Group Policy is a powerful tool in Windows Server 2012 that allows administrators to manage users and computers in an organized and centralized way. By using Group Policy, you can configure settings, enforce security policies, and deploy software across your network. However, creating and configuring Group Policy Objects can be a daunting task, especially for those who are new to the concept.
In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of creating Group Policy in Windows Server 2012 and help you understand the basics of Group Policy, as well as how to prepare, create, and configure Group Policy Objects. Additionally, we will cover common settings and scenarios, and provide troubleshooting tips to help you address any issues that may arise.
Whether you’re a seasoned IT professional or just starting out, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to effectively manage your network using Group Policy. So, sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get started!
Keep reading to learn how to create and manage Group Policy Objects in Windows Server 2012, and become a master of Group Policy management in no time!
Understand the Basics of Group Policy
Group Policy is a powerful tool for managing network resources and user settings in Windows Server 201By understanding the basics of Group Policy, you can create, manage and enforce policies that help secure and optimize your network. Policy is a set of rules or guidelines that govern the behavior of a system, and Group Policy is Microsoft’s implementation of policy-based management in Windows.
Group Policy Objects (GPOs) are containers for policy settings that can be linked to sites, domains, and organizational units in Active Directory. Each GPO contains multiple policy settings that can control various aspects of the operating system, applications, and user experience. The key to effective Group Policy management is understanding how to design, configure, and troubleshoot these settings.
Before you can create Group Policy Objects, it’s essential to have a good understanding of the underlying concepts and terminology. For example, you should know the difference between User Configuration and Computer Configuration, and understand how Group Policy Inheritance works. You should also be familiar with the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) and the Group Policy Object Editor (GPOE). Configuration is the process of setting up and configuring a system to meet the requirements of the user.
Group Policy can be used to enforce security settings, manage software updates, control access to resources, and customize the user experience. For example, you can use Group Policy to restrict users from accessing certain websites or applications, or to configure the desktop background and screensaver settings. With Group Policy, you can create a consistent and secure computing environment for your users, and simplify the management of your network. Security is the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from theft, damage, or unauthorized access.
Understanding the basics of Group Policy is essential for effective network management and security. In the next sections, we’ll look at how to prepare for Group Policy creation, create and configure GPOs, apply Group Policy to users and computers, troubleshoot common issues, and more. Keep reading to learn how to use Group Policy to manage your Windows Server 2012 environment like a pro. Management is the process of coordinating and controlling resources to achieve specific goals.
What is Group Policy?
Group Policy is a feature in Windows that allows administrators to manage settings and configurations for users and computers in an Active Directory environment. With Group Policy, administrators can enforce security policies, deploy software and updates, control user access to files and folders, and much more.
Group Policy settings are stored in Group Policy Objects (GPOs), which are linked to Active Directory objects such as domains, sites, and organizational units (OUs). These GPOs are applied to users and computers in a hierarchical order, allowing for granular control over which policies are applied where.
Group Policy can be managed using the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) and edited using the Group Policy Object Editor. There are thousands of Group Policy settings available, making it a powerful tool for managing large-scale Windows deployments.
- Centralized Management: Group Policy allows administrators to manage settings for multiple users and computers from a single location.
- Granular Control: Group Policy enables administrators to apply policies at the domain, site, or OU level, allowing for fine-grained control over which policies are applied where.
- Security: Group Policy can be used to enforce security policies, such as password policies and user account control.
- Software Deployment: Group Policy can be used to deploy software and updates to computers in the network.
- Cost Effective: Group Policy is included with Windows Server at no additional cost, making it a cost-effective solution for managing Windows environments.
Understanding the basics of Group Policy is crucial for anyone managing a Windows environment. With the right knowledge and tools, administrators can ensure that their network is secure, up-to-date, and functioning smoothly.
How Does Group Policy Work?
Group Policy is a powerful tool that allows system administrators to centrally manage and configure Windows operating systems and applications. It uses a hierarchy of policies, where policies at the higher levels take precedence over those at lower levels. Group Policy settings are stored in the Group Policy Objects (GPOs), which can be linked to Active Directory containers, such as sites, domains, and organizational units (OUs).
