Archive for June, 2012

Active Directory (AD) relies on several communications services to communicate with client computers and between domain controllers. The variety of communications protocols used reflects the complex nature both of AD and of the industry-standard protocols that AD implements, such as Kerberos and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

Understanding how AD communicates can be critical when you’re working with domain controllers or clients that are separated from domain controllers by firewalls or other port filtering devices (such as routers).

Basic Communications

AD needs only a few basic services to be available for normal operations:

User Datagram Protocol (UDP) port 88 is used for Kerberos authentication. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port 88 can also be used, although it’s less common.

  • TCP and UDP ports 135 are needed for remote procedure call (RPC) endpoint mapping. RPCs are used for a number of domain controller-to-domain controller and client-to domain controller operations. Unfortunately, not all communications take place over port 135, as I’ll discuss later.
  • TCP port 139 and UDP port 138 are needed for file replication between domain controllers. This port combination is the standard NetBIOS session service port set.
  • UDP port 389 handles LDAP queries and is used for normal domain controller operations.
  • TCP and UDP ports 445 are used for file replication and are the standard Windows files sharing ports.
  • TCP and UDP ports 464 are the Kerberos password change protocol ports.
  • TCP port 593 is used by the RPC over HTTP transport. Although you don’t technically need this port for normal operations, I’ll discuss later how this feature can make working with domain controllers through firewalls a bit easier.
  • TCP port 636 is for LDAP over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is the default LDAP methodology for Windows Server 2003 and later.
  • TCP port 3268 and 3269 handle Global Catalog (GC) queries. Port 3269 handles secure queries. Any domain controller that needs access to a GC or that is acting as a GC server will use these ports.
  • TCP and UDP ports 53 are used to communicate with Domain Name System (DNS), which is a vital part of AD communications.

Generally, opening these ports between clients and domain controllers, or between domain controllers, will enable AD to function normally. One exception is RPC traffic.