Imagine having only one door to your home. No windows, no patio door, just one door. What happens if you can’t open that door? The house, and everything in it, is useless to you.

A domain controller is like a door, in a sense. One with a bouncer at it. It’s the gateway to get inside to the things you want. Active Directory (AD) is the bouncer at the door. It checks your credentials, determines if you are allowed to go through the door, and what resources you can access once inside. 

If you’re running a network of any kind and only have one domain controller, you’re living in a house with one door. If something happens to that domain controller, your whole system of servers falls apart. Always have more than one domain controller (DC).

But how do you make sure that both domain controllers have the same information? Let’s say you made a security-related change on one DC. You want to make sure that change is replicated on your other DCs immediately. Why wait 15 minutes or more for it to happen by schedule? You need to force replication of the domain controllers in Active Directory

There are 3 ways to approach this; through the graphical user interface (GUI), through the command-line interface (CLI), or via PowerShell.

Force Replication Of Domain Controller Through GUI

Windows servers make use of GUIs a lot, which is good for novice Systems Administrators. It’s easier to learn and sometimes helps you visualize what’s really happening. 

  1. Log in to one of your DCs and open Active Directory Sites and Services.
  1. Navigate to the site for which you’d like to replicate the domain controllers. Expand it by clicking the arrowhead next to the site name. Expand the Servers. Expand the DC which you’d like to replicate. Click on NTDS Settings.
  1. In the right pane, right-click on the server and select Replicate Now.
  1. Depending on how many DCs there are, this could take less than a second to a few minutes. When it is complete, you’ll see the notification, “Active Directory Domain Services has replicated the connections.”. Click OK to finish.

Force Replication of Domain Controllers Through CLI Command

If you’re familiar with the good old Windows CMD, then the repadmin command is for you. This is the quickest one-off way to force DC duplication. If you’re not familiar then this is a good time to learn about Windows CMD

  1. Log in to one of your DCs and open the Command Prompt.
  1. Enter the following command, and then press the Enter key.
repadmin /syncall /AdeP
  1. A litany of information will scroll up the screen. If you see that the last line reads, “SyncAll terminated with no errors.”, and then the command prompt underneath it, your DCs are successfully replicated.

Force Domain Controller Replication With PowerShell

If you’re not using PowerShell in your daily life, you’re missing out. You really owe it to yourself to learn PowerShell. It will make your life easier, and if you’re a Junior Systems Administrator it will massively help take your career to the next step.

These steps can be done in the ordinary PowerShell CLI, but we’ve done it in the PowerShell ISE to better show the commands and their results. We’re going to build a script that you can save or even turn into a cmdlet that you can call from the PowerShell command line.

  1. Log in to one of your DCs and open PowerShell or PowerShell ISE.
  1. Before writing any script, save this with a descriptive name like force-DCReplication.ps1 so you can reuse it easier. Enter the following code and run it to see how it will get the names of all your DCs.
(Get-ADDomainController -Filter *).Name

See how it returns the names of the DCs? Now you can pipe that result into the next cmdlet. A pipe is the vertical line character ( | ), that’s usually found on the keyboard just above the Enter key.

  1. At the end of the previous command, enter the following code:
| Foreach-Object { repadmin /syncall $_ (Get-ADDomain).DistinguishedName /AdeP }

The command should look like it does in the image below. Run it. It should return a message just like the one back in the Force Domain Controller Replication Through GUI section above. If it ends with, “SyncAll terminated with no errors.” then it worked. 

Did you see how it also uses the repadmin command?

  1. Let’s add another line to help you make sure that the replication really did complete. The following code will return the date and time of when each of your DCs was last replicated. This command could be used on its own at another time if you’re just curious when your DCs last replicated. Enter the code and run it.
Get-ADReplicationPartnerMetadata -Target "$env:userdnsdomain" -Scope Domain | Select-Object Server, LastReplicationSuccess

The result should resemble the image below. You’ll see at the bottom the exact date and time the replication last took place.

  1. To put some polish on this script, let’s make its output a little less verbose. Near the end of the first line, enter | Out-Null between the /AdeP and the end bracket. That tells it to not put out the results of that cmdlet. The end result will look like the following image.

Keep’em Replicated

Now you know 3 ways to force replication of domain controllers in AD. You’ve also put together a reusable PowerShell script that you can call from the PowerShell command-line whenever you want. There’s no excuse for your latest DC changes to sit and wait for the next scheduled replication, whenever that may be.