Joining ESXi to a Domain

Learn the process for Joining ESXi to a Domain

Using domain credentials for your VMware environment only makes sense.  It alleviates the hassle of having to keep up with two different sets of user credentials and makes for a much more centralized authentication model for users as well as administrators.  With ESXi and vCenter you have the “Authentication Services” Settings that allows you to actually link your ESXi box to your domain that you would like to add user accounts from.  Let’s take a look and see how this is accomplished in the vSphere 4.1 Client.

Click on your host in the vSphere Client and then navigate to your “Configuration” tab


Once you are here, click on the “Properties” button that is all the way on the right hand side of the client.  You will see the box below pop up that shows the “Local Authentication” selected which is the default mode.



Here we have clicked the “Local Authentication” dropdown box and selected “Active Directory.”


Type in the name of your domain and click the “Join Domain” button on the above screen and you will see the following screen which will ask you for domain credentials to authenticate.


After you successfully join your domain, you will see the following information in your Directory Services Configuration:


Also your status in your Authentication Services Settings should reflect your domain that you have joined:



At this point, we want to login to vSphere using domain credentials, right click on our host, click the “Add Permission” menu option




You will see the permissions dialog box below which displays after drilling into the Add Permission
option.  We need to click on the “ADD” button under “Users and Groups” to display our locations of where to choose users:


Once we are there, notice how we now have the option to select users from both the local server as well as our domain which we joined:



A couple of things to note:


  • You need to make sure your vCenter box is joined to the domain which you want to add users from and you are logged into your vCenter box with a user who has permissions to add users from the domain.  This is of course a side task in addition to joining your ESXi box to the domain.
  • You will see your ESXi box in your “Computers” container in Active Directory after the domain joining finishes which will help confirm that it was successful

In conclusion this is a rather easy task to accomplish with the new vCenter/vSphere interface and most administrators will have no problems with the logic behind how permissions work in vSphere as it is rather intuitive.

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Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

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