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 lets IT pros view and edit almost every attribute of every 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 you can use it together with search. Moreover, I’ll be detailing how you can access the Attribute Editor in the Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC).
When you open an object in the Active Directory Users and Computers console, you can see a couple of information tabs. These tabs include the user account’s properties, user attributes, and AD attributes.
However, there are a lot of hidden attributes you don’t see. In order to see all the attributes of the object, you need to perform one essential step and discover a separate attribute editor tab.
In the ADUC View menu, click on Advanced Features.
After switching on Advanced Features, you can see that other organizational units (OUs) and containers are also visible.
With that enabled, I can go back to Billy Reinders’s record, and see the new Attribute Editor tab.
Once you’ve enabled the Attribute Editor tab, you can fully access and edit almost every attribute (of which there are close to 250) of every object in Active Directory, especially the user’s properties. Here is a subset of all the attributes of the user class you can see:
Let’s go back to Billy’s account. You can now see some examples of other object attributes that are now available.
The majority of attributes are unused, or, ‘<not set>’. We can filter those out to make things a little cleaner. Click the Filter button and then click Show only attributes that have values.
Then, we have a much clearer view of Billy’s attributes.
As an example of what it looks like when we open an attribute for editing, here is Billy’s ‘objectGUID’.
Note that it is stored in Active Directory in hexadecimal format. Other attributes are stored in a variety of data types.
You will notice that several of these attributes are displayed one way, but stored in another format. For example, if I view the ‘pwdLastSet’ attribute, it shows ‘4/16/2021 1:23:45 PM Central Daylight Time’.
However, when I click the attribute and click the ‘Edit’ button, it is displayed as a ‘timestamp’ value.
There are utilities and PowerShell commands you can run to manipulate and translate these values between A and B in order to make changes effectively. To be clear, I would not be able to edit the ‘pwdLastSet’ value and enter in a ‘xx/xx/xxxx x:x:xxxx’ date and time format. It would not translate well to how Active Directory’s database and software compute it.
There is one long-standing idiosyncrasy about how the Active Directory Users and Computers GUI works in relation to the Attribute Editor tab. It has bugged the hell out of IT pros for decades, and here it is.
If you search for a user and open their account, you won’t find the Attribute Editor tab, even if you have Advanced Features enabled… What?!
Yes, I know. Annoying as all get out. But, thankfully, there is an effective trick to get around this frustrating behavior – let me show you.
First, search for the user and double-click on them to open their record.
You’ll note, again, the Attribute Editor is not showing. Click the Member Of tab and double-click on one of the groups the user is a member of.
The next step is to close the original window with the user, in this case, the ‘Billy Reinders Properties’ window.
Now, click the Members tab in the group window, then open up the original account, Billy Reinders.
Voila! There you go! I know, it sure is a roundabout way to do it, but it sure beats needing to drill down into your potentially complex AD OU structure and find the original user account.
Well, there is another way to use the Attribute Editor in Active Directory. And thankfully, it addresses the issue of searching for users and not seeing the Attribute Editor tab.
Let’s open the Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC) from the Administrative Tools menu to demonstrate.
I will click on Global Search on the left, search for Billy, and open his record.
I will click Extensions on the left, and here is the Attribute Editor tab!
There’s a nice and easy way to access all the attributes in your Active Directory environment. Yes, there are some oddities along the way in how Microsoft engineered searching, but, Active Directory has barely changed since its inception over 20 years ago. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below!