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Windows Group Policy

When it comes to configuring Windows advanced computer settings on a wide scale, little if nothing can touch Windows Group Policy. Built into Windows versions since Windows 2000, the settings it can configure has grown with every release, where it now numbers over 2400 on Vista, according to Wikipedia. This level of control is probably the main reason Windows based computers rule the corporate world. Nothing in Linux, BSD or Apple comes close.

I’ve been playing with Group Policy for a number of years now, but only lightly. I’ve never had the chance to study it in depth or try out some of it’s features. It has also caused me some grief from time to time when a policy wouldn’t apply to a computer, but apart from that it has made my life as a Windows Admin much easier.

One of the additions to Group Policy introduced with Vista is the option to finer control removable devices such as flash drives and memory cards. Since the rise of the AutoRun based trojans a few years ago, having the option to deny read or write access to a flash drive is a big boon for those trying to control infections.

Unfortunately, this only works on Vista and above. XP does not have this feature available. I’ve seen some half hearted solutions to the problem by modifying a system file called USBSTOR.SYS and messing around with system services.

I’ve recently come across something called Group Policy Client Side Extensions which promises to make things even easier. Should this work as explained, I will be able to do things like create shortcuts on Desktops of users, which is not possible with standard Group Policy.

Group Policy can get very complex, but if done right it is a rewarding tool to work with.

Group PolicyLocal Policy on my Windows x64 Vista Ultimate

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