How to remove orphaned domains from Active Directory

Applies to:   Windows 10, Windows Server 2012 R2
Original KB number:   230306


Typically, when the last domain controller for a domain is demoted, the administrator selects the This server is the last domain controller in the domain option in the DCPromo tool. This procedure removes the domain metadata from Active Directory. This article describes how to remove domain metadata from Active Directory if this procedure isn't used, or if all domain controllers are taken offline but not demoted first.


The administrator must verify that replication has occurred since the demotion of the last domain controller before manually removing the domain meta-data. Using the NTDSUTIL tool improperly can cause partial or complete loss of Active Directory functionality.

Removing orphaned domains from Active Directory

  1. Determine the domain controller that holds the Domain Naming Master Flexible Single Master Operations (FSMO) role. To identify the server holding this role:

    1. Start the Active Directory Domains and Trusts Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in from the Administrative Tools menu.
    2. Right-click the root node in the left pane titled Active Directory Domains and Trusts, and then select Operations Master.
    3. The domain controller that currently holds this role is identified in the Current Operations Master frame.


      If it's changed recently, not all computer may have received this change yet due to replication.

    For more information about FSMO roles, see Active Directory FSMO roles in Windows.

  2. Verify that all servers for the domain have been demoted.

  3. Open a command prompt window.

  4. At the command prompt, type ntdsutil, and then press Enter.

  5. Type metadata cleanup, and then press Enter.

  6. Type connections, and then press Enter. This menu is used to connect to the specific server on which the changes will occur. If the currently logged-on user isn't a member of the Enterprise Admins group, alternate credentials can be supplied by specifying the credentials to use before making the connection. To do so, type: set creds <domainname> <username> <password>, and then press Enter. For a null password, type null for the password parameter.

  7. Type connect to server <servername>, where <servername> is the name of the domain controller that holds the Domain Naming Master FSMO Role. Then press Enter. You should receive confirmation that the connection is successfully established. If an error occurs, verify that the domain controller used in the connection is available. And verify that the credentials you supplied have administrative permissions on the server.

  8. Type quit, and then press Enter. The Metadata Cleanup menu is displayed.

  9. Type select operation target, and then press Enter.

  10. Type list domains, and then press Enter. A list of domains in the forest is displayed, each with an associated number.

  11. Type select domain <number>, and then press Enter, where number is the number associated with the domain to be removed.

  12. Type quit, and then press Enter. The Metadata Cleanup menu is displayed.

  13. Type remove selected domain, and then press Enter. You should receive confirmation that the removal was successful. If an error occurs, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base for articles on specific error messages.

  14. Type quit at each menu to quit the NTDSUTIL tool. You should receive confirmation that the connection disconnected successfully.


For more information about the NTDSUTIL tool, see the Support Tools documentation located in the Support\Reskit folder on the Windows 2000 CD-ROM. The Help files included with the Microsoft Windows 2000 Resource Kit contain a Books Online link. You can click the link for information that describes the NTDSUTIL tool in greater detail.

For more information about removing domain controllers from the domain that you're attempting to delete, see the following article:

216498 How to remove data in Active Directory after an unsuccessful domain controller demotion