One of the most thoroughly used functions on Windows Servers is Active Directory. This can literally hold all information about your users, your corporate organization and corporate contact information. This data is invaluable, and is constantly changing, so keeping it documented and up to date is often a tedious task which consumes a lot of resources. What if you could export this data, and manipulate it in spreadsheets? If your job involves working with Active Directory you will find that there is a command line tool designed precisely for this purpose, and it is really easy to use.

What is CSVDE and why should I use it?

Comma Separated Value Data Exchange (CSVDE) actually comes built-in Windows 2003 Server installations (normally in %windir%/system32 directory). A comma-separated value (CSV) file is usually a plain text file, with the data contained in rows and columns separated by commas (,). This makes it relatively easy to decipher and most common spreadsheet applications (such as Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc) can open it without making any modifications to the file and display it organized neatly in rows and columns.

CSVDE can be used both to export data about a current Active Directory Configuration, the easiest thing that will in no way effect your working configuration, and to import data into a new installation of Active Directory, which is not recommended unless you are doing so on a test setup or is closely familiar with the intricacies of CSVDE. When importing data using CSVDE, it will directly affect your system since data is being added and manipulated. Ideally this should be first tried out in a test scenario which does not affect a live installation.

In the next article we will discuss how to export data from Active Directory and how to import it in Microsoft Excel using CSVDE as well as touch on some basic data manipulation commands. Finally in the last part, we will also discuss how to create a template using an Excel worksheet, create a CSV file and how to import data into Active Directory.

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