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PowerBI Connectivity Error: "Microsoft SQL: The target principal name is incorrect. Cannot generate SSPI context."


This error typically occurs due to issues with the Security Support Provider Interface (SSPI) that is used by Microsoft SQL Server for authentication. The error message "The target principal name is incorrect. Cannot generate SSPI context" usually indicates a problem with Kerberos authentication or DNS issues. Here's a step-by-step approach to troubleshoot and potentially resolve the issue:

  1. Check the Server and Client Time Synchronization: Ensure that the time on the client machine (where PowerBI is running) and the SQL Server are synchronized. A significant time difference can cause Kerberos authentication to fail.

  2. Verify the SPN (Service Principal Name):

    • Use the setspn command to list the SPNs for the SQL Server service account. The command to list SPNs for a specific account is setspn -L <Domain\ServiceAccount>.
    • Ensure there are SPNs for the SQL Server that include both the NetBIOS name and the FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name) of the server.
    • If SPNs are missing, you can add them using setspn -A MSSQLSvc/<YourServerName>:<YourPort> <Domain\ServiceAccount> and setspn -A MSSQLSvc/<YourServerFQDN>:<YourPort> <Domain\ServiceAccount>.
  3. Check DNS Configuration: Ensure that the DNS settings are correct and that the client machine can resolve the SQL Server name to the correct IP address. Use ping <SQLServerName> to check name resolution and nslookup <SQLServerName> to verify DNS records.

  4. Review SQL Server Configuration: In SQL Server Configuration Manager, ensure that the SQL Server service is running under a domain account if Kerberos authentication is required. Using a local system account can cause issues with Kerberos.

  5. Client Configuration: On the client machine, you can force the use of NTLM authentication as a temporary workaround by using the SQL Server connection string parameter ;Integrated Security=SSPI;. However, this is not recommended for a permanent solution as it bypasses Kerberos authentication.

  6. Windows Event Logs and SQL Server Logs: Check the Windows Event Logs for Kerberos-related errors and the SQL Server error logs for any indications of authentication issues.

  7. Network Issues: Ensure there are no network issues or firewalls blocking the necessary ports for SQL Server communication and Kerberos authentication.

  8. Reboot: As a last resort, rebooting both the client and server machines can sometimes resolve lingering SSPI context issues.

If after these steps the issue persists, it may be necessary to engage your network or domain administrators to further investigate potential issues with Active Directory, DNS configurations, or other network-related configurations affecting Kerberos authentication.

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