How To Configure a FreeIPA Client on Ubuntu 16.04

Published on March 8, 2017
How To Configure a FreeIPA Client on Ubuntu 16.04


FreeIPA is an open-source security solution for Linux which provides account management and centralized authentication, similar to Microsoft’s Active Directory. FreeIPA is built on top of multiple open source projects including the 389 Directory Server, MIT Kerberos, and SSSD.

FreeIPA has clients for CentOS 7, Fedora, and Ubuntu 14.04/16.04. These clients make it fairly straightforward to add machines into your IPA domain. Other operating systems can authenticate against FreeIPA using SSSD or LDAP.

In this tutorial, we will be configuring a Ubuntu 16.04 machine to authenticate against an existing FreeIPA server. Once your client is configured, you will be able to manage which users and groups of users may log into the machine. In addition you will be able to set which users may use sudo.


To follow this tutorial, you will need:

  • One CentOS 7 server with the FreeIPA server software installed, which you can set up by following this FreeIPA on CentOS 7 tutorial.

  • One Ubuntu 16.04 server set up by following this Ubuntu 16.04 setup guide, including a firewall. However, because we will be using FreeIPA to manage users, it’s not necessary to manually add a sudo non-root user. You can simply follow this tutorial as root.

  • The following DNS records set up for your Ubuntu server. You can follow this hostname tutorial for details on how to add them.

    • An A record with your server name (e.g. ipa-client.example.com) pointing to your client server’s IPv4 address.
    • An AAAA record with your server name pointing to your client server’s IPv6 address, if you want your server reachable via IPv6.

Throughout this tutorial, we’ll be using ipa-client.example.com as the example domain for your Ubuntu IPA client, and ipa.example.com for your CentOS IPA server (to match the prerequisite tutorial).

Step 1 — Preparing the IPA Client

Before we start installing anything, we need to do a few things to make sure your Ubuntu server is ready to run the FreeIPA client. Specifically, we’ll set the server hostname, update the system packages, and check that the DNS records from the prerequisites have propagated.

To begin, the hostname of your Ubuntu server will need to match your fully qualified domain name (FQDN) for the FreeIPA client to work correctly. We’ll be using ipa-client.example.com as the FQDN throughout this tutorial.

If this is a new server, you can set the hostname when you create the server.

If you already have a server, you can use the hostname command instead, as below. Note that you must be root to change the hostname of an existing system because the hostname is a system parameter and cannot be changed by regular users.

  1. hostname ipa-client.example.com

If you are changing your server’s hostname with the hostname command, it is a good idea to also change it manually in the /etc/hostname file as well.

  1. nano /etc/hostname

There should only be one line in the file with your server’s original hostname:


Change it to the full FQDN of your client.


Then save and close the file.

Once the hostname of your server is set correctly, update the package repositories.

  1. apt-get update

Finally, we need to verify that the DNS names resolve properly. We can use the dig command for this. Dig is installed on Ubuntu by default.

First, use dig to check the A record.

  1. dig +short ipa-client.example.com A

This should return your_server_ipv4.

If you have IPv6 enabled, you can test the AAAA record the same way.

  1. dig +short ipa-client.example.com AAAA

This should return your_server_ipv6.

We can also test the reverse lookup. This tests whether we can resolve the hostname from the IP address.

  1. dig +short -x your_server_ipv4
  2. dig +short -x your_server_ipv6

These should both return ipa-client.example.com.

Now that the server is prepared, we can install and configure the FreeIPA client package.

Step 2 — Installing the FreeIPA Client

In Ubuntu 16.04, the FreeIPA client is included in the default repositories.

  1. apt-get install freeipa-client

As the installer runs, it may prompt you for the Kerberos realm and Kerberos servers on a screen titled Configuring Kerberos Authentication. The FreeIPA installer will override these settings, but it’s best to enter them correctly here as well.

The Kerberos realm was configured when you installed the server. Generally it will be ipa.example.com The Kerberos server and administrative server should be the address of your IPA server. If you followed the prerequisite server tutorial, this will also be ipa.example.com. After these prompts, the ipa-client package will install.

Next, run the FreeIPA installation command. This will run a script that guides you through configuring FreeIPA to authenticate against your CentOS FreeIPA server.

