I know of four ways to search for Group Policy settings: Group Policy Settings Reference, Group Policy Search website, Group Policy Editor filter, and NIT-GPOSearch.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

Group Policy Settings Reference ^

The Group Policy Settings Reference consists of Excel sheets that contain all Group Policy settings for all operating systems that Microsoft currently supports. The tables contain the Group Policy title and the description. For each policy, you see the scope (User or Computer), the policy path, the supported operating systems, and the corresponding Registry location. The latter information can be useful if you want to change the settings by means other than Group Policy, say with PowerShell.

Group Policy Settings Reference

Group Policy Excel sheet

I usually use the Group Policy Settings Reference when I am unsure about the correct technical term of the policy I am looking for. I try to imagine what keywords the help text probably contains and, when I then skim through the search results, I often stumble across the correct terms; a second search reveals the Group Policy I am looking for. The Group Policy Excel sheets are also helpful if you don’t know if the policy you need is a Computer or User policy.

Group Policy Search website ^

Microsoft’s Group Policy Search website is a demo application in Azure that allows you to run full-text searches through all Group Policies. The website has several advantages compared to the Excel sheets. The filters allow you to search for policies that a certain platform supports. For instance, you can search for policies that are supported in Windows XP. Note that the search results wouldn’t just include policies that are exclusively supported by Windows XP; the corresponding policy might also be supported in a later Windows version. The filter helps you ensure that the policy is supported by all the platforms in your network. You can also restrict your search to Microsoft Office Group Policy and to User Policy Settings.

Group Policy Search website

Group Policy Search website

Group Policy Search highlights your keywords in the search results. This allows you to quickly determine whether the policy is what you are looking for or not. Another advantage compared to the Group Policy Settings Reference is that different languages are supported. The Excel sheets are only available in English. Group Policy Search also supports, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

You can also use Group Policy Search to find explanations for Registry settings. In the Tree menu, you’ll find the Registry View. The Copy menu allows you to copy the Registry key to the clipboard. This is quite useful if you want to use the key in a script. You can also copy other text, such as the explanation or the policy name, and you can even email the policy to a colleague.

Group Policy Editor filter ^

The Group Policy Editor that you use to configure policies in your network comes with a powerful filter that you can use to search for policies. The main advantage of the filter is that, once you find the policy, you can directly change the settings. With the other methods described here, you always have to navigate to the policy in the Group Policy Editor. You can also use the filter to find keywords in third-party ADMX/ADML files or in your own Group Policy templates. The Group Policy Search website and Group Policy Settings Reference only contain the policies provided by Microsoft.

Group Policy Editor filterGroup Policy Editor filter options

Group Policy Editor filter

One downside of the filter is that you can’t apply the same filter for computer and user settings. Thus, if you are unsure where the policy is located, you always have to search twice.

Another disadvantage is that you don’t get a list of all policies that match your search term. Instead, you’ll only see the folders that contain the policies with your search term. You then have to click through all folders to check if the policy is the one you are looking for.

You can access the filter through the context menu of the Administrative Templates in the Group Policy Editor. The first three settings are managed, configured, and commented. Managed policies are for those settings that the user can’t change once you configure them. That is, these settings are locked. Configured policies are all those Group Policies that you edited. Commented policies are those policies where you added your own comment in the corresponding comment field.

The keyword filter allows you to search in the policy setting title, in the help text, and in your comments. If you search for multiple keywords, you can tell the filter to search for any of the keywords, require that the policy contains all keywords, or search for the exact phrase.

The Requirement filters are also very useful. These filters enable you to restrict your search to a certain platform, such as Windows 8.1 or Internet Explorer 10. You can also select multiple platforms.

NIT-GPOSearch ^

NIT-GPOSearch is a free tool that allows you to run a full-text search in all your ADMX and ADML files. A downside of the tool is that it can only search in C:\windows\PolicyDefinitions; it doesn’t support Group Policy Central Store. The main advantage compared to the Group Policy Editor filter is that you can use it to find policies in user and computer templates in one go. You also get a list of all hits. If you use the filter, you only see the Group Policy folder structure, and you have to navigate to the policy that matches your search terms. The main advantage compared to the Group Policy Search website and the Group Policy Settings Reference is that you can use NIT-GPOSearch to search in your own Group Policy templates.

NIT-GPOSearch

NIT-GPOSearch

Do you know of another way to find Group Policies? Ah, I almost forgot the tool I use most often to search for Group Policy settings. It is called Google. Some people also call it Bing. 😉

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4 Comments
  1. Lasse S. Krache 5 years ago

    I wrote a PS-Skript to collect all active GPOs and save them as a HTML file -then open it in IE and search 🙂

    2+

  2. Thom McKiernan 5 years ago

    Another benefit of the GPSearch website is the File Explorer Connector download. This let's you search group policy settings from Windows Explorers search bar.

    To get it to work in Win7/8 you need to tweak the file a bit, I explain how on my blog http://wp.me/pLog8-71

    0

  3. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Lasse, sounds interesting. Did you publish the script somewhere?

    Thom, I didn't know about this connector. It seems the advantage is that you get a list with short excerpts. The website only lists the titles and you have to click each title to get more information.

    1+

  4. Andreas Nick 4 years ago

    Thank you for the review. There is a new version of NIT-GPOSearch (1.1): http://www.software-virtualisierung.de/nit-gposearch.html
    This version now also searches in the domain template definition.

    2+

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