Domains and Forests Technical Reference

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

Domains and forests are logical representations of the directory hierarchy in the Active Directory directory service. Active Directory domains and forests allow administrators to organize elements of a network (such as users, computers, devices, resources, and application-specific data from Active Directory–enabled applications) into a non-physical hierarchical structure, known as the logical structure. You can use domains and forests to provide an information repository and services to make information available to users and applications.


In Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003, the directory service is named Active Directory. In Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, the directory service is named Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). The rest of this topic refers to AD DS, but the information is also applicable to Active Directory.

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