The Group Policy client-side extension (CSE) is responsible for processing GPOs and applying the configured settings to the computer or user objects. The CSE applies the policies in the order specified by the processing order, which includes LSDOU (Local, Site, Domain, Organizational Unit) and inheritance.
When a policy is applied, the CSE checks whether the policy is enabled, and if so, applies the policy settings. If the policy is disabled or not configured, the CSE moves to the next policy in the processing order. Once all the policies have been processed, the CSE applies the resulting settings to the user or computer object.
Why is Group Policy Important?
Centralized Management: Group Policy allows administrators to easily manage user and computer settings from a single, centralized location, rather than having to configure each individual machine manually.
Security: Group Policy enables administrators to enforce security policies across their network, including password policies, user rights, and access controls, reducing the risk of security breaches.
Efficiency: By automating repetitive tasks and configuring settings for multiple users or computers at once, Group Policy helps organizations save time and increase productivity.
Compliance: Group Policy can assist with ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS, by enforcing policies related to data protection and access control.
To learn more about how to create and manage Group Policy in Windows Server 2012, continue reading our step-by-step guide below.
Preparing for Group Policy Creation
Identify Group Policy Needs: Before creating Group Policy objects (GPOs), it is crucial to identify the organization’s needs, including user and computer configurations, security policies, and application settings.
Review Existing Policies: Reviewing existing policies allows administrators to ensure that the new policies align with the organization’s security and operational objectives. Administrators should also review security policies to ensure compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements.
Testing Policies: Testing policies before deployment can prevent potential issues that can impact users and computer systems. It is important to test policies in a controlled environment before deploying them to production systems.
Creating an OU Structure
Organizational Units (OUs) are containers in Active Directory that allow you to group objects such as users, computers, and other OUs for easier management. A well-designed OU structure can simplify Group Policy management and make it easier to apply policies to specific groups of users or computers.
When creating your OU structure, consider your organization’s hierarchy and the types of policies you want to apply. It’s important to keep in mind that Group Policy settings apply to objects within an OU and its child OUs. This means that policies applied to a parent OU can affect child OUs and their objects.
Some best practices for creating an OU structure include keeping it simple, avoiding nested OUs more than three levels deep, and aligning your structure with your organization’s departmental or functional hierarchy.
Understanding Group Policy Scope
What is Group Policy scope? Group Policy scope determines which policies apply to which objects in Active Directory.
What are the types of Group Policy scope? There are two types of Group Policy scope: computer and user. Computer policies apply to the computer regardless of who logs on, while user policies apply to the user regardless of which computer they use.
What is loopback processing? Loopback processing is a feature that allows you to apply user policies based on the computer they log onto, rather than the user who logs on. This is useful in situations where you have shared computers, such as in a classroom or kiosk environment.
Preparing Active Directory for Group Policy
Before creating and applying Group Policies, it is essential to ensure that Active Directory is set up correctly. This involves several steps:
- Create Organizational Units: Design a logical structure for your organization and create OUs that match your structure.
- Create User and Computer Accounts: Create user and computer accounts within the OUs. Group Policies can only be applied to user or computer objects, so make sure they are created in the appropriate OU.
- Delegate Administrative Control: Delegate control of the OUs to appropriate administrators or groups. This ensures that Group Policies are applied only to the intended users or computers.
By following these steps, you can create a clean and organized Active Directory structure that facilitates the efficient application of Group Policies.
Creating and Configuring Group Policy Objects
Creating a New Group Policy Object: To create a new GPO, open the Group Policy Management Console and expand the forest and domain nodes. Right-click the Group Policy Objects folder and select “New”. Enter a name and click “OK”.
Configuring Group Policy Settings: To configure settings for a GPO, right-click it and select “Edit”. This will open the Group Policy Management Editor. From here, you can navigate to different policy settings and configure them as needed.
Linking a Group Policy Object: Once you’ve created and configured a GPO, you need to link it to the appropriate Active Directory object. To do this, right-click the object and select “Link an Existing GPO”. Select the GPO you want to link and click “OK”.
