How to assign clients to a site in System Center Configuration Manager

Applies to: System Center Configuration Manager (Current Branch)

After a System Center Configuration Manager client is installed, it must join a Configuration Manager primary site before you can manage it. The site that a client joins is called its assigned site. Clients cannot be assigned to a central administration site or to a secondary site.

The assignment process happens after the client is successfully installed and determines which site manages the client computer. You can either directly assign the client to a site, or you can use automatic site assignment where the client automatically finds an appropriate site based on its current network location or a fallback site that has been configured for the hierarchy.

When you install the mobile device client during Configuration Manager enrollment, the device is always automatically assigned to a site. When you install the client on a computer, you can choose whether or not to assign the client to a site. However, when the client is installed but not assigned, the client is unmanaged until site assignment is successful.

Note

Always assign clients to sites running the same version of Configuration Manager. Avoid assigning a Configuration Manager client from a newer release to a site from an older release. If necessary, update the primary site to same Configuration Manager version that you are using for the clients.

After the client is assigned to a site, it remains assigned to that site, even if the client changes its IP address and roams to another site. Only an administrator can manually assign the client to another site or remove the client assignment.

Warning

An exception to a client remaining assigned to a site is if you assign the client on a Windows Embedded device when the write filters are enabled. If you do not first disable write filters before you assign the client, the site assignment status of the client reverts to its original state when the device next restarts.

For example, if the client is configured for automatic site assignment, it will reassign on startup and might be assigned to a different site. If the client is not configured for automatic site assignment but requires manual site assignment, you must manually reassign the client after startup before you can manage this client again by using Configuration Manager.

To avoid this behavior, disable the write filters before you assign the client on embedded devices, and then enable the write filters after you have verified that site assignment was successful.

If client assignment fails, the client software remains installed, but will be unmanaged. A client is considered unmanaged when it is installed but not assigned to a site, or is assigned to a site but cannot communicate with a management point.

Using Manual Site Assignment for Computers

You can manually assign client computers to a site by using the following two methods:

  • Use a client installation property that specifies the site code.

  • In Control Panel, in Configuration Manager, specify the site code.

Note

If you manually assign a client computer to a Configuration Manager site code that does not exist, the site assignment fails.

Using Automatic Site Assignment for Computers

Automatic site assignment can occur during client deployment, or when you click Find Site in the Advanced tab of the Configuration Manager Properties in the Control Panel. The Configuration Manager client compares its own network location with the boundaries that are configured in the Configuration Manager hierarchy. When the network location of the client falls within a boundary group that is enabled for site assignment, or the hierarchy is configured for a fallback site, the client is automatically assigned to that site without your having to specify a site code.

You can configure boundaries by using one or more of the following:

  • IP subnet

  • Active Directory site

  • IP v6 prefix

  • IP address range

Note

If a Configuration Manager client has multiple network adapters and therefore has multiple IP addresses, the IP address used to evaluate client site assignment is assigned randomly.

For information about how to configure boundary groups for site assignment and how to configure a fallback site for automatic site assignment, see Define site boundaries and boundary groups for System Center Configuration Manager.

Configuration Manager clients that use automatic site assignment attempt to find site boundary groups that are published to Active Directory Domain Services. If this fails (for example, the Active Directory schema is not extended for Configuration Manager, or clients are workgroup computers), clients can get boundary group information from a management point.

You can specify a management point for client computers to use when they are installed, or clients can locate a management point by using DNS publishing or WINS.

If the client cannot find a site that is associated with a boundary group that contains its network location, and the hierarchy does not have a fallback site, the client retries every 10 minutes until it can be assigned to a site.

Configuration Manager client computers cannot be automatically assigned to a site if any of the following apply, and then they must be manually assigned:

  • They are currently assigned to a site.

  • They are on the Internet or configured as Internet-only clients.

  • Their network location does not fall within one of the configured boundary groups in the Configuration Manager hierarchy, and there is no fallback site for the hierarchy.

Completing Site Assignment by Checking Site Compatibility

After a client has found its assigned site, the version and operating system of the client is checked to ensure that a Configuration Manager site can manage it. For example, Configuration Manager cannot manage Configuration Manager 2007 clients, System Center 2012 Configuration Manager clients, or clients that are running Windows 2000.

Site assignment fails if you assign a client that runs Windows 2000 to a Configuration Manager site. When you assign a Configuration Manager 2007 client or a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager client to a Configuration Manager (current branch) site, site assignment succeeds to support automatic client upgrade. However, until the older generation clients are upgraded to a Configuration Manager (current branch) client, Configuration Manager cannot manage this client by using client settings, applications, or software updates.

Note

To support the site assignment of a Configuration Manager 2007 or a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager client to a Configuration Manager (current branch) site, you must configure automatic client upgrade for the hierarchy. For more information, see the How to upgrade clients for Windows computers in System Center Configuration Manager.

Configuration Manager also checks that you have assigned the Configuration Manager (current branch) client to a site that supports it. The following scenarios might occur during migration from previous versions of Configuration Manager.

  • Scenario: You have used automatic site assignment and your boundaries overlap with those defined in a previous version of Configuration Manager.

