FSMO roles using the -Force option:

Move-ADDirectoryServerOperationMasterRole -Identity “dc2” –OperationMasterRole DomainNamingMaster,PDCEmulator,RIDMaster,SchemaMaster,InfrastructureMaster –Force

Use the –force parameter when you face the error when moving the FSMO roles using the graphical snap-ins:

The transfer of the operation master role cannot be performed because: The requested FSMO operation failed. The current FSMO role holder could not be contacted.


When transferring or seizing the FSMO roles, keep in mind the following restrictions:

  • Do not assign the Infrastructure Master role to a domain controller that is a Global Catalog server, because it won’t update object information in the domain. The reason for this behavior is that the global catalog server maintains partial replicas of all objects in the forest;
  • After the FSMO roles have been seized, the domain controller from which the roles were seized should never be connected to the domain. Be sure to remove this DC computer object from your domain (see below).

To demote a domain controller after seizing FSMO roles, you need to clear the metadata in AD:

  1. Run the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in (dsa.msc) with Domain Admins permissions;
  2. Expand the domain tree and select the Organization Unit named Domain Controllers;
  3. Right-click on the DC and select Delete.
  4. A warning will appear:

    You are attempting to delete a Domain Controller without running the removal wizard. To properly remove the Domain Controller from the domain, you should run the Remove Roles and Features Wizard in Server Manager, or the Active Directory Domain Services Installation Wizard (DCPromo) for Windows Server 2008 r2 or earlier.

  5. Select the checkbox “Delete this Domain Controller anyway. It is permanently offline and can no longer be removed using the removal wizard” and click Delete;
    migrate fsmo roles powershell
  6. Then clean up the removed domain controller metadata in the Active Directory Sites and Services. Run the dssite.msc snap-in. Locate the decommissioned domain controller in the mmc console, right-click on it and select Delete.

Hint. Starting with Windows Server 2008, the domain controller metadata is being cleaned up automatically after you delete the DC using ADUC snap-in. On Windows Server 2003 server or earlier you need to use the ntdsutil command-line tool to perform Active Directory metadata cleanup.

As you can see, PowerShell allows you to perform FSMO role management tasks much faster and easier than the Ntdsutil tools and the MMC snap-ins.

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