Rajendra Gupta
EC2 instance status

Initial Windows Authentication configurations in AWS RDS SQL Server

May 12, 2020 by

In this article, we will be exploring the process of enabling Windows authentication in AWS RDS SQL Server.


Microsoft SQL Server supports the following server authentication schemes:

  • Windows Authentication mode: In this method, we use domain accounts to connect with SQL Server. The user account belongs to an active directory. It enforces an organization policy such as complex password, password expiry, account lockouts. Once SQL Server gets a request to connect using Windows authentication, it authenticates with the AD using SSPI. It is a recommended way of handling user authentication in SQL Server
  • SQL Authentication: In this mode, SQL Server handles user authentication. We create SQL login, user, and provide appropriate right. It is not integrated with the organization’s Active directory

You can right-click on SQL instance, go to properties and view the server authentication modes.

Server Authentication

Amazon provides a managed database service RDS for SQL Server. It supports multiple several versions and editions of Microsoft SQL Server. You can go through the many useful articles related to AWS RDS SQL Server on SQLShack.

Once we create the AWS RDS SQL Server, it enables SQL authentications. During database creation, it creates an admin account for SQL authentication, and you can log in with that user. Later, we can add multiple users with appropriate permissions.

I will cover the Windows authentication for AWS RDS SQL Server in the two articles.

  1. In this first article, we will cover the following topics:

    • Configure an AWS Microsoft Active directory
    • Create an EC2 instance with Windows operation system and join it in the domain
    • Install Active Directory Administration tools on Windows Server 2019

  2. In the second part, we will cover the following topics:

    • Create active directory users in the domain we created in this article
    • Add active directory domain in the RDS instance
    • Connect AWS RDS SQL Server using Windows authentication
    • Remove domain membership from AWS RDS SQL Server

Let’s get started with the Windows authentication in the AWS RDS SQL Server.

Windows authentication in AWS RDS SQL Server

As you know, for a windows authentication, we require active directory users. SQL instance should be part of an active directory domain.

AWS RDS SQL Server supports mixed-mode authentication for SQL Server. We can use Windows authentication using the AWS managed Microsoft Active Directory service. You can also use your active organization directory, but to use it with RDS, you need to create a forest trust. For my demo instance, I do not have active directory configured, so we use the AWS Managed Microsoft AD for Windows authentication.

Configure an AWS Microsoft Active directory

To configure on active directory, navigate to Services ->Directory Service

It opens the following page that lists the existing Active directory in your accounts, if any.

AWS  Microsoft Active directory

Click on Set up Directory, and you get the page to choose directory services. Select the option – AWS Managed Microsoft AD. We can connect this active directory with AWS resources that require a Microsoft active directory, such as AWS EC2, AWS RDS SQL Server, and AWS IT applications.

AWS Managed Microsoft AD

On the next page, we configure the active directory. It first asks for the edition we require for Microsoft Active Directory.

  • Edition: We can either use the Standard or Enterprise edition for Microsoft AD

    • Standard: It is suitable for small businesses and costs USD 0.1200 per hour. Standard edition is suitable for up to 30,000 objects
    • Enterprise: We can use it for a large business. It is optimized for 5,00,000 objects. It costs USD 0.4000 per hour

      Select the standard or enterprise edition for AWS RDS SQL Server

  • Directory DNS Name: Specify a unique DNS ( Domain name service) for the directory. It should be a fully qualified name such as sqlshackdemo.com
  • Admin Password: Specify the password for a default user Admin. We cannot use the word “admin” in the password. It is a case-sensitive password. You can perform the most common activities in the Active directory using this account

    • Create, update, remove the users, groups, and computers
    • Manage users and groups
    • Manage DNS configurations
    • View AD logs
    • View Security logs

Directory DNS and Admin password

Click Next and select the VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) from the drop-down list. It is a virtual network for the AWS resources in your account. You can understand more about VPC in Amazon Docs.

If you have an existing VPC, select it from the drop-down, or we can create a new VPC using the option Create New VPC. I will go with the default VPC and subnets for this article.

Create New VPC

Review your Microsoft Active directory configurations and click on Create directory. You should also review the AD pricing and go back in case of any doubts.

Create directory

It starts creating the active directory as per your requirement. It takes approximately 30 minutes to create and configure an active directory.

Status of Active directory

Once the AD configuration completes, its status changes to Active. You can see the directory ID and directory name in the following screenshot.

status changes to Active

Create a Windows Server 2019 EC2 instance

We require an AWS EC2 instance with Windows operating system to connect with the AWS RDS SQL Server using SQL Server client tools. We should perform this step after the active directory status is Active.

Navigate to Services -> EC2 and click on Launch Instance.

In the first step, choose an Amazon Machine Image (AMI). For this demo, I am selecting the Microsoft Windows Server 2019 Base. You can select AMI as per your need.