    In this case, the client automatically tries to find a Configuration Manager (current branch) site.

    The client first checks Active Directory Domain Services and if it finds a Configuration Manager (current branch) site published, site assignment succeeds. If this fails (for example, the Configuration Manager site is not published or the computer is a workgroup client), the client then checks for site information from its assigned management point.

    Note

    You can assign a management point to the client during client installation by using the Client.msi property SMSMP=<server_name>.

    If both these methods fail, site assignment fails and you must manually assign the client.

  • Scenario: You have assigned the Configuration Manager (current branch) client by using a specific site code rather than automatic site assignment, and mistakenly specified a site code for a version of Configuration Manager earlier than System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager.

    In this case, site assignment fails and you must manually reassign the client to a Configuration Manager (current branch) site.

    The site compatibility check requires one of the following conditions:

  • The client can access site information published to Active Directory Domain Services.

  • The client can communicate with a management point in the site.

    If the site compatibility check fails to finish successfully, the site assignment fails, and the client remains unmanaged until the site compatibility check runs again and succeeds.

    The exception to performing the site compatibility check occurs when a client is configured for an Internet-based management point. In this case, no site compatibility check is made. If you are assigning clients to a site that contains Internet-based site systems, and you specify an Internet-based management point, ensure that you are assigning the client to the correct site. If you mistakenly assign the client to a Configuration Manager 2007 site, a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager site, or to a Configuration Manager site that does not have Internet-based site system roles, the client will be unmanaged.

Locating Management Points

After a client is successfully assigned to a site, it locates a management point in the site.

Client computers download a list of management points that they can connect to in the site. This happens whenever the client restarts, or every 25 hours, or if the client detects a network change, such as the computer disconnects and reconnects on the network or it receives a new IP address. The list includes management points on the intranet and whether they accept client connections over HTTP or HTTPS. When the client computer is on the Internet and the client doesn’t yet have a list of management points, it connects to the specified Internet-based management point to obtain a list of management points. When the client has a list of management points for its assigned site, it then selects one to connect to:

  • When the client is on the intranet and it has a valid PKI certificate that it can use, the client chooses HTTPS management points before HTTP management points. It then locates the closest management point, based on its forest membership.

  • When the client is on the Internet, it randomly chooses one of the Internet-based management points.

Mobile device clients that are enrolled by Configuration Manager only connect to one management point in their assigned site and never connect to management points in secondary sites. These clients always connect over HTTPS and the management point must be configured to accept client connections over the Internet. When there is more than one management point for mobile device clients in the primary site, Configuration Manager randomly chooses one of these management points during assignment and the mobile device client continues to use the same management point.

When the client has downloaded client policy from a management point in the site, the client is then a managed client.

Downloading Site Settings

After site assignment succeeds, and the client has found a management point, a client computer that uses Active Directory Domain Services for its site compatibility check downloads client-related site settings for its assigned site. These settings include the client certificate selection criteria, whether to use a certificate revocation list, and the client request port numbers. The client continues to check these settings on a periodic basis.

When client computers cannot obtain site settings from Active Directory Domain Services, they download them from their management point. Client computers can also obtain the site settings when they are installed by using client push, or you can specify them manually by using CCMSetup.exe and client installation properties. For more information about the client installation properties, see About client installation properties in System Center Configuration Manager.

Downloading Client Settings

All clients download the default client settings policy and any applicable custom client settings policy. Software Center relies on these client configuration policies for Windows computers and will notify users that Software Center cannot run successfully until this configuration information is downloaded. Depending on the client settings that are configured, the initial download of client settings might take a while, and some client management tasks might not run until this process is complete.

Verifying Site Assignment

You can verify site assignment success by any of the following methods:

  • For clients on Windows computers, use Configuration Manager in the Control Panel and verify that the site code is correctly displayed on the Site tab.

  • For client computers, in the Assets and Compliance workspace > Devices node, verify that the computer displays Yes for the Client column and the correct primary site code for the Site Code column.

  • For mobile device clients, in the Assets and Compliance workspace, use the All Mobile Devices collection to verify that the mobile device displays Yes for the Client column and the correct primary site code for the Site Code column.

  • Use the reports for client assignment and mobile device enrollment.

  • For client computers, use the LocationServices.log file on the client.

Roaming to Other Sites

When client computers on the intranet are assigned to a primary site but change their network location so that it falls within a boundary group that is configured for another site, they have roamed to another site. When this site is a secondary site for their assigned site, clients can use a management point in the secondary to download client policy and upload client data, which avoids sending this data over a potentially slow network. However, if these clients roam into the boundaries for another primary site or a secondary that is not a child site of their assigned site, these clients always use a management point in their assigned site to download client policy and to upload data to their site.

These client computers that roam to other sites (all primary sites and all secondary sites) can always use management points in other sites for content location requests. Management points in the current site can give clients a list of distribution points that have the content that clients request.

For client computers that are configured for Internet-only client management, and for mobile devices and Mac computers that are enrolled by Configuration Manager, these clients only communicate with management points in their assigned site. These clients never communicate with management points in secondary sites or with management points in other primary sites.