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The boot up process for our laptop-domain users takes literally, forever to start. It sits at the "Applying user settings" stage and when you press ctrl+alt+del, it takes like another minute or so before actually being able to enter a login.

Now... I've kind of 'fixed' the problem by manually entering the DNS server in the wireless (that's how it connects) adapter properties; however, I don't want it to mess up the connection when they get home.

How can I further trouble shoot this problem? Why is it taking so long for the laptops to query for the DNS server - if indeed, it is what it is trying to do?

I have also checked the Group Policies and there is nothing I can see which could be causing this problem - also, the GP isn't very complicated; just a few account lockout and Windows Update settings.

The server is running Small Business Server 2003. The laptops are running a clean install of Windows 7 Pro.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

When a domain-joined computer can't find a domain controller, it will take a lot of time to start up and let a user log on, if he'll be able to log on at all. DNS is vital to proper operation of Active Directory, so, if that computer isn't properly configured to use a domain DNS server, it won't be able to find a DC... thus the slowness you're experiencing. This is confirmed by the fact that you have been able to fix it by manually configuring its DNS settings.

The question should be: why is not my computer getting proper DNS settings?

I'll assume you're using DHCP in your network, since you didn't want to manually configure network settings. So I think you should take a look at your DHCP server's settings, and try to find out why it's not handing out proper DNS informations.

Also, running ipconfig /all on the malfunctioning computer should help you see what (wrong) DNS settings it's actually using, and why.

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+1 - To put a finer point on what Massimo is saying: Your DHCP servers should be handing out IP addresses for DNS servers running on domain controller computers only. (Yes, yes-- technically this doesn't have to be true, but for the vast majority of networks this is true...) If you're handing out any DNS server IP addresses in DHCP other than domain controller running DNS servers then you're doing it wrong. –  Evan Anderson Jul 14 '10 at 19:49
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