Three useful ways to get started with Group Policy in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012

GroupPolicyWindows 8 and Windows Server 2012 offer a lot of new functionality. Of course, a lot of this functionality can be centrally managed with Active Directory through Group Policy.

But how do you find the Group Policy settings that are new to these two Operating Systems? How do you find that specific Group Policy setting you need to accomplish your task in the big pile of 4500+ available Group Policies? And how do you know which admx file you need to troubleshoot those pesky “”Display names for some settings cannot be found.” errors?

In this blog post I’ll provide you with three ways to get started with the new Group Policy settings in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 and along the way provide you some tips and tricks on the above three challenges.

Note:
None of these ways are new to Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012.

 

1. Use Group Policy Settings Filtering

With the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) in Windows Server 2012 or in the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) in Windows 8, functionality exists to filter the Group Policy settings under Administrative Templates. Since this is where the bulk of the settings you’d use are located, this is useful functionality.

To use the Group Policy Settings Filtering, follow these steps:

  • Open the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC)
  • Edit a Group Policy by right-clicking one and selecting Edit… from the context menu.
  • Expand either the Policies node under Computer Configuration or the Policies node under User Configuration. Right-click the Administrative Templates node or any node underneath it. Select Filter Options….

Filter Options for the Administrative Templates node within the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC)

  • In the Filter Options compose the filter you’d want to use. You may include the state of a Group Policy setting (Managed, Configured and/or Commented), you can enable keyword filters to search for specific strings of text in either the Policy Setting Title, the Help Text and/or the Comment and you can filter on requirements to filter out Windows 8, as an example. When done, click OK.
  • To apply the filter, again, right-click on any node under the Administrative Templates, or the Administrative Templates node itself, and select Filter On.

In any node underneath the Administrative Templates node it will now only show the policies within the filter.

Tip!
Viewing the contents of the All Settings node with the Filter On is particularly useful, if you’re looking for that one setting.

 

2. Use the Group Policy Reference

Microsoft shares thorough documentation of its built-in Group Policy settings. This documentation is available as a free download from Microsoft and comes in the form of Excel documents. The documents can be found here. One of the documents is called WindowsServer2012andWindows8GroupPolicySettings.xlsx. That’s the Excel document describing the Group Policy Settings for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8.

Using the functionality of Microsoft Office Excel, certain Group Policy settings can be filtered out, by using the filter options of the columns of the document. Particularly useful columns to filter on, are:

  • Reboot Required
    A “Yes” in this column means that the Windows operating systems requires a restart before it applies the described policy setting. This way, the impact of a settings change can be determined in an early stage.
  • Logoff Required
    A “Yes” in this column means that the Windows operating system requires the user to log off and log on again before it applies the described policy setting.
  • Active Directory Schema or Domain Requirements
    A “Yes” in this column means that you must extend the Active Directory schema before you can deploy this policy setting.
  • Status
    A “New” in this column means that the setting did not exist prior to Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8. It does not mean that the setting applies only to Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8. Refer to the column entitled “supported on” to determine to which operating system the policy setting applies.

Also, using Ctrl+F allows you to quickly search the entire document for a certain text.

The main difference between using the Group Policy Reference and the Group Policy Settings Filtering functionality, is that the Reference will give you far more information and will even tell you which *.admx file contains a particular setting. On the other hand, using Ctrl+F will return you every occurrence of the text, whether it is in the Registry Value, *.admx name or in the setting title. Also, the Reference contains the Group Policy settings under the Security Options node, not just the settings from Administrative Templates.

However, when you’re using *.admx files to manage settings in other Microsoft products (like Office) or third party products (like FireFox or Chrome), you’d be better off using the Group Policy Settings Filtering functionality.

 

3. Use the Group Policy Search website

If your main problem with Group Policy settings is with the hierarchy of Group Policy Settings, then a third solution would be helpful to you. Also, when you don’t want to fiddle around with Microsoft Office, this is good solution.

This solution is the Group Policy Search (GPS) website at gps.cloudapp.net. This website features a more intuitive Policy Tree in the left navigation pane, including the many Group Policy settings from the Microsoft Office Administrative Templates. Alternatively you can use the Registry Tree, to find the Group Policy settings controlling a certain Registry value.

Within the website, just like the previous two solutions, you can filter. Available filters are for supported browsers and Operating Systems (OSs), but also on Machine Policy Settings Only and User Policy Settings Only.

When your job is to communicate and document the Group Policy settings in use in your organization, then you’d also love the Copy menu in the website. It allows for easy copying and sharing of information on a particular Group Policy setting (although it doesn’t come with keyboard shortcuts at the moment).

 

Concluding

While Group Policy, at first, may seem overwhelming, using the combination of the above three tools will make it easy to accomplish the tasks you’d want to achieve with Group Policy.

Downloads

Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows and Windows Server

Further Reading

Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012
Windows 8 Group Policy Reference
Download Group Policy Settings Reference
Out Now: Windows 8 and 2012 Group Policy Reference Spread sheet
Updated Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8
Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows and Windows Server Excel Spreadsheets
Updated Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8
Server 2012 and Windows 8 Group Policy Reference released
Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012
Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows 8 (RTM) and Windows Server 2012 (RTM)
Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012
New Group Policy Settings Reference for Windows and Windows Server
Microsoft released group policy settings reference for Windows 8 and Windows Server
Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 Group Policy Settings doc
Server 2012 and Windows 8 Group Policy Reference released
Gruppenrichlinien Referenzen als Download nun auch für Windows 8 vefügbar

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