Querying Active Directory on SQL Server using T-SQL

You may come to a situation when you need to retrieve list of users, groups or other information from Windows Active Directory (AD) or another LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) from within SQL Server.  You may want to store the information from AD in SQL Server tables for later use, or for example determine list of users belonging to particular group etc..

There are basically 3 ways of accessing the Active Directory on SQL Server.

  1. Use Linked Server
  2. User OPENROWSET statement
  3. Using CLR

This article will focus on Querying the Active Directory using the first 2 options. The CLR way is describe in my next article Querying Active Directory on SQL Server using CLR.

Access Active Directory using Linked Server

First I will focus on the Linked Server way to access the AD. So the first step is to create a Linked Server. Tis can be done using the sp_addlinkedserver system stored procedure or using Management Studio and we will use the OLE DB Provider for Microsoft Directory Services (ADSDSOObject).

Creating the Linked Server using the sp_addlinkedserver system stored procedure

To get the linked server working we need to add the linked server itself and also provide credentials to be used by linked server. Here we have two possibilities – use the login’s current security context – this mean use credentials of currently authenticated user (will not work for SQL Server authentication) or provide some AD account credentials to access the linked server.

EXEC sp_addlinkedserver @server = N'ADSI', @srvproduct=N'Active Directory Service Interfaces', @provider=N'ADSDSOObject', @datasrc=N'adsdatasource'

Prior we can use the linked server we have to add a login to that linked server which will be used to authenticate against AD. There are three possibilities:

--Use current user security context (Linked server will use security context of currently autheticated user
EXEC sp_addlinkedsrvlogin @rmtsrvname=N'ADSI',@useself=N'True',@locallogin=NULL,@rmtuser=NULL,@rmtpassword=NULL

--Use one remote account for all users (Linked server will be available to all users) and will use 'DOMAINUserAccount' for authetication to AD
EXEC sp_addlinkedsrvlogin @rmtsrvname=N'ADSI',@useself=N'False',@locallogin=NULL,@rmtuser=N'DOMAINUserAccount',@rmtpassword=N'DomainAccountPassword'

--The Linked Server will be available to SQL Server Login 'SQL Server Login Name' and will use the 'DomainUserAccount' for authetication to AD
EXEC sp_addlinkedsrvlogin @rmtsrvname=N'ADSI',@useself=N'False',@locallogin=N'SQL Server Login Name',@rmtuser=N'DOMAINUserAccunt',@rmtpassword=N'DomainAccountPassword'
Creating the Linked Server using Management Studio

Create Linked Server Step 1Create Linked Server Step 2Create Linked Server Step 3

Querying AD using the Linked Server

Once we have created the linked server we can start querying the AD and we have two possibilities to construct the query against AD (LDAP).

  1. Use SQL Dialect (MSDN)
  2. Use LDAP Dialect (MSDN)

I will show some sample queries using both dialect and details you can find on the above links.

SQL Dialect

SQL Dialect uses the constructs of SQL language and we can write queries against the AD

--Select all groups
FROM OPENQUERY(ADSI,'SELECT cn, ADsPath FROM ''LDAP://DC=Fabricam,DC=com'' WHERE objectCategory=''group''')

--Select all users
FROM OPENQUERY(ADSI,'SELECT cn, ADsPath FROM ''LDAP://OU=Sales,DC=Fabricam,DC=com'' WHERE bjectCategory=''person'' AND objectClass=''user''')

Be aware, the the LDAP is case sensitive, so you have to write LDAP:// and not ldap:// otherwise you will not receive any results. Also remember that the LDAP path needs to be enclosed in single quotes and therefore when it is specified in the OPENQUERY statement, it needs to be double single quoted as in example.

Also remember, that LDAP query returns only first 1000 records matching the specified conditions. Once the limit is met, you will receive and error message. You can limit the number of records using the TOP clause to not receive the error. To receive more than 1000 records is possible by using pagination, but it’s quite problematic in T-SQL and I will show this method in the upcoming article which will focus on getting AD data using CLR.

LDAP Dialect

As mentioned above, the other option to make query against the AD is using the LDAP dialect and details about the dialect you can find on the link above. Details how you write the condition in LDAP dialect you can find on MSDN Search Filter Syntax. Using the LDAP dialect we have a greater possibilities in writing conditions, which allow us easily retrieve members of AD Groups etc..

--Select all groups
FROM OPENQUERY(ADSI,'<LDAP://DC=Fabricam,DC=com>;(&(objectCategory=group));cn,ADsPath;subtree')

--Select all users
FROM OPENQUERY(ADSI,'<LDAP://OU=Sales,DC=Fabricam,DC=com>;(&(objectCategory=person)(objectClass=user));cn,ADsPath;subtree')

--Select all users belonging to group 'MyGroup'
FROM OPENQUERY(ADSI,'<LDAP://DC=Fabricam,DC=com>;(&(objectCategory=user)(objectClass=user)(memberOf=MyGroups,OU=Security Groups,OU=Groups,DC=Fabricam,DC=com));cn,ADsPath;subtree')

Access Active Directory using OPENROWSET statement

The method of accessing Active Directory using the OPENROWSET statement is similar to the Linked Server solution. The difference is, that we do not have to create the linked server, but instead of this we provide all the information related to driver, login etc. directly as parameters of the OPENROWSET statement.

Again we have the possibilities to use SQL Dialect or LDAP dialect whatever suits your needs better. Here are some Examples.

--Select all Groups which name starts with "D" (SQL Dialect)
FROM OPENROWSET('ADSDSOObject', '','SELECT cn, ADsPath FROM ''LDAP://DC=Fabricam,DC=com'' WHERE objectCategory=''group'' AND cn=''D*''')

--Select all users (LDAP Dialect) providing also credentials and flags
FROM OPENROWSET('ADSDSOObject', 'User ID=UserName;Password=UserPassword;ADSI Flag=0x11;','<LDAP://OU=Sales,DC=Fabricam,DC=com>;(&(objectCategory=user)(objectClass=user));cn,ADsPath;subtree')

In the second example with LDAP Dialect I’ve used also an “ADSI Flag” option. This option specifies binding authentication option and can be a combination of values from the ADS_AUTHENTICATION_ENUM.


The ADSI interface provides us an easy and simple way how to query Active Directory from SQL Server directly sing T-SQL commands. The biggest limitation of that approach is, that it cannot return more than 1000 records in a single batch. This is possible using a Paged Search, but unfortunately this is not available in the T-SQL approach. Although we are limited to 1000 records per batch, we can partially avoid this limitation by adding additional conditions to the query e.g. retrieving all users in batches by the first letter of Common Name etc.. The real power in querying AD brings CLR solution described in Querying Active Directory on SQL Server using CLR.