How-To Geek

IT: How to Join Machines to Your Active Directory Domain


We have shown you how to install Active Directory on your network, but it’s pointless to have a Domain Controller unless you add your machines to the Domain, so today we’re going to cover how to do that.

Note: this is part of our ongoing series teaching IT administration basics, and might not apply to everybody.

Adding a Computer to an Active Directory Domain is not hard by any means, but there are 3 things you should always remember:

  • Rename the machine to a user friendly, recognizable name before adding it to the Domain.
  • Make sure your DNS settings are pointing to the correct DNS Server for the domain.
  • You have to have access to a Domain account that is part of the Domain Admins security group.

Joining a Machine To a Domain

Open Computer and click on the System Properties button.


Now click on the Advanced system settings link on the left hand side.


When the advanced system settings open, switch to the computer name tab.


Click on the change button, from here you can change your Computers Name to a more friendly name.



Now switch the radio button, in the bottom section, from Workgroup to Domain. This will make the text box become available.


Now type in the name of your domain, ours is howtogeek.local, but yours will be whatever you made it when you set up Active Directory.


When you hit enter, or click ok, you will be asked for the user name and password of a Domain Admin user account.


If you specify the correct credentials you will be welcomed to the Domain.


Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 01/26/12

Comments (13)

  1. mathijs175

    isn’t it better to first change the computer name, restart, and then change the domain?
    i had it several times, when doing it all together, that the pc went into the AD correctly, but it came in with his old name. this means you have to do it all over, setting the name correct again, restarting and drinking coffee for an hour, because domains are usually slower(depending on domain of course)

  2. Alendra

    Just a note to join an AD domain, your Windows edition must be Professional or above.

  3. Taylor Gibb

    @Alendra aaaaah thanks, i forgot to mention that :)

  4. Tom

    The other issues I see with this article, is that is only addresses joining the domain if you are using a new machine. If you have a user machine that has already been in use, then the users profile settings will be lost on their new domain profile. You would need to login as another user on the domain, and copy the ntuser.dat file from their old profile, to the new domain profile, in order to keep their previous settings. You also will have to manually move their Documents, Favorites, and any other files they might need to the new profile as well.

  5. Alendra

    Or you could use the migration tool shipped with windows :)

  6. Tony

    Great article. Easy to read, and well written. Please keep these I.T. professional articles coming. One on DNS would be awesome (if not already written, if so I haven’t seen it).

  7. Scott

    Could you add information for incorporating non-windows machine into the domain?

  8. Jim

    What is the advantages of adding a computer to the domain?

  9. Lee

    A quicker way using Windows 7 is to click Start (Orb), right click “Computer”, choose “Properties”. Then when the system screen comes up, scroll down to “Computer name, domain and workgroup settings” and click on “Change Settings” and you can add the computer to the domain there.

    Even faster way to get to the system screen is to hold down the Windows key and press the Pause/Break key :-)

  10. Hiten

    Yes ,Great article please more update on Domain Controller or WIN 2k8

  11. Willem

    Scott, the reason you want to join computers to the domain is so that you can control them. non-windows machines cannot be controlled so therefor it is of no use of joining them to the domain. just use windows machines and these company resources are controlled by the one whose job it is to control them… the IT-dept. He who thinks different, probably does not work in the IT-dept so should consider himself with his job and not IT ;-)

  12. jmesker


    Not true, samba can join a domain and allow domain users to login to the linux box with their AD accounts and permissions.

  13. Kevin

    One thing not mentioned, is that Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 (SBS) makes adding computer easy (if you have the domain set up on the server end and have run the connect to the internet wizard in the SBS console/Network/Connectivity on the right in the Tasks pain) simply go to the SBS console/Network/Computers on the right task pain click “connect computers to your network” this gives you a nice wizard, and when finished you can then go to the computer (must be windows Pro or above) and go to http://connect this sometimes makes a search on some browsers so in the wizard you can also get the program to join the domain, and put it on a flash drive, then just run it on your computer you desire to connect. Doing it this way will allow you to automatically migrate the local users data to matching profiles on the server. I hope this is helpful. Thanks HTG for all your help in my quest to gain knowledge you are one of my favorite RSS feeds.

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