Troubleshooting Active Directory integration

It’s common for companies to integrate Octopus with Active Directory to manage their users and teams. Active Directory is very flexible and can have complex configurations, so we’ve put together this troubleshooting guide to help people troubleshoot and resolve authentication issues.

This information is provided as a guide to help teams troubleshoot Octopus authentication issues with Active Directory. This, combined with a solid working knowledge of your infrastructure and some perseverance, should help resolve most issues.

  • Configuring Active Directory users
  • Verifying configuration values
  • Logging
  • Read-Only Domain Controllers are not supported
  • Run as a different user not working

Octopus integrates with Active Directory to authenticate users as well as authorize what actions they can perform. Our Active Directory authentication page provides more information on how to set up Octopus to work with Active Directory and some details on how it’s technically implemented. Essentially, Octopus interacts with Active Directory in two ways:

  1. First, we authenticate a users’ credentials are valid by invoking the Windows API LogonUser() function.
  2. If that is successful, Octopus will then query Active Directory for information about the user. In this second interaction, we retrieve the groups a user is a member of and use them to determine what teams they belong to.

Teams are not Distribution Groups Whilst you might have a team that you would think maps to a Distribution Group, this does not mean that subscriptions will send emails to the DG email address configured in Active Directory. Teams in Octopus are more synonymous with Security Groups and are used to determine accessibility. To send subscription emails to a Distribution Group, email address will require setting up a user with that email address and assigning them to the appropriate Octopus team.

How Active Directory authentication works

Before troubleshooting Active Directory within Octopus Deploy, it is critical to understand how that integration works.

Octopus Deploy uses .dlls provided by Microsoft to interact with Active Directory. Specifically:

  • System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement
  • System.DirectoryServices
  • System.DirectoryServices.ActiveDirectory

The code will use the method LoginUser() to authenticate the user’s credentials.

Assuming the login is successful, Octopus Deploy will create System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.UserPrincipal object to query group membership. Group membership query in this order of operations:

  1. First call GetAuthorizationGroups as that does a recursive search and returns security groups only.
  2. If GetAuthorizationGroups() fails (for a variety of reasons), then run GetGroups. The downside of GetGroups() is it only returns groups a user is a direct member of and includes distribution groups. Octopus Deploy ignores distribution groups.

When a cross-domain trust is configured, both GetAuthorizationGroups() and GetGroups() methods will include groups in the trusted domains of the user. Octopus Deploy relies on what those methods return to determine group membership. We’ve found the vast majority of the time; Active Directory issues are a misconfiguration within Active Directory itself. We’ve provided scripts below where you can take Octopus Deploy out of the equation and test your configuration directly.

Configuring Active Directory users

Octopus relies on Active Directory users being configured with enough information to distinguish them. We recommend making sure each Active Directory user you want to use with Octopus has been configured with:

  1. samAccountName (pre-Windows 2000 Logon Name)
  2. UPN (User Principal Name)
  3. Email Address

These values can be used by Octopus to uniquely identify which Octopus User Account should be associated with each Active Directory User.

Verifying configuration values

Most errors we’ve seen are due to a lack of permissions or various active directory configuration issues. Additionally, errors are generally found when trying to retrieve a user’s groups. The following are some examples.

  • System.Runtime.InteropServices.COMException (0x8007054B): The specified domain either does not exist or could not be contacted.
  • System.DirectoryServices.ActiveDirectory.ActiveDirectoryServerDownException: The server is not operational.

The best way we’ve found to troubleshoot Active Directory issues is by taking Octopus Deploy out of the equation and running the PowerShell script below. This script duplicates the exact logic we use to retrieve a user’s groups from Active Directory. The benefit of this script is that you can try different settings and get immediate feedback, whereas it’s much slower and disruptive to do the same with the Octopus Server service.

Run the scripts on the same VM hosting Octopus Deploy. If you are running the Octopus Deploy Windows Service as a specific Active Directory account, then run those scripts as that account. Running the script on your work computer under your account can result in inaccurate results.


# Only uncomment the remainder of this line if Octopus is scoped to a specific container.
$principalContext = new-object -TypeName System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.PrincipalContext "Domain", "acme.local"#, "CN=Users, DC=acme, DC=local"

$principal = [System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.UserPrincipal]::FindByIdentity($principalContext, "ExampleUser")
# Get Authorized Users Groups. This reads inherited groups but fails in some situations based on security and configuration
$groups = $principal.GetAuthorizationGroups()
Write-Output $groups
# Try Number two. Reads just the groups they are a member of - more reliable but not ideal
$groups = $principal.GetGroups()
Write-Output $groups


  • Ensure you replace the domain name acme.local with the appropriate value for you network.
  • Ensure you replace the domain user name ExampleUser with a sample Octopus username who would normally log into the system.
  • It’s recommended that you run this script as the same user you’re running the Octopus service under and on the same server so it reproduces the problem accurately.

