Configuring a Mac in an Active Directory Environment

Active Directory (AD) is Microsoft’s proprietary directory service. It is used in corporate environments and runs on a Windows Server operating system. AD allows network administrators to manage permissions and access to network resources. Normally the client computers used in an AD environment will be running a version of Microsoft Windows and will be joined to the Active Directory domain. When users log in on their computers their details are authenticated against AD and they are granted access to resources. Since the entire environment is using Microsoft products it works very effectively.

There may be occasions when, for whatever reason, a particular user is going to use a Mac rather than a Windows PC. They may have a personal preference for a Mac, or they may need to run certain software which requires a Mac. In such instances, it’s still important to have the computer integrated into the corporate environment, rather than to function as a standalone machine. By doing so, any users of the Mac will also be managed appropriately and gain access to resources as required.

The purpose of this guide is to describe the steps involved in connecting a Mac to a Windows Active Directory domain and creating the required login credentials. Following this we shall look at how to install a printer connected to a print server, and how to mount a shared network drive on a file server.

The prerequisite for this procedure is that the Mac has a fresh install of the macOS, is logged in as a local administrator, and that it’s connected to the corporate network via WiFi.

These instructions were originally written for macOS Catalina and have been confirmed as equally applicable on macOS Big Sur.

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Connect Mac to Active Directory domain

  • Open System Preferences & double-click Users & Groups
  • Click the lock and enter the password for the current local administrator log-in
  • Click Login Options & then the button Join… beside Network Account Server:
  • Enter the name of your Active Directory Domain Server & click OK
  • You will be prompted for AD Admin User and AD Admin Password. You should enter the credentials for a network administrator log-in and click OK.
  • Enter the password for the local administrator account again and click Modify Configuration
  • When the Users & Groups window reappears, close the window and log out of the computer

Set up network user account

  • At the logon screen, click Other… and log in as the user who’s going to use the computer, using your AD credentials
  • When you’ve logged in successfully, and worked through all the introductory windows, open System Preferences & select Users & Groups
  • Click the lock and enter the username of the local administrator followed by the password
  • You should see your network username in the list of current users. Click on your username & tick the box to Allow user to administer this computer followed by Yes
  • Click Create… beside Mobile account: followed by two clicks on Create and then enter the password for your AD user account. A mobile account means that you’ll be able to log on to the Mac with your network user account even when you’re not connected to the corporate network.
  • Click Bypass on the next screen about a SecureToken administrator’s name and password
  • You will now be logged out and you should log back in to your user account and close the Users & Groups window

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Install print management client

Print management software co-ordinates the processes which take place between printer hardware and the devices requiring print jobs. This step is only necessary if you are using such software. If not, you can proceed to the next step to install your network printer.

For the purpose of these instructions I shall assume the use of PaperCut which is one of the industry-leading solutions. The procedure will be very similar if you’re using a different print management solution.

  • With all windows closed on the Mac, hold down the command key & press K
  • Type the name of your network print server & then click Connect
  • Enter your password after the computer confirms that you are attempting to connect to the server and then click Connect again
  • In the next window select PCClient as the volume you want to mount and then click OK
  • In the resulting window, double-click on the mac folder & then double-click PCClient to install the PaperCut print management client

Install network printer

  • Install the driver for the network printer you intend to use, either from portable installation media, or from the internet
  • Close all open installation windows
  • Open System Preferences & double-click on Printers & Scanners
  • In the Printers & Scanners window which appears, click the + to set up a printer & then control-click in the pane at the top of the resulting window
  • A menu will appear from which you can select Customise Toolbar… and then drag Advanced onto the toolbar before clicking Done
  • Double-click on the Advanced icon you just dropped onto the toolbar
  • Use the blue arrows beside Type to select Windows printer via spools
  • In the URL box type the network path of the print server/network printer
  • Change the Name: of the printer if necessary
  • Click on the blue arrows beside Choose a Driver… & then Select Software…
  • Select the desired driver from the list of Printer Software and click OK
  • Click Add & then OK in the next window
  • Close the Printers & Scanners window

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Mount network drive

  • With all windows closed on the Mac, hold down the command key & press K
  • Type the path to the shared drive you want to connect to, beginning with smb: and then click Connect
  • Click Connect again upon confirmation that you are attempting to connect to the server and, if prompted, enter your network account password & tick the box for Remember this password in my keychain
  • Open System Preferences & double-click Users & Groups
  • Click on Login Items & then +
  • You should see your shared drive under Locations so you can click on this, followed by any specific file path you want to mount, and then click Add
  • Close the Users & Groups window

Summing it all up

So there you have the steps involved in connecting your Mac to a corporate domain, creating a user account, and gaining access to a network print server and shared network folders.

This Mac configuration guide was written in collaboration with Norm McLaughlin, founder of Norm’s Computer Services, a computer repair and IT support business in Brisbane, Australia. Visit