Choose AMI

In the next step, choose an instance type depending upon vCPU, Memory requirements. I choose t2.micro EC2 instance category that is eligible for a free-tier account as well.

Choose an Instance type

Click on Next Configure Instance Details. It pre-fills the information for you, but you should verify the VPC. It should be the same VPC you selected in the directory services.

In the Domain join directory, select the active directory we created earlier.

Configure Instance Details.

We also need to create an IAM role in the EC2 instance. Click on Create new IAM role. It opens a new browser tab and selects the EC2 role for AWS Systems Manager.

Create new IAM role

Click on Next: Permissions, and it automatically attaches an AWS policy for you.

Permissions and Policies

In the next step, give a suitable name for this role and click on Create Role

Create Role for AWS RDS SQL Server

You get the following message once it created the role.

New AWS Role

Now, go back to the EC2 instance configure tab and select the role we created above. Select a role from the drop-down

Review the storage requirement in the next step. We can go with the default values in this demo.

Add Storage

Skip the next step tags. In the security group, allow the RDP connection for port 3389. For my demo instance, I allow users to connect with any IP address. You should restrict the IP range that should connect to EC2 instance in a production environment. If you allow connection from any IP, you get a warning message as well.

Configure Security Group

Review your EC2 configuration and click on Launch.

EC2 configuration

Click on Launch and select an existing key pair or create a new key pair to connect with the EC2 instance. You should save this key pair in a secure and safe location.

select an existing key pair or create a new key pair

Click on Launch instances. It creates an EC2 instance and joins it in the active directory domain we created earlier.

EC2 instance status should be available along with 22 status checks completed.

EC2 instance status

Note-down the public DNS(IP4). Go to Run (shortcut key Windows + R) and type mstsc. It launches the Remote Desktop Connection window. Specify the public DNS of EC2 on the computer, as shown below.

Public DNS(IP4)

Click on Connect and specify the credentials. We need to use the following credentials to connect with EC2 instance.

  • User: sqlshackdemo\admin ( use the domain from the AWS managed directory and the admin account we created earlier)
  • Password: Enter a password for the admin account

    specify the credentials

Click on Yes to accept the connection for this computer.

Give permissions to connect EC2

It connects to the AWS EC2 instance with the [sqlshackdemo] domain that we created using the AWS managed AD service shown below.

RDP instance of EC2

Installing the Active Directory Administration Tools

We require Active Directory administration tools to create users, groups in the [sqlshackdemo] active directory.

Launch Server Manager in the EC2 instance. In the server manager, navigate to Manage -> Add roles and features wizard.

You get the following wizard with a brief introduction. We can instance Windows roles, services, and features using this wizard.

Active Directory Administration Tools

Click on Next. We need to select Role-based or feature-based installation.

Role-based or feature-based installation.

We do not need any change in the next screen. It automatically shows the EC2 instance in the server.

Select destination server

Skip the server roles and move to the next page for feature selection.

Server roles

In the feature selection, select the following.

  • AD DS and AD LDS Tools under the Remote Server Administration Tools: It provides active directory services along with command-line tools to manage AD
  • DNS Server tools: It includes DNS command-line tools and snap-ins

    Feature selection

On the next page, confirm the feature we wish to install. Click on Install to confirm and begin installations.

Review and Confirm

You get the following screen once all features are enabled.

Installation status


In this article, we learned to create the AWS managed active directory. We further created an AWS EC2 instance in the custom domain [sqlshackdemo]. I plan to cover the below topics in my next article, Advanced Windows Authentication configurations in AWS RDS SQL Server. So stay tuned.

  • Create active directory users and groups
  • Connect EC2 server with the active directory users
  • Configured an AWS RDS SQL Server for Windows authentication
  • Connect RDS using windows authentication
Rajendra Gupta
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About Rajendra Gupta

Hi! I am Rajendra Gupta, Database Specialist and Architect, helping organizations implement Microsoft SQL Server, Azure, Couchbase, AWS solutions fast and efficiently, fix related issues, and Performance Tuning with over 14 years of experience. I am the author of the book "DP-300 Administering Relational Database on Microsoft Azure". I published more than 650 technical articles on MSSQLTips, SQLShack, Quest, CodingSight, and SeveralNines. I am the creator of one of the biggest free online collections of articles on a single topic, with his 50-part series on SQL Server Always On Availability Groups. Based on my contribution to the SQL Server community, I have been recognized as the prestigious Best Author of the Year continuously in 2019, 2020, and 2021 (2nd Rank) at SQLShack and the MSSQLTIPS champions award in 2020. Personal Blog: https://www.dbblogger.com I am always interested in new challenges so if you need consulting help, reach me at rajendra.gupta16@gmail.com View all posts by Rajendra Gupta