Enforcing and Blocking Group Policy Inheritance: You can enforce a GPO so that it overrides any conflicting settings from parent OUs. To do this, right-click the GPO and select “Enforced”. You can also block inheritance for a specific OU, preventing any GPOs linked to parent OUs from applying to it. To do this, right-click the OU and select “Block Inheritance”.
Creating a New Group Policy Object
Group Policy Management Console: Launch the GPMC, select the domain, and then navigate to the Group Policy Objects container. Right-click on the container and select New.
Name the GPO: Enter a name for the GPO, keeping in mind the scope and the purpose of the policy.
Edit the GPO: Once the GPO is created, right-click on it and select Edit. This will open the Group Policy Management Editor, where you can configure the settings for the GPO.
Link the GPO: After configuring the settings, link the GPO to the appropriate containers in the Active Directory hierarchy, such as the domain, OU, or site level, depending on the scope of the GPO.
Configuring Group Policy Settings
Understanding Group Policy Settings: Group Policy settings are configured in two areas: Computer Configuration and User Configuration. Both areas have subcategories for different settings.
Applying Group Policy Settings: Group Policy settings are applied in the following order: local, site, domain, and organizational unit. If there are conflicts between settings, the last applied policy takes precedence.
Common Group Policy Settings: Some of the most commonly configured Group Policy settings include password policies, software installation policies, security settings, and logon/logoff scripts.
Managing Group Policy Settings: Group Policy settings can be managed using the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) and the Group Policy Object Editor. The GPMC allows for easy management of policies across the entire domain.
Applying Group Policy to Users and Computers
Once you have created and configured a Group Policy Object (GPO), you can apply it to users and computers in your organization. Here are some important points to keep in mind:
Link the GPO to an OU: To apply a GPO to a group of users or computers, you need to link the GPO to an Organizational Unit (OU) in Active Directory.
Use security filtering: You can use security filtering to apply a GPO only to certain users or groups. This is useful when you have multiple OUs with different security requirements.
Configure WMI filters: Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) filters allow you to apply a GPO based on the properties of the target computer. For example, you can apply a GPO only to computers running a certain version of Windows.
Use loopback processing: Loopback processing allows you to apply user configuration settings to computers. This is useful when you have shared computers that are used by multiple users.
Enforce or block inheritance: By default, GPOs are inherited from parent OUs to child OUs. However, you can enforce a GPO to prevent child OUs from overriding it, or block inheritance to prevent a GPO from being inherited by child OUs.
Linking Group Policy Objects
Linking a Group Policy Object (GPO) is the process of applying the GPO to an Organizational Unit (OU), domain, or site in Active Directory. When a GPO is linked to an OU, it applies to all objects in that OU, including users and computers.
You can link multiple GPOs to a single OU, and GPOs can also be linked to multiple OUs. The order in which GPOs are applied is important, and can be adjusted by changing the link order of the GPOs.
It’s important to consider the scope of the GPO when linking it to an OU. A GPO with a wider scope should be linked higher in the Active Directory hierarchy, such as at the domain or site level, while a GPO with a narrower scope can be linked lower in the hierarchy, such as to a specific OU.
By default, GPOs are not linked to any OUs, domains, or sites, so they won’t have any effect until they are linked. Once linked, the GPO will be applied to all objects in the linked scope, according to the defined settings in the GPO.
It’s important to regularly review the linked GPOs in your Active Directory environment to ensure they are still needed and are configured correctly. Unneeded or misconfigured GPOs can cause issues with user and computer settings, and can impact the overall security and stability of your environment.
Enforcing Group Policy
Enforcing a Group Policy object (GPO) ensures that the policy settings it contains are applied to all users and computers affected by the GPO, regardless of any conflicting settings applied by other GPOs.
Enforcing a GPO creates a link order that gives the GPO precedence over any other GPOs that may contain conflicting settings.
Enforcing a GPO also overrides any Block Inheritance settings that may be applied to the organizational unit (OU) or domain where the GPO is linked, ensuring that the GPO settings are always applied.
- Enforcing a GPO should be used sparingly and only in situations where it is necessary to ensure that a specific policy always takes precedence over any other policies.
