Windows NT's SetPrfDC controls login domain controller in WAN environment

by Wayne Maples [Published on 20 April 2004 / Last Updated on 20 April 2004]

Available as a hotfix utility after SP3 and included in SP4, SetPrfDC.exe allows you to control the order the workstation (or server) attempts to establish a secure channel connection for login. Normally NT makes a secure channel connection with the first domain control in its domain which responds. This is a race condition. Normally this is the closest domain controller but should the closest be busy momentarily, a remote BDC across a WAN connection could answer first. When this happens, the login process is slow. In some cases VERY slow. SP3 added the ability to direct the NETLOGON process to a preferred DC for the secure channel. SetPrfDC.exe is a commandline utility you can set in the user profile. The syntax is:

SETPRFDC Domain ListOfDCsInOrderofPreference(DC1,DC2,DC3,...)


setprfdc accntdom accsanfran1,accsanfran2,acclosang1

When NT connects to the network, a secure channel will be established to a domain controller. If the secure channel is to DC1, netlogon will authenication using that channel. If the secure channel is not with DC1, it will attempt to establish a secure channel to DC1. If it fails, it will try DC2, DC3, ... If all attempts to connect to a domain controller in the list, the secure channel which was made at boot will be used. This will have been with whichever domain controller answered first.

Re: number of domain controllers need - Microsoft's recommendation is: 1 PDC, 1 BDC for up to 5000 user accounts, 2 BDCs for 5,000-9,999, 5 BDCs for 10,000-19,999, 10 BDCs for 20,000-29,9999, ... The standard is a BDC for every 2-3,000 user accounts. Irregardless of number of accounts, I recommend a BDC in each remote location in the domain. We have about 3,000 user accounts spread across 4 locations. We have PDC & 2 BDCs in the head office, and a BDC in each of the three branch offices.

An alternative approach procedure: Add the following line to the file \WinNT\system32\drivers\etc\LMHOSTS on NT workstation. Start the line with the IP of the DC you want to force a logon to followed by the name of the domain & "n" spaces & \0x1C in quotes so that (domain name) + (spaces) = 15. Follow this by #PRE. If the target DC is at and the domain is "ACME" the line should look like this: "ACME           \0x1C" #PRE

If you're thinking about adding multiple lines like this don't bother, Windows NT will ignore all but the last line. Tip lifted from Minasi' Mastering Windows NT Server 4.

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