With the release of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft made the previously mentioned Group Policy Preferences feature available to all XP, 2003, Vista and 2008 users. This is a great thing, as I’ve said, but there has definitely been some confusion about how to manage this stuff, which platforms it works on and how to deal with it if you were already using DesktopStandard’s PolicyMaker product. This latter issue came up while I was helping to moderate a Birds of a Feather session on GP at the recent NetPro DEC conference (which was a great show, btw). So let’s run through the basics of this so you understand the issues.
- Group Policy Preferences ships on Server 2008 without having to install anything. You can edit GPPs from the GPMC using the new version of the GP Editor that ships with that version.
- GPP does not support local GPOs at all
- If you want downlevel clients (i.e. XP and 2003) to process GPP settings, you need to install the GPP client side extension installations located here. Note that if you already use DesktopStandard’s PolicyMaker extensions, then the GPP client-side extension install will deinstall the DesktopStandard extensions if they are found on the client, so be aware!
- If you want to manage GPP settings in GPOs, you need to use GPMC and the GP Editor that get installed by the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) on Vista, Service Pack 1. Note that RSAT is not actually shipping yet but should be available by end of this month.
- You CANNOT edit GPP settings on XP or Server 2003. That will not change as far as I know. You will need to manage these GPP settings only on Vista, SP1 or Server 2008
In addition, if you were using DesktopStandard’s PolicyMaker extensions, you need to be a aware of a few things. I already mentioned above the the GPP extensions will deinstall the PolicyMaker extensions when you install them. You cannot co-exist both on the same client. However, more interestingly, the settings that were created by PolicyMaker are not compatible with GPP settings or the GPP client-side extensions. So what this means is that a GPO containing PolicyMaker settings will not be processed by a client running the GPP extensions (and vice-versa!). I know that Microsoft plans to provide some kind of conversion script in the near future that will convert PolicyMaker settings in a GPO into GPP settings. In the meantime, you will need to keep the two environments separate.
In any case, if you are already moving towards GPP, there is a lot to be excited about here.