Active Directory

Create New Active Directory Users with Excel and PowerShell

Need to manage Active Directory (AD) users in bulk or integrate user management with a business process? Look no further than PowerShell’s new-aduser cmdlet.

The ability to create and manage AD user accounts from the command line has existed in Windows Server long before the appearance of PowerShell. Maybe you remember the dsadd, dsmod, and dsquery commands, which can still be found in Windows Server 2012 R2 today if the AD Directory Services (AD DS) server role is installed. But the DS commands exist in isolation, unlike new-aduser, which can leverage PowerShell’s advanced object-orientated scripting capabilities, making it easier to automate common administrative tasks.

That said, new-aduser doesn’t lend itself to creating AD users on an ad-hoc basis. This is partly because like any command-line tool, there’s a syntax to memorize. Secondly, it doesn’t allow passwords for new user accounts to be typed in plaintext, complicating the command since passwords must be encrypted as secure strings.

Nevertheless, if you regularly create more than one AD user at a time, don’t disregard new-aduser. In this article, I’ll walk you through the basics of creating new users with PowerShell and show you how to use Excel and a simple script to streamline the process.

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Creating new AD users from the command line

To run the command line examples in this article, you’ll need to open a PowerShell prompt with an account that has permission to create new user accounts in AD, and the Active Directory module for Windows PowerShell needs to be installed if the machine is not a domain controller. For more information about installing the AD PowerShell module, see How to Install the Active Directory PowerShell Module on a Member Server and Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) for Windows 8: Download and Install on the Petri IT Knowledgebase.

To open a PowerShell prompt, click the blue PowerShell icon on the desktop taskbar (Windows Server 2012), or switch to the Start screen, type PowerShell and select Windows PowerShell from the search results. In the example command below, I’ve created a new user account with no password:

​new-aduser –name smithrussell –samaccountname smithrussell –givenName Russell – surname Smith –displayName “Russell Smith”
New users must have a SAM account name, and while the remaining parameters are optional, it's unlikely you'd want to exclude them. When you add an account using new-aduser and don't set a password, the account is created disabled. Unless you specify otherwise (see more on the


 parameter below), the account will be added to the default Users container. To find out more about the available parameters for new-aduser, type

get-help new-aduser –full

 in a PowerShell prompt.

To set an initial password for the account, I need to use a secure string, which is stored in memory using reversible encryption and can only be decrypted by the security principle that created it. The easiest way to do this is to convert a plaintext password into a secure string and store it in a variable ($password), which is then used in the new-aduser command.
$password = (convertto-securestring -asplaintext "PassW0rd!" -force)

new-aduser –name smithrussell –samaccountname smithrussell –userprincipalname [email protected] –givenName Russell –surname Smith –displayname “Russell Smith” -accountpassword $password -changepasswordatlogon $true –enabled $true

Setting additional parameters

If you can’t find the parameter you want to set listed in get-help new-aduser, then you can use the –otherattributes parameter, which works with custom attributes if the AD schema has been extended.

​-otherattributes @{title="CIO";mail="[email protected]"}

If you don’t want to add new users to the default Users container, use the –path parameter to specify an alternate container or OU.

​-path “OU=sales,dc=ad,dc=contoso,dc=com”

Import users from an Excel spreadsheet

Even if you don’t create new users in bulk often, when you have more than one new user to deal with, importing from a comma-delimited file is faster than using the GUI server administration tools or manually typing PowerShell commands. Just fill out the fields in the spreadsheet, run the script and the job is done.

Use an Excel spreadsheet to import new Active Directory users (Image: Russell Smith)
Use an Excel spreadsheet to import new Active Directory users (Image: Russell Smith)

In the script below, I’ve used a simple foreach loop and the import-csv cmdlet to import and generate the new user accounts. The only additional code I’ve added is a split to separate users’ first and second names in the .csv file’s Name field, to populate the –givenName and –surname parameters, for the sake of completeness and to keep the number of columns in the .csv file to a minimum.

​import-csv -path c:\temp\users.csv | foreach {

$givenName = $[0] 
$surname = $[1]

new-aduser -name $ -enabled $true –givenName $givenName –surname $surname -accountpassword (convertto-securestring $_.password -asplaintext -force) -changepasswordatlogon $true -samaccountname $_.samaccountname –userprincipalname ($_.samaccountname+””) -city $ -department $_.department

Save the script as a .ps1 file. The default PowerShell script execution policy in Windows 8 is set to Restricted, so if you’ve not run PowerShell scripts before, you might need to set the execution policy to Remote Signed, which allows local unsigned scripts to run. Run get-executionpolicy to see the current policy on your machine and set-executionpolicy remotesigned to change the policy if necessary.

Now fill out the columns in the .csv file as shown in the image above as appropriate, save it and run the script.


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Comments (4)

4 responses to “Create New Active Directory Users with Excel and PowerShell”

  1. Of course an example should be simple enough to clearly show you the principles of the solution, however in Europe (and European descendants in the USA such as “Martin Van Buren”) still use one or more middle names. In case of a middle name this solution will fill the Active Directory with the wrong surname “Van”. Simplest way is to use two columns givenName and surname. Then the end user can decide where to put the middle name. (Preferably behind the surname)

    Kind regards,
    Johan van Soest

  2. I followed your example and I can successfully create users. However, users can’t log into server through a client machine.

    I am using Win Srv 2012 r2 and Client is Win81. I even added the Users to a Group and that Group to Remote Desktop Users Group and also under Local Security Policy Security Settings Local Policies User Rights Assignment > Allow log on through Remote Desktop Services. I keep getting the same error …

    “To sign in remotely, you need the right to sign in through Remote Desktop Services. By default members of the Administrators group have this right. If the group you’re in does not have the right, or if the right has been removed from the Administrators group, you need to be granted the right manually.”

    Now, I must confess that if I create a user manually I have no issues whatsoever.

    Would appreciate if you can help me out here.

    Also, is there a way to show on PS each user that successfully got added?


    Ken S

    • You can use get-aduser to retrieve information about user objects after they’ve been created. You could add it to the script, and either output the results to the console, or write a log file.
      As I understand, you’re trying to log on to a server using Remote Desktop. I would start debugging by trying to log in to a Windows 8 PC that’s joined to the domain, because no special rights are required.

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IT consultant, Contributing Editor @PetriFeed, and trainer @Pluralsight. All about Microsoft, Office 365, Azure, and Windows Server.
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