Thursday, January 18, 2018

Exporting User List from Active Directory

Sometimes you just need a simple file with a list of users in it.

In my case, I've made various programs to streamline and automate the work of my department. We "feed" one of these programs user data from Active Directory and elsewhere so it can make and delete accounts when students transfer in or out of the district.

You may not have a custom system like that, but there are many other reasons to be able to export data from Active Directory into a spreadsheet or text listing. One example would be turning over a list of users to the payroll department, so they can tell you what accounts should have been closed but slipped through the cracks. (Side note: I actually recommend doing at least annually and preferably every three to six months.)

To make such a list, login to a Domain Controller for your Active Directory system as a Domain Admin, run the command line, and use a command like this:

csvde -f ad.txt -n -d "ou=students,ou=People,dc=controller,dc=example,dc=com" -r "(&(objectCategory=person)(objectClass=user))" -l "sAMAccountName,givenName,sn,description"

That was probably too long to fit on the page, so let's break it down.

  • csvde:
    This will make a file in the current directory (a.k.a. folder.) That file is in the CSV format. To remember this command, think of it as as "CSV Data Export."
  • -f ad.txt:
    This file will be named "ad.txt".
  • -n:
    Any binary data is excluded.
  • -d "ou=students,ou=People,dc=controller,dc=example,dc=com"
    It will limit itself to data in the Organizational Unit (OU) named "students", which is inside "People", and in the Active Directory system at
  • -r "(&(objectCategory=person)(objectClass=user))":
    It will limit the export to only user accounts. For example, if there are computers or groups in that OU, those will not be exported.
  • -l "sAMAccountName,givenName,sn,description":
    Its columns will be the username, the first name, the last name, and the description. Note that the first name is labeled "givenName" and the last name is labeled "sn" as in "surname."

If you want to change the OU, just adjust the part after the -d to include your OU and DC structure. If you want to change the data in the export file, just change the part after the -l. To learn more details, check out Microsoft's article on the csvde command.

If you adjust this to suit your environment, you should be able to generate CSV files that list your users very quickly. At my job, we can export over 1,000 users in under a minute. The CSV file can be read by scripts we write or imported into a Google Sheet and shared with Payroll for a quick account audit.