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I'm an independent contractor with domain accounts at multiple client locations. I do my development work on a laptop and would like to be able to join the domain at each site. Under Windows XP I joined one domain and mapped drives/VNC'ed into the others. There are two that I visit at least once a week, so I would like a painless way to switch between the two. Anyone know how to do this in Windows 7 Pro?

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Question: Why do you need to join the domain? I know very few IT guys that us the "Domain Computers" security group regularly. – ITGuy24 Nov 13 '09 at 16:00
SQL server databases that use network authentication is one reason; I can work around this by adding SQL Server Logins, but would rather not. Also, part of what I do there is network admin (I have domain admin privileges at the two sites where I spend the majority of my time). Actually being on the domain makes it more convenient to change file/folder permissions, etc. – mwolfe02 Nov 13 '09 at 16:58
up vote 2 down vote accepted

As far as I am aware Windows 7 does not provide any better features for dealing with multiple domains than XP did, so your probably best to continue the way you have been.

One option would be to install XP mode or a VM and join your Windows XP machine to the other domain, which will give you a little more integration. As Windows 7 also allows you to boot to VM, so you could run a VM for each domain.

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XP Mode and VMs would be an excellent method for managing multiple domains. You could literally have a different VM for each domain. I haven't played too much with XP mode, but I did notice that it always wanted to log in as XPMUser. Not sure what it will do if the VM is tied to a domain. – Mr Furious Nov 13 '09 at 14:40
@Mr Furious, I've joined my XP Mode VM to our domain, and it has you log in each time you start the virtual. If you stop the VM, then you can change the stored username and password in the VM settings so it will auto login. That's the only difference I've seen. – KJ-SRS Apr 11 '11 at 14:34

I visit a number of different Customer sites each week, and I prefer not to join my personal machine to any of my Customers' domains (to not have thier group policy apply, etc).

If you're just mapping drives, why not just use a script w/ credentials stored in the script to map the drives:

@echo off
net use x: /d
net use x: \\server\share /USER:DOMAIN\username password

Run the appropriate script for each site. No domain membership necessary.

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+1 for not joining my personal machine to domain. I use VMs, which can easily be joined to domain from my machine plus have the advantage of snapshots. – blank3 Nov 13 '09 at 14:53
+1 I would be surprised if they even allowed you to join a machine outside their control to their domain... if they do, advice them not to ^^ – Oskar Duveborn Nov 13 '09 at 14:57

Sounds like a really bad idea to join customer domains with equipment that isn't owned by the customer. That sort of thing has been a serious security policy violation at every employer that I have worked for.

If you must, just spin up VMs for each customer, or ask the customer to provide you with a PC.

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runas /netonly

TIP: How to Run Programs as a Domain User from a Non-domain Computer

For example:

runas /netonly /user:domain\username “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Tools\Binn\VSShell\Common7\IDE\Ssms.exe”`

As I stated in my question, my current solution included using mapped drives (via net use) at one location. However, as I pointed out in a comment to my question, windows network authentication reqts for SQL server were driving me towards actually joining the domain.

After much googling I finally came across this gem: I had tried doing a shift-right click Run As Different User already, but I received an error message about a failed trust relationship. The key was the /netonly switch. Using runas /netonly opened my programs without the error message but with windows authentication in place for the linked database tables.

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Have you considered using VMs for this purpose? Create a VM for each of the domains and switch between them on demand.

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Would this require multiple OS licenses for my laptop? – mwolfe02 Nov 13 '09 at 14:18

The simple answer is that you cannot. A machine can only be in one domain at a time. The Microsoft way to deal with this would be for you to have your own domain, and for each of these other domains to trust yours. Good luck convincing your customers to do this, even for one-way trust.

You might get better help at superuser or serverfault.

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I have domain admin rights on the two domains I use most, so I could probably convince them to trust my domain. However, I assume I would need a copy of Windows Server to set up the domain. Is it actually possible to set up a domain on my machine using only Windows 7 Pro? – mwolfe02 Nov 13 '09 at 14:59
No, you'd need a server as far as I know. – bmargulies Nov 13 '09 at 15:18
I ended up using the techniques listed here… as a satisfactory workaround. – mwolfe02 Nov 13 '09 at 22:22

No, Windows 7 is identical to Windows XP in regards to joining multiple domains. Very poor form on MS behalf, We have been asking this for a long time.

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I don't understand why this is "very poor form" by MS. There are very good reasons for the choice they have made, related to the whole concept of domain membership for computers, and its difficult to see how they could possibly do anything else. Allowing computers to join multiple domains would undermine their whole security model, for a start. – RobM Oct 29 '11 at 7:42

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