What is DSRM?

Directory Services Restore Mode (DSRM) is a special boot mode for repairing or recovering Active Directory. It is used to log on to the computer when Active Directory has failed or needs to be restored.

Note: Do not confuse DSRM with Safe Mode. Active Directory will still attempt to start in Safe Mode and if it fails you will not be able to log on. Instead use DSRM.

You can log on to DSRM by using a special DSRM password that you set when you promoted the domain controller. Use the logon account name .\Administrator

Windows Server 2008-2016: DSRM is only needed when you are using remote desktop software, or when doing a domain-wide restore or a forest-wide restore, or when AD is so damaged that it will not boot.

How to Log on to DSRM

After booting DSRM (see below) click on Switch User -> Other User. When prompted for the logon account name type .\Administrator

The initial logon prompt will show the account name MyDomain\Administrator, where MyDomain is the name of the domain. This is incorrect and will not work. You must click on Switch User and manually type the name .\Administrator.

If you forgot the DSRM password, you can reset the password using ntdsutil. See Reset DSRM Password on Internet.

If you forgot the DSRM password and you also forgot your Active Directory password, see Changing a Lost Domain Administrator Password on Internet.
How to Boot DSRM: F8 Key

To manually boot in Directory Services Restore Mode, press the F8 key repeatedly. Do this immediately after BIOS POST screen, before the Windows logo appears. (Timing can be tricky; if the Windows logo appears you waited too long.) A text menu menu will appear. Use the up/down arrow keys to select Directory Services Restore Mode or DS Restore Mode. Then press the Enter key.

Windows 8 or later: The F8 key is disabled on desktop editions of Windows 8 or later. If you want to boot into Safe Mode, run msconfig and select Minimal. Then reboot.
How to Boot DSRM: msconfig.exe

You can configure Windows to boot DSRM using msconfig.exe:
1.Click on Start (or press WIN+X) -> Run.
2.In the Open box type msconfig and click OK. This will show the System Configuration dialog box.
3.Click on the tab Boot (top).
4.Under “Boot options” check the box Safe boot.
5.Select Active Directory repair and click OK.
6.Reboot the computer: Click on Start (or press WIN+X -> Shut down or sign out -> Restart.

This will boot the computer into DSRM.

To boot normally, reverse the procedure:
1.Click on Start (or press WIN+X) -> Run.
2.In the Open box type msconfig and click OK. This will show the System Configuration dialog box.
3.Click on the tab Boot (top).
4.Under “Boot options” uncheck the box Safe boot and click OK.
5.Reboot the computer: Click on Start (or press WIN+X -> Shut down or sign out -> Restart.

This will boot the computer back into normal mode.
How to Boot DSRM: Bcdedit

On Windows Server 2008 or later you can run bcdedit inside of an administrative console:
1.To boot DSRM, type the command bcdedit /set safeboot dsrepair, then reboot: shutdown /r /f /t 5.
2.When you are ready to boot normally, type bcdedit /deletevalue safeboot, then reboot: shutdown /r /f /t 5.

You can use this procedure when a graphical user interface (GUI) is not available (e.g., on Server Core).