Step-by-Step Guide to Fine-Grained Passwords in Windows Server 2008

Introduction - Previous Versions of Windows Server

In Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 Active Directory
domains, you could apply only one password and account lockout policy,
which is specified in the domain's Default Domain Policy, to all users
in the domain. As a result, if you wanted different password and account
lockout settings for different sets of users, you had to either create a password filter or deploy multiple domains.

Fine-Grained Passwords in Windows Server 2008

In Windows Server 2008, you can use fine-grained password policies to
specify multiple password policies and apply different password
restrictions and account lockout policies to different sets of users
within a single domain. For example, to increase the security of
privileged accounts, you can apply stricter settings to the privileged accounts and then apply less strict settings to the accounts of other users.

Another valid application for using fine-grained password policies, are situations where legacy applications
or other data sources require password synchronization.  These
situations may require us to relax certain aspects of password
complexity or length.

Step-By-Step Configuration of Fine-Grained Passwords in Windows Server 2008

I find it’s best to work with an example to demonstrate a solution,
so in this case we will assume that you have a number of users who are
Special Administrators and require a stronger password group policy than
the standard user.  We will refer to these users as SpecialAdmins

In the following steps, we will configure a fine-grained password policy in Windows Server 2008 with the following settings:

Policy Name Policy Setting

Enforce password history

24 passwords remembered

Maximum password age

30 days

Minimum password age

1 day

Minimum password length

12 characters

Passwords must meet complexity requirements


Account lockout duration


Account lockout threshold


Reset account lockout counter after

30 minutes

Table 1: Password Policy

Note: yourdomainname in the following steps should be replaced with the NETBIOS name of your domain.

  1. Logon to a Windows Server 2008 domain controller using an account that has membership in the Domain Admins group, or equivalent permissions.

  2. Go to Start, Administrative Tools, and then select Active Directory Users and Computers

    Active Directory Users and Computers

  3. Expand, right-click on the Users container, select New, and then select Group.

  4. On the New Object - Group window, enter SpecialAdmins into the Group Name field, and then click OK

    New Object - Group

  5. Close Active Directory Users and Computers

  6. Click Start, click RUN, type ADSIEDIT.MSC, and then click OK


  7. In the ADSI Edit snap-in, right-click ADSI Edit, and then click Connect to

  8. In the Name field, enter, and then click OK

  9. Double-click in the console tree, double-click DC=yourdomainname,DC=com, double-click CN=System, and then click CN=Password Settings Container

    CN=Password Settings Container

  10. Right-click CN=Password Settings Container in the console tree, click New, and then click Object

    Password Settings Container - New Object

  11. In the Create Object dialog box, under Select a class, click msDC-PasswordSettings, and then click Next.

    Create Object - msDS-PasswordSettings

  12. In the Create Object dialog box, enter SpecialAdmins in the Value field, and then click Next.

    Create Object - msDS-PasswordSettings Value

  13. For the msDS-PasswordSettingsPrecedence value, enter 1, and then click Next


  14. For the msDS-PasswordReversibleEncryptionEnabled value, enter false, and then click Next


  15. For the msDS-PasswordHistoryLength value, enter 24, and then click Next


  16. For the msDS-PasswordComplexityEnabled value, enter false, and then click Next


  17. For the msDS-MinimumPasswordLength value, enter 12, and then click Next


  18. For the msDS-MinimumPasswordAge, enter 1:00:00:00, and then click Next


  19. For the msDS-MaximumPasswordAge, enter 30:00:00:00, and then click Next


  20. For the msDS-LockoutThreshold, enter 3, and then click Next


  21. For the msDS-LockoutObservationWindow, enter 0:00:30:00, and then click Next


  22. For the msDS-LockoutDuration, enter (never), and then click Next, then click Finish


  23. Right-click on CN=SpecialAdmins in the console tree, and then select Properties

    msDS-PasswordSettings Properties

  24. On the CN=SpecialAdmins Properties window, select the msDS-PSOAppliesTo attribute, and then click the Edit button


  25. On the Multi-valued Distinguished Name With Security Principal Editor window, click on the Add Windows Account button

    Multi-valued Distinguished Name With Security Principal Editor

  26. On the Select Users, Computers, or Groups window, enter SpecialAdmins in the Enter the object names to select field, and then click OK

    Select Users, Computers, or Groups

  27. Click OK on the Multi-valued Distinguished Name With Security Principal Editor window

  28. Click OK on the CN=SpecialAdmins Properties window



This step-by-step guide demonstrated how to configure fine-grained passwords in Windows Server 2008.  We defined a number of password settings and applied it to a Active Directory Group.  From now on, all user members of the group will be applied with the custom password policy.


What is the function of the msDS-LockoutDuration element of the fine-grain account lockout policy?



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