  1. ipa-client-install --mkhomedir

The --mkhomedir flag tells FreeIPA to create home directories for IPA users when they log in to the machine for the first time. If you do not want this behavior, you can omit this flag.

The installer will first prompt you for the IPA domain. It is set when you configure the server.

Installation script prompt
Provide the domain name of your IPA server (ex: example.com): ipa.example.com

Next, you’ll need to enter the domain name of the IPA server. This should be the same as the URL that you use to access the IPA web UI. If you followed the server tutorial in the prerequisites, it will be the same as the IPA domain.

Installation script prompt
Provide your IPA server name (ex: ipa.example.com): ipa.example.com

Note: Systems with redundant IPA servers will most likely have a different IPA domain and IPA server name.

With a single server, failover will not work. FreeIPA will warn you about this, and you should enter yes to proceed.

Installation script prompt
Autodiscovery of servers for failover cannot work with this configuration.
If you proceed with the installation, services will be configured to always access the discovered server for all operations and will not fail over to other servers in case of failure.
Proceed with fixed values and no DNS discovery? [no]: yes

Confirm that all the options are correct, and continue.

Installation script prompt
Continue to configure the system with these values? [no]: yes

Next, enter an admin username. Here, we’ll just use the default IPA admin user that was created when the server was installed.

Installation script prompt
User authorized to enroll computers: admin

Finally, enter the password for your IPA admin user. This was set during the FreeIPA server configuration.

After you enter the password, the FreeIPA client will configure the system. The last line of output will be Client configuration complete. This indicates a successful install.

Now, we need to verify that our system shows up in the IPA web interface.

Step 3 — Verifying Authentication

Navigate to your IPA web UI, which is https://ipa.example.com. Log in to the web UI with the IPA admin account you used earlier. You will see the following screen:

ipa login

Navigate to the Hosts tab. You should see your IPA server listed as well as the client you just configured. Click on the entry for your IPA client. This will take you to an overview of the host.

From this screen, you can enter information about the client machine as well as managing groups and roles for the machine.

client view

Note: By default, all IPA users may login to all machines within the IPA domain.

You can also try logging in to the machine with an IPA user from your local terminal.

  1. ssh admin@ipa-client.example.com

You will log into your machine as an IPA user. You can exit back out of this connection once it’s successful.

IPA users will have basic access, but sudo is disabled. In the next step, we’ll enable sudo.

Step 4 — Enabling and Verifying sudo Rules (Optional)

It is not necessary to modify the client configuration files to get enable sudo access; however, if you want to, you must configure sudo rules in the IPA web UI to allow access.

FreeIPA allows you to specify which users and user groups may run sudo commands on which machines. It is also possible to limit the commands a user may run with sudo, and which users they may impersonate.

In this tutorial, we will cover adding a simple rule that allows the admin group full sudo access to all machines. Note that the admin group, along with the other groups displayed below, exist by default in FreeIPA.

  1. From the IPA web UI, click on Services and then click sudo. A dropdown menu should appear.
  2. In the dropdown menu, click sudo rules, then click add and enter a name for the rule in the Rule name field. Here, we’ll use admin because we’re allowing sudo for the admin group.
  3. Next, click add and edit. This will bring up the full set of options for the rule.
  4. Under Who and User groups click + add. Select the admins group and click the arrow to move it from Available to Prospective. Then click Add.
  5. Under Access this host, select Any host. Under Run Commands, select Any Command. Under As Whom, select Anyone and Any Group. This is where you could restrict these machines sudo is enabled on, the commands that can be run with sudo, and which users can be impersonated.
  6. Finally, scoll to the top of the page and click Save.

Your rule should now be active; however, it may take some time to propogate, and you may have to restart the sshd service for sudo rules to take affect. To do this, you can run systemctl restart sshd.service on the IPA client.

Once that’s done, let’s verify that we do have sudo access on the client machine. From your local machine, try logging in to the client with the IPA admin user. This user is by default in the admins group.

  1. ssh admin@ipa-client.example.com

Once you’ve logged in, attempt to start an interactive sudo prompt.

  1. sudo -i

The prompt should now change to root@ipa-client. You can simply type exit to return to the regular prompt.

