Rotating Keytabs for SQL Server on Linux

Based on your organization's security best practices, you may be required to rotate the password regularly for the Active Directory (AD) account provided as network.privilegedadaccount in mssql.conf, or any other account that owns the service principal names (SPN) for SQL Server service. The supported method for changing the password for the account is documented in this article. The password change takes effect without the need to restart the SQL Server service on Linux.

The adutil tool is used to update the keytab. The adutil command must be run from a domain-joined machine. For more information about adutil and how to download the tool, see Introduction to adutil - Active Directory Utility.


It's critical to update the new password in the keytab with the next kvno number before updating it in Windows Active Directory (AD). Using the next kvno number prevents the SQL Server service from the need to be restarted after the password change. If you update the password in AD first, and then change the keytab, you'll need to restart the SQL Server service to ensure that AD authentication works properly.

Scenario for rotating the keytab

Let's consider an example. AD authentication is already enabled for the SQL Server on Linux. In the mssql.conf file, you have set the network.privilegedadaccount to sqluser. The account sqluser@CONTOSO.COM is already created in AD and the keytab has also been created at the default location /var/opt/mssql/secrets/mssql.keytab. Now you want to change the password for the sqluser@CONTOSO.COM. Here are the steps that you'll need to follow:

  1. Install adutil on the domain joined machine.

  2. Obtain or renew the Kerberos TGT (ticket-granting ticket) using the kinit command. Use a privileged account for the kinit command. The account needs to have permission to connect to the domain and should be able to create accounts and SPNs in the domain. In this case, we are using the account privilegeduser@CONTOSO.COM that has permissions to create accounts and SPNs in our domain called CONTOSO.COM.

    kinit privilegeduser@CONTOSO.COM
  3. Once you've run kinit to obtain/renew the TGT, query the current kvno number of the network.privilegedadaccount. In this case, it's sqluser@CONTOSO.COM.

    kvno sqluser@CONTOSO.COM 
  4. For example, if the kvno number from the previous command is 2, use the kvno number 3 when updating the keytab. Updating the keytab using adutil adds an entry into the current keytab. Below are the adutil commands that you need to run.

    • Change the port number (-p), hostname (-H), path to keytab(-k), and kvno number to match your environment.
    adutil keytab createauto -k /var/opt/mssql/secrets/mssql.keytab -p 1433 -H --password '<newpassword>' -s MSSQLSvc --kvno 3 
    adutil keytab create -k /var/opt/mssql/secrets/mssql.keytab -p sqluser --password '<newpassword>' --kvno 3 


    -k: is the path to the current keytab that is being used by SQL Server and set using the option network.kerberoskeytabfile in the mssql.conf file.

    -H: is the fully qualified domain name of the SQL Server host.

    -p: is the port that SQL Server service is configured to listen on in the first command. In the second command, -p represents the network.privilegedadaccount that you are going to update the password for.

    kvno: value needs to be the current kvno + 1. The current kvno value is obtained from step 3.

Once you run the above commands, you'll have to provide your choice of encryption type for the keytab entries. Ensure you choose the right one for your environment.

Check the keytab entries

After updating the keytab, you should now see the entries in the keytab for the kvno 3 (new), and also kvno 2 (old) for the same account sqluser@CONTOSO.COM and SPNs. You can run the klist command shown below to check the entries in the keytab:

klist -kte /var/opt/mssql/secrets/mssql.keytab

Change the account password in AD

The last step is to update the password of the network.privilegedadaccount or the account that owns the SQL Server SPNs in Windows Active Directory. In the above scenario, we will have to update the password for the sqluser@CONTOSO.COM in the Active Directory. Change the password to the <newpassword> that you provided in the step 3 in the section above. AD authentication should continue to work, and without the need for SQL Server service to restart.

Next steps