msktutil − fetches and manages kerberos keytabs in an Active Directory environment


msktutil [command 1] [command 2] [command 3] ...


msktutil is a keytab client for a Microsoft Active Directory environment. This program is capable of creating an account for this computer in Active Directory, adding service principals to that account, and creating a local keytab file so that kerberizied services can utilize Active directory as a Kerberos realm. This utility requires that the Kerberos client libraries are properly installed and configured to use Active Directory as a realm.

Whenever a principal is added or the keytab is updated, the secret password for the computer’s machine account is reset. This password is not stored, so it needs to be reset each time msktutil is executed. All entries in the keytab will be automatically updated whenever the machine password is reset. The previous entries will be left in the keytab, so sessions using the older key versions will not break. This behavior is similar to the way Windows hosts handle machine password changes.


There are two common methods of using this program. The first is to "kinit" with Administrator-like credentials which have permission to create computer objects in your Active Directory server. If you invoke the program with such credentials, you can create a new computer account from scratch.

The second is to pre-create the computer accounts with such credentials, and then invoke this program on a machine without any special permissions. When the computer account exists already, msktutil will attempt to authenticate as that account using either the existing keytab, or if that fails, the default computer password. It will then change the password and update the keytab appropriately. This is usually the more convenient option when joining many computers to the domain.

To pre-create the computer account, you may use the Active Directory Users and Computers GUI, select "new computer" from the right click menu, and type the short DNS name, then right click on the newly created object and select "Reset account" to set the password to the default value. Another alternative is to invoke msktutil with the --precreate argument. Both methods accomplish the same thing.


Be aware that Windows machines will, by default, automatically change their account password every 30 days, and thus many domains have a 90-day password expiry window, after which your keytab will stop working. There are two ways to deal with this:

a) (Preferred): Make sure you’re running a daily cron job to run msktutil --auto-update, which will change the password automatically 30 days after it was last changed and update the keytab.

b) (Not preferred): disable password expiry for the account via the --dont-expire-password option (or otherwise setting DONT_EXPIRE_PASSWORD flag in userAccountControl in AD).


Note: Unlike other kerberos implementations, Active Directory has only a single key for all of the principals associated with the account. So, if you create a HTTP/hostname service principal, it will share the same key as the host/hostname principal. If you want to isolate (security-wise) different service principals, you may want to make a dedicate account for them.

Also note: kinit -k ’host/computername’ *will not work*, by default, even when that is a valid service principal existing in your keytab. Active Directory does not allow you to authenticate as a service principal, so do not use that as a test of whether the service principal is working. If you actually want to authenticate as the computer account user, kinit -k ’computername$’ instead.

If you really need to be able to authenticate as ’host/computername’, you can also use the --upn argument to set the userPrincipalName attribute (generally requires administrator credentials, not computer account credentials). Both ’computername$’ and the value of userPrincipalName are treated as valid account names to kinit as.


-v, --version

Displays version information


Displays a help message

-c, --create

Creates a default keytab. Equivalent to --update --service host.

-f, --flush

Flushes out all principals for the current hostname from the keytab, and makes corresponding changes to the machine account.

-u, --update

Forces a change of the machine password, and updates all related service principal entries from the servicePrincipalName and userPrincipalName attributes. Always updates dNSDomainName and supportedEncryptionTypes attributes with current values, and applies other changes as specified.


Checks if the password is at least 30 days old (from pwdLastSet attribute), and that the account does not have password expiry disabled. If those conditions are met, acts just like --update. Will also update if the keytab failed to authenticate but the default password did work. (e.g. after resetting the account in AD). Otherwise, exits without doing anything (even if attribute modifying options are given). This option is intended for use from a daily crontab to ensure that the password is rotated regularly.


Pre-create (or update) an account for the given host with default password. Does not use or update local keytab. Requires -h or --computer-name argument. Implies --user-creds-only. Generally requires administrator credentials.


-b, --base <base>

Specifies a relative LDAP base when creating a new machine account. For example, specifying ’-b OU=Unix’ for a computer named SERVER in an Active Directory domain would create a computer account in the LDAP path: CN=SERVER,OU=Unix,DC=EXAMPLE,DC=COM. This option can also be specified by setting the MSKTUTIL_LDAP_BASE environment variable to the desired value.

If not specified, the default value is read from AD (and the default there, unless modified by an admin, is CN=Computers).

--computer-name <name>

Specifies that the new account should use <name> for the computer account name and the SAM Account Name. Note that a ’$’ will be automatically appended to the SAM Account Name. Defaults to the machine’s hostname, excluding the realm, with dots replaced with dashes.

