Determining a User’s Last Logon Time

Posted: January 14, 2010 in Active Directory, Networking, Server, System Information
Tags: , ,

This recipe requires the Windows Server 2003 forest functional level.

Problem

You want to determine the last time a user logged into a domain.

Solution

Using a graphical user interface

If you install the AcctInfo.dll extension to ADUC, you can view the last logon timestamp:

  1. Open the ADUC snap-in.
  2. In the left pane, right-click on the domain and select Find.
  3. Select the appropriate domain beside In.
  4. Beside Name, type the name of the user you want to modify and click Find Now.
  5. In the Search Results window, double-click on the user.
  6. Click the Additional Account Info tab.
  7. View the value for Last-Logon-Timestamp.
AcctInfo.dll can be downloaded from the Microsoft download site as a part of the Account Lockout and Management Tools:

http://microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=7AF2E69C-91F3-4E63-8629-B999ADDE0B9E&displaylang=en

Discussion

Trying to determine when a user last logged on has always been a challenge in the Microsoft NOS environment. In Windows NT, you could retrieve a user’s last logon timestamp from a PDC or BDC, but this timestamp was the last time the user logged on to the individual PDC or BDC itself. That means to determine the actual last logon, you’d have to query every domain controller in the domain. In large environments, this wasn’t practical. With Windows 2000 Active Directory, things did not improve much. A lastLogon attribute is used to store the last logon timestamp, but unfortunately, this attribute isn’t replicated. So again, to get an accurate picture, you’d have to query every domain controller in the domain for the user’s last logon attribute and keep track of the most recent one.

Now with Windows Server 2003 there is finally a viable solution. A new attribute was added to the schema for user objects called lastLogonTimestamp.This attribute is similar to the lastLogon attribute that was available previously, with two distinct differences. First, and most importantly, this attribute is replicated. That means when a user logs in, the lastLogonTimestamp attribute will get populated and then replicate to all domain controllers in the domain.

The second difference is that since lastLogonTimestamp is replicated, special safeguards needed to be put in place so that users that logged in repeatedly over a short period of time did not cause unnecessary replication traffic. For this reason, the lastLogonTimestamp is updated only if the last update occurred a week or more ago by default.(This window is configurable by modifying the msDS-LogonTimeSyncInterval on the domain NC.) This means that the lastLogonTimestamp attribute could be up to a week off in terms of accuracy with a user’s actual last logon. Ultimately, this shouldn’t be a problem for most situations because lastLogonTimestamp is intended to address the common problem where administrators want to run a query and determine which users have not logged in over the past month or more.

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