Group Policy settings are not applied? In this third part of our Group Policy troubleshooting series you will learn how to identify the source of the problem.

So you’ve got computers or users with Group Policy problems. Where do you start? Troubleshooting any problem is usually a process of elimination. A lot of people want to run directly to the Event Log of the computer having the problem. Before jumping on the first computer where Group Policy is not applied, I suggest asking a few questions first so you can eliminate possible causes. A little detective work up front can make tracking down the actual problem much easier and may save you some time digging through logs.

Is this a local system or a remote (probably VPN-connected) system? ^

Some policies behave differently depending on whether a user/computer is connected directly to a LAN or remotely over a slower connection. For a remote user, the computer may have identified the connection as a slow link and may not be enforcing all settings properly. Additionally, some settings like Folder Redirection and scripts only run during a reboot and may require pre-logon VPN access to network resources like file servers or they won’t run. If the user is connected remotely, you may need to recommend that they connect to the VPN prior to logging into AD so their policy can process.

Were any changes made to Group Policy recently? ^

So this is probably the biggest no-brainer of all of the questions. If someone made a change, did the reported problem matched the change that was made? Was the change tested before it was rolled out to everyone?

Are there other cases where Group Policy is not applied? ^

If the issue is isolated to one person or one computer, you may be looking at an individual client issue. Do you have some users/computers getting the policy and others that aren’t? You may be looking at a clients that haven’t refreshed yet or a possibly even an AD issue.

If it is a subset, is there something unique about them? ^

Do any of the users/computer have anything in common that may relate to the problem they are having? Are all of the users/computers located at a specific AD Site? Are all of the computers running the same OS? Are all of the computers on the same subnet? Are they in the same building? Are all the users assigned to the same file server?

Does the user have Admin rights? ^

I haven’t seen it a lot, but a user with Admin rights can cause problems for Group Policy processing. Did the user change the assigned DNS servers? If you can’t get to the DCs, you can’t process Group Policy. Did the user go into the Registry Editor and make changes to any of the Registry keys related to Group Policy? Did the user make changes to the local firewall? Has the user installed any other kind of application that could be interfering with Group Policy?

Is the computer having hardware problems? ^

A bad stick of memory or a failing hard drive can play all sorts of tricks on a computer. I can’t say I’ve personally seen Group Policy processing issues because of hardware problems, but I have had someone try to blame a problem on Group Policy that ended up being a bad stick of memory.

Can you replicate the problem? ^

If someone else logs into the computer, do they have the same issue? If the user logs into another computer, does that person still have the same problem? If you drop a test user or test computer into the same OU and refresh the policy, are the Group Policy settings applied correctly?

Are there any outages known to IT? ^

This is another no brainer... If you’re having replication issues between your DCs that you or someone else is trying to resolve, it makes no sense to spend time troubleshooting Group Policy problems until the replication issues are resolved. If there are network issues that are disabling clients' access to DCs, those network issues need to be resolved first.

Have IT infrastructure changes been made recently? ^

Was a file or print server replaced? Were any DCs upgraded or replaced recently? Has any network hardware like switches or firewalls been replaced/upgraded recently? All of these can potentially cause issues with Group Policy processing.

At this point, you are hopefully armed with enough information to help you track down the source of the problem if Group Policy settings were not applied. In my upcoming articles, I’ll discuss what you can do on the client and server side to track down and resolve your problem.

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In my next post I will cover Group Policy problems that are related to client issues.


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