If specifying a container.

  • Ensure you replace the active directory container string CN=Users, DC=acme, DC=local with the appropriate value for your network. If you’re not sure of this value, we suggest talking to your network team (active directory expert) or trying different values and testing it with the script. For additional help on building/finding your container string, this StackOverflow answer is excellent.

See the following documentation page for further information on configuring Octopus to use a specific Active Directory container.

Similarly, the following script duplicates the logic we use to search for groups (when you’re trying to find one to add to a Team).

$principalContext = new-object -TypeName System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.PrincipalContext "Domain", "acme"
$principal = new-object -TypeName  System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.GroupPrincipal $principalContext
$principal.Name = "SomeGroup*"
$searcher = new-object -TypeName  System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.PrincipalSearcher
$searcher.QueryFilter = $principal

$groups = $searcher.FindAll().GetEnumerator()

foreach ($group in $groups) {
    Write-Output $group



  • Ensure you replace the domain name acme with the domain to be searched on your network. This may be the current domain or any trusted domain.
  • Ensure you replace sample partial group name SomeGroup with text that matches the start of a group name in the domain.
  • Per previous example script, it’s recommended that you run this script as the same user you’re running the Octopus service under

Octopus only uses Security Groups for controlling access permissions. When searching for groups to add to an Octopus team, Distribution Groups will be filtered out.


If problems persist, we suggest turning on active directory diagnostic logging and then executing the PowerShell script above to test changes based on the results. We’ve found the best way to get actionable details out of the logs is to set the following registry settings on the server running active directory domain services (i.e. your relevant domain controller).

It’s recommended that you backup any registry entries before making changes.

Path: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\NTDS\Diagnostics\15 Field Engineering
Value: 5

Path: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\NTDS\Parameters\Expensive Search Results Threshold
Value: 1

Full credit to this StackOverflow answer for the tip.

For more information on diagnostic logging, see the following Microsoft TechNet article. Note that we’re setting the ‘Field Engineering’ registry entry mentioned in this article.

The diagnostic logs can be viewed in the Event Viewer.

Remember to reset the registry values once you’re finished troubleshooting.

Read-only domain controllers are not supported

Read-only Domain Controllers are not currently supported by Octopus. The .NET API we’re using ignores read-only DCs.

If there are any development teams willing to investigate RODCs further, our AD/Directory Services authentication provider is open source (if you are using Octopus 3.5+), so please feel free to checkout the current implementation if you wish to “roll your own” AD provider that includes support for RODCs and share with the Octopus community. ​:smiley:​

Run as a different user not working

If you are signed into your Windows AD account and wish to sign in as a different AD user to Octopus, you need to do so via forms-based authentication and login with a fully qualified domain username (eg. domain\user). You cannot right-click and launch your browser as a different AD user.

If forms-based authentication has previously been disabled, you may re-enable it again by running the following command:

Octopus.Server.exe service --stop
Octopus.Server.exe configure --allowFormsAuthenticationForDomainUsers=true
Octopus.Server.exe service --start

Domain Groups not loading across multiple domains

In scenarios where you have to cross domain boundaries, issues can easily arise due to service account permissions. One such issue can occur when you have users who are members of groups from multiple domains. In this scenario, you may find that Octopus can only determine the groups in the same domain as the user itself and as such the user won’t be treated as though they are in all of the correct teams.

The cause of this relates to the permissions for the user the Octopus Server is running as. Specifically, it is missing the “Read member of” permission in the domain(s) of the groups it isn’t able to retrieve. This can include the domain the service account itself is in (e.g. Domain Users don’t get “Read member of” by default).

To resolve this issue, open Active Directory Administrative Center for the domains in question and add the permission for the service account. Exactly how that permission should be assigned is a design question whose answer will be specific to your environment, e.g. maybe you assign it directly to the service account, maybe you add it to a specific group containing the service account user because other users also need that permission, maybe you have a different standard pattern in your organization.

Integrated authentication across domains not working

Octopus Server 2020.1.x has a known issue with users signing in across domains. The underlying cause relates to server moving from .NET Framework (HttpListener) to .NET Core (HttpSys). For more information about the issue, see this GitHub issue. For configuration guidelines and troubleshooting integrated authentication, see our Active Directory authentication guide.

For users on a different domain to the domain the Octopus Server is a member of, the workaround is to use forms authentication instead of the Sign in with a domain account button. As of 2020.1.7 the server will detect this issue when users attempt to sign in across domains, and it will provide guidance to those users who are impacted.

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Page updated on Wednesday, October 4, 2023