Managing Antivirus Software on Active Directory Domain Controllers

Applies To: Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2

Because domain controllers provide critical services to their clients, it is crucial to minimize the risk of any disruption of these services that may be caused by malicious code.

You can generally use antivirus software to mitigate the risk of malicious code. However, installing antivirus software (from any vendor) on a domain controller and configuring it to scan everything is not a reliable or recommended solution because the antivirus software may interfere with domain controller performance. Specifically, the scanning procedures that most antivirus applications use require exclusive locks on files. In many cases, these locks can interfere with the real-time data replication that domain controllers use to stay synchronized with the rest of the network.

The antivirus software that you use must be compatible with Windows operating systems in general and domain controllers in particular. Antivirus software must be installed in a manner that protects against attacks as much as possible while not interfering with domain controller performance. For example, antivirus software must be able to scan Distributed File System (DFS) files that are replicated by File Replication Service (FRS) or DFS Replication in a way that does not initiate full synchronization of files and folders in SYSVOL or of DFS roots and links. Any antivirus vendor should provide specific instructions to correctly configure their product to work with domain controllers that are running versions of Windows Server and that have Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) installed.

We cannot guarantee the interoperability of any antivirus software with DFS Replication, including any tests recommended in this guide. The need for extensive testing can be avoided completely by asking their antivirus software vendor to disclose their tested interoperability with DFS Replication. Vendors that have tested their software are happy to stand by their products. For a list of antivirus software vendors, see article 49500 in the Microsoft Knowledge Base (

Guidelines for managing antivirus software on Active Directory domain controllers

Follow the guidelines from your antivirus software vendor. Verify that the antivirus software you select is confirmed to be compatible with your domain controllers. Test your chosen antivirus software solution thoroughly in a lab environment to ensure that the software does not compromise the stability of your system.

Antivirus software has been known to cause blue screens on domain controllers. Before you install antivirus software or any update to that software on domain controllers in a domain, test lab domain controllers for the following issues:

  • Stability issues

  • Memory leaks

  • High CPU usage

  • Interruptions or failure of inbound and outbound replication

The following recommendations are general and should not be construed as more important than the specific recommendations of your antivirus software vendor. These guidelines must be followed for correct Active Directory file replication operation:

  • Antivirus software must be installed on all domain controllers in the enterprise. Ideally, such software should also be installed on all other server and client computers that have to interact with the domain controllers. Catching the virus at the earliest point—at the firewall or at the client computer on which the virus is first introduced—is the best way to prevent the virus from ever reaching the infrastructure systems on which all client computers depend.

  • Use a version of antivirus software that is confirmed to work with AD DS and that uses the correct application programming interfaces (APIs) for accessing files on the server. Some versions of antivirus software inappropriately modify file metadata as it is scanned, causing the FRS replication engine to perceive a file as having changed and to schedule it for replication. Some newer versions of antivirus software prevent this problem. For more information about antivirus software versions and FRS, see article 815263 in the Microsoft Knowledge Base ( and see the vendor-specific sites for compliant versions.

    Verify antivirus compatibility with DFS Replication, as described in Testing Antivirus Application Interoperability with DFS Replication (


If you are using ForeFront Client Security, see article 956123 in the Microsoft Knowledge Base for a hotfix (

  • Prevent the use of domain controller systems as general workstations. Users should not use a domain controller to surf the Web or to perform any other activities that can allow the introduction of malicious code. Allow browsing of known safe sites only for the purpose of supporting server operation and maintenance.

  • When possible, do not use a domain controller as a file sharing server. Virus scanning software must be run against all files in the shared folders, and it can place a large resource load on the processor and memory resources of the server. For the same reason, the SYSVOL and Netlogon shares that are automatically created on domain controllers should not be used to distribute software or for to store data.

Files to exclude from scanning

For a list of files to exclude from scanning on a domain controller, see article 822158 ( in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.


Change History

Date Revision

November 15, 2010

The list of files and folders to exclude on a domain controller was replaced with a reference to KB 822158 in order to eliminate inconsistencies and avoid duplication of content.