- Enforcing a GPO can make it more difficult to troubleshoot conflicts between policies, so it is important to document any enforced policies and their reasons.
- Enforcing a GPO can also increase network traffic and processing time on client computers, so it should be used judiciously.
- To enforce a GPO, right-click the GPO in the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), select “Enforced”, and then click “Yes” to confirm the change.
- To remove the enforcement, right-click the GPO again and select “Enforced” to clear the check mark.
Enforcing a GPO is a powerful tool that should be used with caution and only when necessary to ensure that important policy settings are always applied. By following best practices for GPO management, administrators can help ensure that their policies are effective, efficient, and easy to manage.
Filtering Group Policy
Group Policy Filtering allows administrators to control which users or computers receive Group Policy settings. This is done by applying a filter to a Group Policy object (GPO) so that it is only applied to certain users or computers.
Filters can be based on a variety of criteria, such as security group membership, organizational unit (OU), site location, and more. For example, if you want to apply a GPO only to computers in a specific department, you can filter the GPO by the OU that contains those computers.
Filters can be set at the GPO level or at the individual setting level within a GPO. This allows for fine-grained control over which users or computers receive specific settings within a GPO.
|Security Group||Filter based on membership in a specific security group||Apply a GPO only to members of the “Sales” group|
|OU||Filter based on the location of the user or computer object in Active Directory||Apply a GPO only to computers in the “Marketing” OU|
|WMI Filter||Filter based on Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) queries||Apply a GPO only to computers with a certain amount of RAM|
|Site||Filter based on the physical location of the user or computer object||Apply a GPO only to computers in the “New York” site|
|User or Computer||Filter based on individual user or computer objects||Apply a GPO only to a specific user or computer|
It is important to use filtering judiciously, as too many filters can result in complexity and confusion. Additionally, filtering can impact Group Policy processing performance, so it is important to test and monitor any filters that are applied.
Common Group Policy Settings and Scenarios
Password Policies: Password policies are used to enforce strong password policies, such as minimum password length, password complexity, and password age. Password policies can be applied to users or computers, and can be enforced at the domain or local level.
Software Installation: Group Policy can be used to deploy software to users or computers. This can be useful for ensuring that all users have access to necessary software, or for enforcing company policies regarding software usage.
Internet Explorer Settings: Group Policy can be used to configure Internet Explorer settings, such as homepage, security settings, and proxy settings. This can be useful for ensuring that all users have the same Internet Explorer settings, or for enforcing company policies regarding Internet usage.
Folder Redirection: Group Policy can be used to redirect user folders to a network location, such as a file server. This can be useful for ensuring that user data is backed up and easily accessible, or for enforcing company policies regarding data storage.
Security Settings: Group Policy can be used to configure a variety of security settings, such as account lockout policies, audit policies, and user rights. This can be useful for enforcing security policies and ensuring that all users and computers meet minimum security requirements.
Managing Security Settings with Group Policy
Security Settings: Group Policy can be used to configure security settings on computers and users. Security settings such as account policies, audit policies, user rights assignments, security options, and software restriction policies can be configured using Group Policy.
Account Policies: Group Policy can be used to enforce password policies, account lockout policies, and Kerberos policies. Password policies control the length, complexity, and age of passwords. Account lockout policies control the number of failed logon attempts before an account is locked out. Kerberos policies control how Kerberos authentication is used.
Audit Policies: Group Policy can be used to configure audit policies to track events that occur on computers and users. Auditing can be used to track changes to files and folders, changes to system policies, and changes to user accounts.
|User Rights Assignments||Default Settings||Description|
|Allow log on locally||Administrators, Users||Determines which users can interactively log on to a computer.|
|Deny log on locally||Not defined||Determines which users cannot interactively log on to a computer.|
|Allow log on through Remote Desktop Services||Administrators, Remote Desktop Users||Determines which users can log on remotely to a computer using Remote Desktop.|
|Deny log on through Remote Desktop Services||Not defined||Determines which users cannot log on remotely to a computer using Remote Desktop.|
|Enable computer and user accounts to be trusted for delegation||Not defined||Determines whether a computer or user account can be trusted for delegation.|
Software Restriction Policies: Group Policy can be used to restrict the execution of software on computers. Software restriction policies can be used to allow or deny specific software from running on a computer based on criteria such as publisher, path, or hash.
