Thursday, July 1, 2010

Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 Group Policy

With the release of Windows Server 2008 came Group Policy preferences, a set of more than 20 Group Policy extensions that expanded the range of configurable settings within a Group Policy object (GPO). Following that game-changing release, you might expect new Group Policy features of a similar nature in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7. Unfortunately, most of what you’ll see, and what I discuss in this article, are incremental improvements rather than game changers. That being said, Microsoft did manage to incorporate one major change in Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 by taking the first tentative steps toward automating Group Policy management using PowerShell. The rest of what you’ll find new in the latest Windows release is mostly updates to existing policy areas, some additional Windows components under Group Policy management, and some improvements to Group Policy preferences. Let’s look at the changes in depth.

Administrative Template Changes
The major news in Administrative Templates, or registry policy, occurred when Windows Vista shipped. With Vista, Microsoft introduced a new ADMX format and the Central Store. The ADMX format provided better multilanguage support; the Central Store took old ADM files out of the SYSVOL part of every GPO. With Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, the greatest change in this area is the addition of yet more Administrative Template settings (more than 300). These settings cover a bevy of new Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 features (e.g., policies to control new UI elements specific to each platform). You’ll find a full list of Administrative Template and Security policy settings in Excel format in Microsoft’s “Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows and Windows Server” (

One of the more subtle changes to Administrative Templates is a modified ADMX schema that now supports two new registry value types: REG_MULTI_SZ and REG_QWORD. Previously, you couldn’t use Administrative Templates to modify these two value types. Your choices were to deliver these kinds of values via registry scripts, or to use the Group Policy preferences’ registry extension to get these value types on client machines. Now these types are supported in the ADMX syntax, and you can create custom ADMX templates that support these new types.

Another subtle Administrative Templates change is a UI improvement. In Server 2008 and Vista, Microsoft introduced the concept of Comments to Administrative Template settings. If you chose to, you could add comments to each policy setting. These comments, and the improved Explain text that provided help for each setting, were displayed as three separate tabs within Group Policy Editor’s (GPE’s) UI. You had to flip between each tab to use them. In Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, all three elements are presented on a single pane that you can easily see and edit.

Source of Information : Windows IT Pro June 2010

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