To come straight to the point, there are not many new Group Policy features in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. The important enhancements were introduced with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008: Group Policy ADMX and ADML templates, Group Policy central store, Network Location Awareness, Group Policy Preferences, Group Policy Starter objects and Group Policy event logging. Some of these are absolute killer features, and should have been a good reason for many organizations to embrace Vista. Of course, Windows 7 will also come with these improvements. There are also new features in Windows 7, and as an admin you should learn about these changes even though they are not breathtaking.
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It is interesting to note that Microsoft lists some of the above mentioned features as new in Windows 7. Somehow, they are expressing this way that Windows 7 is basically Windows Vista which is one of the main reasons why Windows 7 is a great operating system. But let's see what is really new in Windows 7 Group Policy.
Windows PowerShell Cmdlets for Group Policy
I think, the new PowerShell Group Policy cmdlets are the most important enhancement in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. You could already manage Group Policy before Windows 7 with PowerShell. A more convenient option are the free cmdlets from SDM Software. You should also check out their Group Policy Automation Engine, which supports scripting of many more policy areas.
SDM Software's cmdlets were more or less the model for those you can now find in Windows 7. The biggest advantage of this new Windows 7 feature is that the cmdlets are now integrated in the OS. Basically, you can perform all Group Policy management tasks on the command line or in a script: Create, remove, backup and import Group Policy Objects (GPOs), manage associations of GPOs with Active Directory containers, setting inheritance flags and permissions on Active Directory organizational units, configure registry-based policy settings and Group Policy Preferences Registry settings, and manage Start GPOs (pre-defined GPO templates).
I suppose, the vast majority of sys admins will continue managing Group Policy with GUI tools. However, there are certainly cases when you need a feature that your GUI tools lack. Then, you have no other choice than to write your own tool (script) and that's where the new cmdlets come in. That's why I consider cmdlets as some kind of API. Typically, tasks where you can use these new cmdlets involve the manipulation of multiple GPOs or links to GPOs.
More information about this new feature can be found in this Technet article.
New Group Policy settings
Every new Windows version introduces new Group Policy settings. Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are no exception here. All in all, Group Policy now supports approximately 3,000 different settings, in which 300 of them are new. Most of them are for new Windows 7 features such as BitLocker to Go, Applocker. Internet Explorer 8 alone has more than 140 new Group Policy settings. (How many new Group Policy settings has Firefox 3.5?). Please check out the new Group Policy Settings Reference which includes all new Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 settings.
New user interface for ADMX Migrator
I already reviewed ADMX Migrator more than two years ago. As its name indicates, the main purpose of the tool is to convert ADM templates to the new ADMX format that was introduced with Vista. However, the tool also allows you to create new ADMX templates with an easy-to-use GUI. There will be a new version for Windows 7 with a new user interface. I wasn't able to find a download for the tool, so I suppose it has not been released yet. The Silverlight video here demonstrate the new user interface. Most noticeable is that the tabs from ADMX Migrator 1.3 are gone. I might write more about this topic as soon as I can get my hands on the new ADMX Migrator.
Okay, that's it already. All the other new features that are often mentioned in reviews and documentations are Vista features.
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As always, lots of great information for IT managers and pros. Keep the WS08 stuff coming! 🙂
Thanks 🙂 More WS08 stuff is already in preparation.
I hope you didn’t really mean to slate FireFox there.
The FirefoxADM project and the FrontMotion Firefox Community Edition enable fine grained control over a massive number of FireFox settings. In fact anything that can be set in about:config page should be remotely controllable.
Actually, I am currently in the mood to slate Firefox because when I wanted to reply to your comment this nifty community browser hanged again. Last time I checked Firefox was no match for Internet Explorer with regard to central management. But this was about a year ago. Did the situation change since then?
Several of the group policy are not getting applied on windows 7 machines. Any specific reasons?
And YES there is no change in situation for firefox central management. No initiatives taken, we have to rely upon a program written 4 years ago