How to Use the Attribute Editor in Active Directory

The Attribute Editor in Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC) is a hidden tab that contains a list of all attributes and their values. This tab allows IT pros to view and edit almost every attribute of any object in Active Directory.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to view the Attribute Editor in Active Directory Users and Computers and how to use it along with search. Also, I will detail how to access the Attribute Editor in Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC).

View Attribute Editor in Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC)

When you open an object in the Active Directory Users and Computers Console, you can see some information tabs. These tabs contain the properties, user attributes, and AD attributes of the user account.

View a user account in Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC)
View a user account in Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC)

There is however a lot of from hidden Attributes you don’t see. In order to view all the attributes of the object, you need to take an essential step and discover a separate tab for the attribute editor.

In ADUC outlook menu, click Advanced features.

Activate the Attribute Editor tab.

After turning on Advanced Features, you will see that other organizational units (OUs) and containers are also visible.

After turning on Advanced Features, more hidden containers are visible
After turning on Advanced Features, more hidden containers are visible

With this enabled, I can go back to Billy Reinders’ record and see the new one Attribute Editor Tab.

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Now the Attribute Editor tab is shown!
Now the Attribute Editor tab is displayed!

What you can see with the attribute editor in ADUC

Once you activate the Attribute Editor tab, you can access and edit almost all attributes (of which there are almost 250) of any object in Active Directory, especially the properties of the user. Here is a subset of all user class attributes that you can see:

  • aduser username
  • cn (canonical name)
  • samaccountname
  • first name
  • Surname
  • password
  • Group Member tab
  • User Principal Name (UPN)
  • phone number
  • job title
  • department
  • profile
  • Smart Card Details
  • device details

Let’s go back to Billy’s account. You can now see some examples of other object attributes that are now available.

There are many attributes on this tab
There are a lot of attributes. I wish there was a way to hide some of these…

Most attributes are unused or ““. We can filter these out to make things a little cleaner. press the filter button and then click Show only attributes that have values.

You can filter out the unused attributes for a cleaner look
Let’s hide the unused attributes for a cleaner look

Then we have a much clearer view of Billy’s characteristics.

We now only see the attributes that we want to see
Much clearer, thanks!

As an example of what it looks like when we open an attribute for editing, here is Billy’s ‘objectGUID’.

Displaying Billy's 'ObjectGUID' in hexadecimal format
Displaying Billy’s ‘ObjectGUID’ in hexadecimal format

Note that it is stored in Active Directory in hexadecimal format. Other attributes are stored in a variety of data types.

Integrated value decoding in ADUC

You’ll notice that some of these attributes are displayed in one way but stored in a different format. For example, if I look at the pwdLastSet attribute, it shows 4/16/2021 1:23:45 PM Central Daylight Time.

Viewing an attribute for pwdLastSet
Viewing an attribute for pwdLastSet

However, when I click on the attribute and click the “Edit” button, it shows as a “Timestamp” value.

What the pwdLastSet attribute looks like when edited
What the pwdLastSet attribute looks like when edited

There are utilities and PowerShell commands you can run to manipulate and translate these values ​​between A and B to make changes effectively. To be clear, I wouldn’t be able to edit the “pwdLastSet” value and enter a date and time format of “xx/xx/xxxx x:x:xxxx”. It wouldn’t translate well to how the Active Directory database and software calculate it.

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Using the Attribute Editor in conjunction with searching Active Directory Users and Computers

There is a long-standing quirk in how the Active Directory Users and Computers GUI works in relation to the Attribute Editor tab. It’s been giving IT pros hell for decades, and here it is.

When you search for a user and open their account, you don’t find the Attribute Editor tab, even if you have Advanced Features enabled… What?!

When searching for a user, the Attribute Editor tab is not displayed
When searching for a user, the Attribute Editor tab is not displayed

Yes I know. Annoying as everyone gets off. But thankfully, there’s an effective trick to get around this frustrating behavior — let me show you.

First search for the user and double-click to open their record.

View Billy's account again
We’re going to make that work… by showing Billy’s account again

Again you will notice that the attribute editor is not displayed. press the member of and double-click one of the groups the user is a member of.

Viewing properties of one of the groups Billy is a member of...
Viewing properties of one of the groups Billy is a member of…

The next step is to close the original window containing the user, in this case the Billy Reinders Properties window.

Now close the original window for Billy
Now close the original window for Billy

Now click on the members tab in the group window, and then open the original account, Billy Reinders.

Now we can show the Attribute Editor tab!
Now we can show the Attribute Editor tab!

Voila! Here we go! I know it’s certainly a detour, but it sure is better to break down your potentially complex AD OU structure and find the original user account.

Accessing the Attribute Editor in Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC)

Well, there is another way to use the attribute editor in Active Directory. And thankfully it fixes the problem of searching for users and not showing the Attribute Editor tab.

To demonstrate, let’s open the Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC) from the Administrative Tools menu.

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The Active Directory Administrative Center
The Active Directory Administrative Center

I click Global search Look for Billy on the left and open his file.

Search for Billy Reinders in the ADAC
Search for Billy Reinders in the ADAC

i will click extensions on the left and here is the Attribute Editor Tab!

We can now easily see the Attribute Editor tab!
We can easily see the Attribute Editor tab!

Conclusion

There is a nice and easy way to access all attributes in your Active Directory environment. Yes, there are some oddities with how Microsoft designed search, but Active Directory has them hardly changed since its inception over 20 years ago. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below!

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