Tech Tips Home
The Best Tech Tips And Daily Deals
Newsletter On The Internet!

WorldStart Tech Tip And Store Search
Email: Password: Login Remember Me

Like what you see here? Subscribe to the Tech Tips newsletter!   Email: Subscribe

The Difference Between a Domain and a Domain Controller

Monday, August 27th, 2012 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms

Nishat from Bangladesh writes:

What is the difference between a domain and a domain controller? Can you please explain?

Networking terminology can be quite confusing, especially for individuals who don’t have a degree in computer science or networking. One of the main reasons for the confusion is that some of the terms have other meanings in the computer world. For example, the term domain, which applies to a network of computers, is also used as slang for an Internet domain or domain name server. While domains and domain name servers are completely different entities, referring to them by the same name confuses many people.

In terms of networking, a domain is a group of connected computers that can be accessed from a central server or servers. All the computers within a specific domain share a common set of security rules; however, individual users can be granted specific rights within the domain. The term domain is typically only used when discussing Windows-based networking and is set up using Active Directory on Windows-based machines.

The term domain controller is used to denote a computer within the domain that controls the rest of the computers in the domain. From the domain controller, a network administrator can access networked computers, create or delete accounts, or manage privileges and security. In many networks, the file server and domain controller are one in the same, but this is not a requirement. Although a domain controller can be quite helpful, especially when dealing with larger domains, it is not required. There are both advantages and disadvantages to using a domain and domain controller, so it’s up to the network administrator to determine whether the use of a domain and domain controller is beneficial for your network.

Advantages of Using a Domain and Domain Controller

When a network has hundreds or thousands of networked computers, a domain is necessary to connect them. Although a domain controller is not absolutely required, it makes it easier for administrators to diagnose problems, create new accounts and modify permissions. Without a domain controller, someone would have to physically go to each computer to accomplish these tasks. This would be an impossible task if the computers within a domain were located in different physical locations. When managing file permissions on one or more servers or computers without using a domain controller, the network administrator would have to create the permission sets on each of the computers that would be sharing files and edit all of them any time there are changes. This can be quite time consuming, which is why it’s beneficial to set up a domain and use a domain controller.

Disadvantages of Using a Domain and Domain Controller

Generally speaking, smaller networks do not need to bother with domains or domain controllers, especially when all the computers are located within one physical location. Permissions and accounts can easily be handled on smaller networks without the hassle of a domain controller. Networks of computers that do not use a domain controller are often referred to as peer-to-peer networks and permissions and accounts are set up on each computer within network. When using a peer-to-peer network, each user needs to have an account set up on each computer he uses, whereas with a domain and domain controller, a user can log into any user within the domain using his password.

Another downside to setting up a domain is that not all operating systems are designed to connect to a domain. Unix and Linux-based systems, for example, cannot connect, and some companies have programs that require these operating systems to run. The Windows XP operating system was also not designed to connect to a domain. Although there are workarounds for Windows XP machines, it is just one more hassle for a network administrator to deal with.

Hope that helps!

~Chad Stetson

Tags: , ,

9 Responses to “The Difference Between a Domain and a Domain Controller”

  1. ru says:

    What do you mean, “The Windows XP operating system was also not designed to connect to a domain”! XP Professional joins quite nicely to domains and has done so ever since Win2k. Windows 7 is not more domain friendly than XP in that you need Windows 7 to join to a domain – Windows Home Edition will not join to a domain. Right?

  2. jeret says:

    “The Windows XP operating system was also not designed to connect to a domain”.. ?

    Windows XP Pro onwards works well on a domain.

    • Binesh Kumar says:

      Windows XP professional can be joined to Domain easily however Windows XP Home edition can not be joined as a member of domain.

  3. mohammed says:

    don’t understand what you guys are talking about. explain well for some us to understand

  4. user1 says:

    @mohammed XP home edition cannot be bound to the domain, it can only be a workgroup member…

  5. sumit says:

    using of Windows 7 Home Basic can we connect with Server as domain?
    is there any ways to connect computer with server as Domain ?

  6. […] The Difference Between a Domain and a Domain Controller … […]

  7. […] The Difference Between a Domain and a Domain Controller […]

  8. […] The Difference Between a Domain and a Domain Controller […]

Leave a Reply

Like these tips? Get them for FREE in your email!

WorldStart's Tech Tips Newsletter

  • Tech Tips Daily - Become a tech pro! Get the very best tech and computer help sent directly to your email every weekday!

  • Tech Tips Weekly - If you don't want our Tech Tips newsletter every day, then sign up for this weekly newsletter to get the best information of the week. Sent on Fridays.

Other Newsletters

  • WorldStart's Daily Deals - Every week, we send out great deals in our Daily Deals newsletter. Many of these deals are exclusively for our Daily Deals newsletter subscribers and can't be found with our regular specials.

  • Just For Grins - Each issue includes a couple clean jokes, some funny quotes, and a hilarious reader's story. Newsletter is sent five days a week.

Enter Email Address:


Your e-mail address is safe with us!
We only use it to send you the newsletters you request. It is NEVER disclosed to a third party for any reason, ever! Plus, if you decided you don't like our newsletters (don't worry, you'll love them), unsubscribing is fast and easy.

Free Newsletter Signup

Tech Tips Daily

Become a tech pro! Get the very best tech and computer help sent directly to your email every weekday!

Tech Tips Weekly

The week's best in tech and computer help. Get your issue sent to your email every Friday!

WorldStart's Daily Deals

The very best deals on the Internet! Get a new set of incredible sales every day of the week!

Just For Grins

Clean jokes, funny quotes, and hilarious comics. Sent 5 times a week straight to your email.


Love Worldstart? Refer A Friend!

WorldStart's Premium Membership

Tip Archive