Group Policies are an essential tool for managing and controlling the configuration of Windows-based computers in an organization. They allow you to define settings, restrictions, and preferences that are applied to users and computers, which helps to ensure consistency, security, and compliance.
But how do you know which group policies are actually being applied to a particular user or computer, and how do you understand the order in which they are processed? In this guide, we’ll explore the different ways to determine which group policies are applied in Windows and how to understand their order of precedence.
Determining Which Group Policies Are Applied
There are several ways to determine which group policies are applied in Windows:
Group Policy Management Console (GPMC)
The Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) is a built-in tool in Windows that provides a centralized management interface for configuring and deploying Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to specific domains or organizational units (OUs).
The GPMC also includes a feature called Group Policy Results, which allows you to determine which group policies are applied to a specific user or computer.
To use Group Policy Results:
- Open the Group Policy Management Console.
- Right-click on the Group Policy Results node and select “Group Policy Results Wizard.”
- Follow the wizard’s prompts to select the user or computer you want to check and the GPOs to include in the report.
- The report generated by the wizard will show you which GPOs are applied, which settings are configured, and which GPOs are filtered out due to security filtering or WMI filtering.
The Group Policy Results feature is a powerful tool for checking which group policies are applied to a specific user or computer, and it provides detailed information about the settings that are applied.
Command Line Tools
In addition to the GPMC, Windows provides several command-line tools that allow you to check which group policies are applied. These tools include:
gpresult: This command displays the group policy settings that are currently applied to the computer or user account. By default, it displays a summary of the settings, but you can use switches such as
/vto display more detailed information.
gpresult /Scope User /v
gpresult /Scope Computer /v
rsop.msc: This command opens the Resultant Set of Policy (RSoP) console, which displays the effective group policy settings for a user or computer. You can use this console to troubleshoot group policy issues and verify that the expected settings are being applied.
rsop.msc require administrative privileges to run.
Finally, you can also use the Registry Editor to check which group policies are applied. The settings for each GPO are stored in the Windows registry, and you can view them using the following paths:
- User Configuration settings:
- Computer Configuration settings:
Note that viewing the registry directly can be complex, and it may not show all the settings that are being applied due to the way group policies are processed.
Understanding the Order of Precedence
In a Windows environment, multiple Group Policy Objects (GPOs) can be applied to a user or computer. When this happens, it’s important to understand which policy takes precedence over others.
Group policies are processed in a specific order
Local Group Policy Objects: These are the policy settings that are applied to the local computer, and they take precedence over any other policies.
Site GPOs: These are the policy settings that are applied to all computers in a specific site and are processed in the order defined by their link order.
Domain GPOs: These are the policy settings that are applied to all computers in a specific domain and are processed in the order defined by their link order.
Organizational Unit (OU) GPOs: These are the policy settings that are applied to a specific OU and its child OUs and are processed in the order defined by their link order.
When multiple GPOs are applied at the same level, the last one to be processed takes precedence. For example, if there are two GPOs linked to a specific OU and both of them contain conflicting settings, the one that is processed last will be applied.
It’s important to note that GPOs can be filtered using security filtering or WMI filtering, which allows you to apply policies only to specific users, groups, or computers based on criteria such as operating system version or hardware configuration. When a GPO is filtered out, it won’t be applied to any user or computer, regardless of its order of precedence.
Another factor that can affect the order of precedence is enforced GPOs. Enforcing a GPO overrides the default order of precedence and ensures that the GPO is applied to all users and computers in the scope of the GPO, regardless of any conflicting settings in other GPOs.
Group Policies are a powerful tool for managing and controlling the configuration of Windows-based computers in an organization. To ensure that policies are applied correctly, it’s important to know which policies are being applied and in which order they are processed.
By using the built-in tools in Windows, such as the Group Policy Management Console, command-line tools like
rsop.msc, and the Registry Editor, you can easily determine which group policies are applied to a specific user or computer. Additionally, understanding the order of precedence and how to enforce or filter policies can help you avoid conflicts and ensure that the policies you define are applied consistently and effectively across your organization.