Joining a Windows 10 Device to the Domain (Updated for Windows 10 Update 20H2)

Introduction

Up until Windows 10 Update 20H2, many people joined workstations and servers to their domain environment using methods such as accessing the Run Prompt and entering “control system” to access the System Information portion of Control Panel, then clicking the option to modify the name of the device (the resulting window gave you the option to join a domain). Or by visiting the Control Panel and navigating to: System and Security > System > Computer name,domain, and workgroup settings > Change Settings.

With the introduction of Update 20H2, Microsoft has altered this option. In Step 2 shown in the above screenshot, Windows administrators would usually expect the System Properties window to appear, where one could click “Change…” to change either the name of the computer or the domain/workgroup to which the workstation was joined. With Update 20H2, Step 2 of the above screenshot now opens to the Windows 10 Settings App, which many administrators have been reluctant to accept, as the Windows Properties window had previously remained largely unchanged since Windows 95.

While this isn’t a new method of joining a machine to the domain, it was often ignored since many administrators preferred the traditional method discussed in the first paragraph of this post, or primarily administer their domain via PowerShell. This brief article will walk through some options for joining a traditional local Active Directory domain, especially if you really just have to have that System Properties window.

All the methods outlined below assume the device is already connected to the domain’s network and has the appropriate network configuration.

Joining the Domain – Run Prompt

Strike together the Windows + R combination on the keyboard, or right-click the Start Menu icon and select “Run” to open the Run Prompt.

Type: sysdm.cpl and strike the Enter/Return key on the keyboard or click OK.

In the resulting System Properties window, click Change…

In the resulting Computer Name/Domain Changes window, select the radio button called “Domain:” and enter the domain you wish to join (example: yourdomain.com). When done, click OK.

You may be prompted for credentials; in order to join the domain, you’ll need the credentials of a domain user account which has permissions to join devices to the domain. A domain administrator account is typically used for this function.

After entering the requisite credentials, the device will prompt you to reboot. After rebooting, the device will have been joined to the domain.

Joining the Domain – PowerShell

We can also join a machine to a local domain via a Windows PowerShell command. If you’re like me and prefer to do most of your Windows administrator via the command line, this option is for you.

Launch PowerShell (running as administrator) and type the below command:

Add-Computer -DomainName "yourdomain.com" -Restart

You may be prompted for credentials; in order to join the domain, you’ll need the credentials of a domain user account which has permissions to join devices to the domain. A domain administrator account is typically used for this function.

After entering the requisite credentials, the device will reboot. After rebooting, the device will have been joined to the domain. Easy-peasy, and works as quickly as your can type assuming no network issues.

Joining the Domain – Win10 Settings App

Last–and least–is the Windows 10 Settings App. I just…do we have to? We should at least talk about it. Alright.

On the keyboard, press together the Windows+i combination to open the Windows 10 Settings app. Alternatively, you can right-click the Start Menu icon and select Settings.

In the resulting Settings window, click into the Accounts module.

In the resulting page, use the navigation pane at the left of the window to select the “Access work or school” option. Then, click Connect.

Once you’ve clicked Connect, you’ll have a Microsoft Account window appear. Near the bottom of the window, click the “Join this device to a local Active Directory domain” option. Of course, if you’re using Azure Active Directory (AAD), then you can of course use that option.

In the resulting Join a Domain window, input the domain you wish to join, then click Next.

Once you click Next, you’ll be prompted for the requisite domain administrator credentials, after which the computer will prompt you to reboot. Once reboot is complete, the device will then be joined to the domain.

Conclusion

While Windows 10 Update 20H2 removed what some people thought of as the most traditional way of joining a machine to the domain (via the control panel and system information window), there are still a host of other options available. My personal preference for a one-off quick-join remains the sysdm.cpl method via the Run Prompt for its ease of use, the fact that it has remained the same throughout windows versions even through the 20H2 update, and the face that it maintains the graphical user interface with which many folks are already familiar.

The Windows 10 Settings app method isn’t necessarily horrible, but it’s more navigation and more clicks to accomplish the same thing, hence why I feel so many Windows administrators dislike the approach. To Microsoft’s credit, it does make some sense given their Azure Active Directory offering and their push to get customers to the cloud. In previous Windows 10 update releases, I feel the software giant is pushing its customers more and more toward Azure and the cloud with various included products like synced Edge bookmarks, OneDrive, OneNote, etc. What do you think of the smaller administrative changes that Microsoft is making to Windows 10? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Additional Reading

Join a Computer to a Domain | Microsoft Docs

PowerShell to join the computer to domain – Just Do Cloud

Author: griffethbarker

Griff is a tinkerer and manager of IT, consultant of IT and management, and continuous student of organizational development. His hobbies and interests include games of all types (video, board, dice, card, tabletop, etc.) as well as listening to music, photography, and writing. Find him on LinkedIn!

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