If you are denied sudo access, you may want to reboot the machine and make sure that your sudo rule is configured properly.


With your machine configured to authenticate against FreeIPA, you can configure user and group access to your system from the IPA web UI or from its command line interface. FreeIPA has advanced functionality available, but for simpler configurations, you can simply add users and hosts providing a straightforward centralized authentication system.

FreeIPA is an extremely versatile authentication tool, and what you will need to do next depends largely on how you intend to use it. For further information, the FreeIPA website has a list of documentation resources.

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About the authors
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Ian Mcxa


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staff technical writer

hi! i write do.co/docs now, but i used to be the senior tech editor publishing tutorials here in the community.

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Can we have a tutorial on “how to configure ipa-client on windows” ? if not please let us know the reason that why ipa-client can’t be configured on windows.

Thanks a lot


Below things need to be taken care:

  1. Make sure your freeIPA client and server machines are time synced with NTP.
  2. To be able to SSH into a client, the user should be allowed in HBAC Rule.

i have setup the Ubuntu 16.04 IPA client it login the IPA users but don’t connect the home directory of IPA user as it does on centos clients. any help on that will be appreciated. Regards

I’m probably doing to rebuild my Ubuntu 16.04 server VM from scratch due to a number of issues, but I noted that the ipa install did not enabled home directories even though I gave the --mkhomedir parameter.

Is there a way to enabled it post-install?

I am having trouble getting sudo to work on one particular client machine on my network. The problem seems to be with the way the client is identified to the server.

For example, if I change the sudo rule to “All Hosts” then it works. But when I specify that particular host, it doesn’t. I’ve checked the hosts and hostname file and neither of them have typos… Does anyone have any ideas?

Hello Author,

When I get to this step and run the “apt-get install freeipa-client”, installation is successful except for SSSD as shown in the snippet below:

Setting up sssd-common (1.13.4-1ubuntu1.7) … Warning: found usr.sbin.sssd in /etc/apparmor.d/force-complain, forcing complain mode Warning failed to create cache: usr.sbin.sssd Job for sssd.service failed because the control process exited with error code. See “systemctl status sssd.service” and “journalctl -xe” for details. sssd.service couldn’t start.

systemctl status sssd.service shows the below information:

systemctl status sssd.service ● sssd.service - System Security Services Daemon Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/sssd.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: failed (Result: exit-code) since Thu 2017-09-21 11:29:23 WAT; 32min ago Process: 32433 ExecStart=/usr/sbin/sssd -i -f (code=exited, status=4) Main PID: 32433 (code=exited, status=4)

Sep 21 11:29:23 dc-monitor.labs.local systemd[1]: Starting System Security Services Daemon… Sep 21 11:29:23 dc-monitor.labs.local sssd[32433]: SSSD couldn’t load the configuration database [22]: Invalid argument. Sep 21 11:29:23 dc-monitor.labs.local systemd[1]: sssd.service: Main process exited, code=exited, status=4/NOPERMISSION Sep 21 11:29:23 dc-monitor.labs.local systemd[1]: Failed to start System Security Services Daemon. Sep 21 11:29:23 dc-monitor.labs.local systemd[1]: sssd.service: Unit entered failed state. Sep 21 11:29:23 dc-monitor.labs.local systemd[1]: sssd.service: Failed with result ‘exit-code’.

Even when I manually created the file and gave it necessary permissions as shown below, I still have the same issue.

ls -lrt /etc/sssd/sssd.conf -rw------- 1 root root 1 Sep 21 11:29 /etc/sssd/sssd.conf

Did you experience this, or has anyone experienced this on installation on Ubuntu 16.04 installation?

Thank you.

This comment has been deleted

    In step one, the instructions mention editing the /etc/hostname file, but the section below it depicts the /etc/hosts file being edited. Are both files being edited, or is it a typo?


    Hello, author! I am setting up client on Ubuntu 16 and I hav got a problem with sudo - it is not working. Can you tell me for sure that sudo is working on your machine? Because I tryied a lot of things like change sudo versions and different settings in GUI on the server. I has started working only I added few lines in sudoers file. But it is rediculous in this case :)

    Can’t wait to hear from you soon!


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