Directory Services

Binding to the Global Catalog

The Global Catalog is a namespace that contains directory data for all domains in a forest. The Global Catalog contains a partial replica of every domain directory. It contains an entry for every object in the enterprise forest, but does not contain all the properties of each object. Instead, it contains only the properties specified for inclusion in the Global Catalog.

The Global Catalog is stored on specific servers throughout the enterprise. Only domain controllers can serve as Global Catalog servers. Administrators indicate whether a given domain controller holds a Global Catalog by using the Active Directory Sites and Services Manager.

To bind to the Global Catalog with ADSI, use the GC: moniker.

There are two ways to bind to the Global Catalog to perform a search in a forest:

As with the LDAP: moniker, you can use serverless binding or bind to a specific Global Catalog server. If searching in the current forest, use serverless binding. However, if searching in another forest, specify either a domain name or a Global Catalog server to bind to, such as shown in the following examples.

Bind using the domain name:


Bind using the server name:


You can also bind to a specific object within the Global Catalog. To bind to the sales object in the fabrikam domain, use the following format.


Or, to bind to the sales object on the server, use the following format.


To search the entire forest

  1. Bind to the root of the Global Catalog namespace.
  2. Enumerate the Global Catalog container. The Global Catalog container contains a single object that you can use to search the entire forest.
  3. Use the object in the container to perform the search. In C/C++, call QueryInterface to get an IDirectorySearch pointer on the object so that you can use the IDirectorySearch interface to perform the search. In Visual Basic, use the object returned from the enumeration in your ADO query.

To enumerate the Global Catalog servers in a site, perform an LDAP subtree search of cn=<yoursite>,cn=sites,<DN of the configurationNamingContext>, using the following filter string:


This filter uses the OID for the LDAP_MATCHING_RULE_BIT_AND operator (1.2.840.113556.1.4.803) to find nTDSDSA objects that have the low-order bit set in the bitmask of the options attribute. The low-order bit, which corresponds to the NTDSDSA_OPT_IS_GC constant defined in Ntdsapi.h, identifies the nTDSDSA object of a Global Catalog server.

The parent of the nTDSDSA object is the server object, and the dNSHostName property of the server object is the DNS name of the Global Catalog server.

You cannot use #define constants such as NTDSDSA_OPT_IS_GC and LDAP_MATCHING_RULE_BIT_AND directly in a search filter string. However, you could use these constants as arguments to a function such as wsprintf to insert the constant values into a filter string.