HOWTO: Create a Group Policy Central Store

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The Group Policy Central Store in Active Directory’s System Volume (SYSVOL) share optimizes Group Policy authoring and replication.

The group policy central store is a central location to store all the Group Policy template (*.admx) and Group Policy Language (*.adml) files. The Central Store eliminates the loading and opening of Group Policy template files on systems used to manage Group Policy. It allows for centralized authoring and versioning of Group Policy template and language files.

In this blogpost I’ll show you how to configure the Group Policy Central Store, that is part of Active Directory since Windows Server 2008.


Creating the Group Policy Central Store

Perform these steps to create a Group Policy Central Store:


Getting ready

Implement or locate a default Windows client device with Microsoft Office and any other software that supports Group Policy management. Install language packs for the languages used by admins in your organization. Update this system with the latest available updates, or download Group Policy templates and language files from Microsoft.


How to do it

To create the Group Policy Central Store, log into a Domain Controller (a non-Read-only Domain Controller) or access Active Directory’s System Volume (SYSVOL) over the network with an account that is a member of the Domain Admins group.

Perform these steps:

  • Log on to the default Windows client device for your organization.
  • Open File Explorer.
  • Navigate to the Windows System location, typically C:\Windows.
  • Locate the PolicyDefinitions folder.
  • Right-click the PolicyDefinitions folder and select Copy from the menu.
  • Navigate the current File Explorer window to Active Directory’s System Volume (SYSVOL), for instance \\\SYSVOL\
  • In the System Volume, navigate to the Policies folder.
  • Right-click an empty space and select Paste from the menu.
  • Navigate to the C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Group Policy folder, if it exists.
  • Copy the PolicyDefinitions folder in the latest version folder and paste it in the same location as step 8.


How it works

Before, Group Policy templates were stored as *.adm files.

Since Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, Group Policy settings in the Administrative Templates parts of Group Policy objects (GPOs) are represented on the filesystem by *.admx files and *.adml files. The first type of files defines the settings. The latter type of files provides language-dependent labels, so administrators using different languages can work together seamlessly.

Beyond the language benefit, the new filetypes also allow for a Central Store to store all Group Policy settings and settings languages in Active Directory’s System Volume (SYSVOL). This way, files for configured settings no longer have to be stored with individual GPOs, but only once. This optimizes Group Policy replication between Domain Controllers significantly.


There’s more

Creating the Group Policy Central Store requires a process that is revisited when new versions of software are introduced in the organization. Overwrite the *.adml and *.admx files with the newer versions.

4 Responses to HOWTO: Create a Group Policy Central Store


    I always delete all but the en-US ADML folder. Some ADMX templates do not contain localized ADML files so therefore only the en-US ADML folder is the one that's complete. Is this still best practice? I assumed in the old days when loading the GPO Editor this would bug out when missing ADML templates.
    Regards and keep up the nice postings!

    • Hi Arian,

      Every language of every device on which you manage Group Policy (gpmc.msc and gpedit.msc) or perform resultant set of policy (rsop.msc) should ideally be part of the Group Policy Central Store.
      This ensures that all the settings and explanations are available in the language of the device, when possible.


    Our network consists of Windows 10 clients of different versions (1903,1909,20H1) and Domain Controllers running Windows Server 2016.
    Is it okay to overwrite all the contents in the "PolicyDefinitions" folder with the newer one? and will the new definitions be compatible with the older versions?

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