Data Centers

Big changes in Configuration Manager 2012: Client settings

Scott Lowe explains the changes to client settings in System Center Configuration Manager. New options allow customization and more granular control of client PCs.

If you think you know System Center Configuration Manager, think again. With the 2012 release, Microsoft has made major changes to the product. These changes extend the product's capabilities but, more importantly, they make SCCM easier to use than in the past.

In this post, I'm going to discuss the changes that have been made to client settings in SCCM 2012. Client settings are administrator-defined settings, which provide granular control for how clients operate in the SCCM environment. For example, there is a client setting that instructs the client to check in with the SCCM server at a defined interval. There are dozens of individual client settings from which you can choose. SCCM 2012 installs a default set of client settings.

Perhaps the most significant change you'll find in client settings in SCCM 2012 is one of scope. Whereas client agent settings, the previous name for client settings, were defined at the individual site level in older versions of SCCM, these settings are now configured at the hierarchy level in SCCM 2012. That means that you can create and manage client settings in a singular location in SCCM 2012.

Further, it's simple to override default client settings in SCCM 2012. When you decide that you need to override one of the many client settings options that are available, you can focus on just what needs to be overridden. When you create a custom set of client settings, you include in this custom list only those settings that should differ from the default. Any settings not included on the custom list will be derived from the default settings automatically. Figure A below shows you the set of default client settings you have at your disposal. I'm not going to go over all of the individual settings in this post, but will do so in a future piece.

Figure A

SCCM 2012 default client settings (click images to enlarge)

In SCCM 2012, you can target custom settings at individual collections. So, suppose you need different software update settings for a particular set of computers in your environment. You can create custom settings that include just the software updates settings and then assign them to a collection that contains just that set of PCs.

You may wonder what would happen if conflicting settings are assigned to a collection; which settings take precedence? You see, each group of settings is assigned a priority value, with the out-of-the-box default settings having a priority of 10,000 --the lower the number, the higher the priority. In this case, 1 is greater than 10,000. In Figure B, you can see the two different priorities assigned to each group of settings.

Figure B

A new group of settings has been created.
Now, if you want to assign this newly created group of settings to an existing collection, just right-click the new settings and, from the shortcut menu, choose Deploy (Figure C).

Figure C

Deploy the settings to a collection.
Next, choose a collection at which to target the new settings. In Figure D, you can see this selection process in action.

Figure D

Choose a collection at which to target the settings.
Once you've deployed custom client settings to a collection, you can see that this has taken place by going to the collection and, from the bottom of the screen, looking for the Custom Client Settings tab, which is shown in Figure E.  This makes it easier to track what you've done and the current state of a collection.

Figure E

Custom client settings have been deployed to this collection.

Summary

The move to the hierarchy level and the ability to target individual collections are very nice SCCM features. The hierarchy move means that administrators don't need to create completely separate sites just to manage clients differently and the granularity that is enabled through the use of custom client settings means that administrators can target any client settings at any clients necessary.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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