That is: if the realm is EXAMPLE.COM, and the hostname is FOO.EXAMPLE.COM, the default computer name is FOO. If the hostname is FOO.BAR.EXAMPLE.COM, the default computer name is FOO-BAR.

-h, --hostname <name>

Overrides the current hostname to be used to be <name>. If this is not specified, the local host name will be used. Note that the local name lookup service will be to qualify and resolve names into fully-qualified names, including a domain extension. This affects the default hostname for other arguments, and the default computer-name. The hostname is also used to set the dNSDomainName attribute.

-k, --keytab <file>

Specifies to use <file> for the keytab. This option can also be specified by setting the MSKTUTIL_KEYTAB environment variable to the name of the desired keytab file. This keytab is both read from, in order to authenticate as the computer account, and written to, after updating the account password. Default: /etc/krb5.keytab

--server <server>

Specifies to use <server> as the domain controller. This affects both kerberos and ldap operations. The server can also be specified by setting the MSKTUTIL_SERVER environment variable. Default: looked up in DNS from the realm name.


Don’t attempt to authenticate with machine keytab: only use user’s credentials (from e.g. kinit). You may need to do this to modify certain attributes that require Administrator credentials (description, userAccountControl, userPrincipalName, in a default AD setup).


Enables verbose status messages



Enables the computer account to be trusted for delegation. This option can also be enabled by setting the MSKTUTIL_DELEGATION environment variable. This modifies the userAccountControl attribute. Generally requires administrator credentials.

--description <text>

Sets the machine account’s description attribute to the given text (or removes if text is ’’). Generally requires administrator credentials.


Disables the computers account from being trusted for delegation. This modifies the userAccountControl attribute. Generally requires administrator credentials.


Unsets the flag that disables the KDC’s including of a PAC in the machine’s service tickets. This modifies the userAccountControl attribute. Generally requires administrator credentials.


Sets the DONT_EXPIRE_PASSSWORD bit in the userAccountControl attribute, which disables password expiry for this account. If you don’t run a cron job to periodically rotate the keytab, you will want to set this flag. Generally requires administrator credentials.


Unsets the DONT_EXPIRE_PASSWORD flag in the userAccountControl attribute. Generally requires administrator credentials.

--enctypes <integer>

Sets the supported encryption types in the msDs-supportedEncryptionTypes field.

You may OR together the following values: 0x1=des-cbc-crc 0x2=des-cbc-md5 0x4=rc4-hmac-md5 0x8=aes128-ctc-hmac-sha1 0x10=aes256-cts-hmac-sha1

This value is used to determine which encryption types AD will offer to use, and which encryption types to put in the keytab.

If the value is set to 0x3 (that is: only the two DES types), it also attempts to set the DES-only flag in userAccountControl.

Note: Windows 2008R2 refuses to use DES by default; you thus cannot use DES-only keys unless you have enabled DES encryption for your domain first. Recent versions of MIT kerberos clients similarly refuse to use DES by default.

Default: sets the value to 0x1C: that is, use anything but DES.


Specifies that service tickets for this computer account should not contain a PAC. This modifies the userAccountControl attribute. See Microsoft Knowledge Base article #832575 for details. This option can also be specified by setting the MSKTUTIL_NO_PAC environment variable. Generally requires administrator credentials.

-s, --service <principal>

Specifies a service principal to add to the account (and thus keytab, if appropriate). The service is of the form <service>/<hostname>. If the hostname is omitted, assumes current hostname.

--remove-service <principal>

Specifies a service principal to remove from the account (and keytab if appropriate).

--upn <principal>

Sets the userPrincipalName on the computer account to be <principal>. Note that the realm will automatically be appended to the value given. The userPrincipalName is an additional name which can be used to kinit. This is generally unnecessary, since you can always authenticate as COMPUTERNAME$ whether or not userPrincipalName is set. Generally requires administrator credentials.


For unprivileged users the most common invocations are:

msktutil -u -s host -s HTTP

This will update a computer account in Active Directory with a new password, write out a new keytab, and ensure that it has both "host" and "HTTP" service principals are on it for the hostname.

msktutil --auto-update

This is useful in a daily cron job to check and rotate the password automatically when it’s 30 days old.

For users with admin privileges in AD, some common uses:

msktutil --precreate --host

This will pre-create an account for computer1 with the default password using your credentials. This can be done on a central host, e.g. to script the addition of many hosts. You can then use msktutil --create on the hosts themselves (without special credentials) to join them to the domain.

msktutil --host afs --service afs --enctypes 0x03

This will create an afs/ principal, and associate that principal with a computer account called ’afs’. The principal will be marked as DES-only, which at least was required for AFS in the past (is this really *still* true in 2010?).


James Y. Knight