Deploying Software with Group PolicySoftware deployment is an important task for IT administrators. Group Policy can be used to deploy software to computers in a network. Here are some points to keep in mind:
Package Creation: Before deploying software, it needs to be packaged into an MSI file format. The package can then be uploaded to a shared network location.
Group Policy Management: In the Group Policy Management Console, create a new GPO for software deployment. Under the GPO, create a new Software Installation policy.
Assign or Publish: Assigning a software package will ensure that it gets installed on target computers, while publishing a package will allow users to install it on their own.By following these steps, IT administrators can ensure that software is deployed efficiently across a network.
Configuring User Environment Settings with Group Policy
Group Policy can be used to configure a variety of settings related to the user environment, such as desktop backgrounds, screensavers, and folder options. These settings can be applied to specific users or groups of users, depending on the needs of the organization.
One of the key benefits of using Group Policy to manage user environment settings is that it allows administrators to easily enforce consistency across the organization. By applying the same settings to all users or groups, administrators can ensure that everyone has a similar experience when using company resources.
Another advantage of using Group Policy for user environment settings is that it allows administrators to quickly and easily make changes as needed. Rather than having to manually configure settings on each individual computer, administrators can simply update the appropriate Group Policy object and the changes will be applied across the network.
Troubleshooting Group Policy Issues
Group Policy is a powerful tool for managing settings and configurations across your network. However, issues can arise that prevent Group Policy from functioning correctly.
One common issue is policy inheritance, where settings from one policy are overwritten by another. This can cause unexpected behavior and can be difficult to diagnose.
Another issue is slow Group Policy processing, where policies take a long time to apply to computers or users. This can be caused by a number of factors, such as network latency or incorrect configurations.
If you’re experiencing issues with Group Policy, there are several tools available to help you troubleshoot. The Group Policy Results tool can help you identify which policies are being applied and which settings are being overwritten. The Event Viewer can also provide useful information about Group Policy processing.
Identifying Group Policy Errors
Event Viewer: The first step in identifying group policy errors is to use the Event Viewer to check for any errors or warnings related to group policy processing.
Resultant Set of Policy: The Resultant Set of Policy (RSoP) tool allows you to view the policies that are applied to a specific user or computer, which can help identify any conflicts or errors in the policy settings.
Group Policy Modeling: The Group Policy Modeling tool allows you to simulate the application of group policy settings for a specific user or computer, which can help identify potential errors or conflicts that may occur when the policy is applied.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Group Policy in Windows Server 2012?
Group Policy is a feature in Windows Server 2012 that allows you to manage user and computer configurations centrally, in order to enforce security policies, software installations, and other settings across your organization.
What are the steps to create Group Policy in Windows Server 2012?
To create a Group Policy in Windows Server 2012, you need to follow these steps: open the Group Policy Management Console, create a new Group Policy Object, link the GPO to a container (such as an Active Directory domain, site, or OU), and configure the desired settings in the GPO.
What kind of settings can be configured with Group Policy in Windows Server 2012?
Group Policy in Windows Server 2012 can be used to configure a wide range of settings, including security policies, user and computer configurations, software deployment, scripts, folder redirection, and Internet Explorer settings, among others.
How can you troubleshoot Group Policy issues in Windows Server 2012?
You can troubleshoot Group Policy issues in Windows Server 2012 by using tools such as the Group Policy Results Wizard, the Group Policy Modeling Wizard, and the Event Viewer, which can help you identify and diagnose problems with GPO processing, inheritance, filtering, and conflicts.
What are some best practices for using Group Policy in Windows Server 2012?
Some best practices for using Group Policy in Windows Server 2012 include: planning your GPO structure and naming conventions in advance, testing your GPOs in a lab environment before deploying them, documenting your GPO configurations and changes, avoiding overloading your GPOs with too many settings, and regularly reviewing and auditing your GPOs to ensure they are still relevant and effective.