Register a SPN for SQL Server Authentication with Kerberos #kerberos #authentication


Register a SPN for SQL Server Authentication with Kerberos

By: Ben Snaidero | Read Comments (12) | Related Tips: 1 | 2 | 3 | More > Security

After querying the SQL Server sys.dm_exec_connections DMV I noticed that all my currently connected sessions using Windows Authentication had used NTLM and not Kerberos. How do I get them to use Kerberos? Check out this tip to learn more.


When it comes to configuring your SQL Servers to use Kerberos authentication there are a couple of prerequisites that must be met. First, the clients and servers must be joined to a domain. If they are joined, but they are in different domains then a two-way trust must be setup between these domains. Secondly an SPN must be successfully registered for the SQL Server service so that it can be identified on the network. The first requirement is pretty easy to validate so let’s concentrate on the second one.

There are a few ways that we can check if the SPN has been registered successfully. If your SQL Server instance is running under a domain account (which is recommended) you can run the following command to see the services that are registered. If there are no services registered for this account you will get the error message below the command.

Alternatively, you can also use the SQL Server error log to validate if the SPN has been registered successfully or not. By either filtering within the SSMS GUI or using xp_read_errorlog we can search for the string below. If found we know the SPN did not register successfully.

Finally, you can contact your system administrator and have them use the ADSIEdit MMC console to manually check if the service is registered.

Now that we’ve identified the issue we can go through a couple of different options that will allow us to successfully register the SPN and use Kerberos authentication.

Option 1 – Register SPN automatically

To enable the SPN to be registered automatically on SQL Server startup the service must be running under the “Local System” or “Network Service” accounts (not recommended), under a domain administrator account, or under an account that has permissions to register an SPN. The permissions required for this are the “Read servicePrincipalName” and “Write servicePrincipalName” access control settings in the Active Directory service. One thing that should be noted is granting these rights is not recommended (see ) if SQL Server is clustered or if you have multiple domain controllers as latency in Active Directory replication can cause connectivity issues with your SQL Server instance.

Option 2 – Register SPN manually

To register an SPN manually we can use the Microsoft provided Setspn.exe utility. To be able to run this tool and register an SPN you need to be a domain admin or have the appropriate privileges (defined above). One other thing to note is that the -s option ensures that the SPN you are trying to create is not already defined. Here are a couple examples. The first one is for a default instance and the second is for a named instance.

Once you’ve picked and implemented one of these options and if necessary restarted SQL Server you can establish a new connection and run the following TSQL to check that you are now using Kerberos authentication.

Next Steps
  • Read more on the pros and cons of using Kerberos or NTLM authentication
  • Understand different SQL Server network protocols
  • Understand different SQL Server authentication modes

Last Update: 2013-05-03

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