IT Dojo: Configure wireless network settings via Group Policy
June 29, 2009, 11:47am PDT | Length: 00:07:15
Manually configuring the wireless settings on hundreds, or even thousands, of PCs can be a real chore. Luckily, there is a way to speed up the process. In this IT Dojo video, I show how to save time and effort when configuring the wireless settings on your Windows PCs using Active Directory and Group Policy. Once you’ve watched this IT Dojo video, you can find a link to the original TechRepublic article and print the tip from our IT Dojo Blog.
Bill Detwiler: For many offices, wireless networking is an important complement to the wired network, and in some cases, may even replace it. But, manually configuring the wireless settings on hundreds, or even thousands, of PCs can be a real chore. Luckily, there is a way to speed up the process.
I'm Bill Detwiler, and in this IT Dojo video, I'll show how to save time and effort when configuring the wireless settings on your Windows PCs using Active Directory and Group Policy.
Setting up a wireless network isn't as tough as it once was, but manually configuring the wireless settings on each and every Windows machine on your network can still take quite a while. And relying on end users to properly configure their wireless settings can be problematic.
Luckily, using the power and centralization of Windows Active Directory, you can streamline the configuration process.
Now before we get started, remember that I'm assuming your wireless network is already up and running. Once you've done that, you can use the following tips to configure the Windows clients.
Okay, to get started, create a new Group Policy Object (GPO) to configure for Wireless settings. This will keep all the wireless settings contained so they can be enabled and disabled easily. Using the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), follow these steps:
- Open the GPMC from the Administrative Tools menu.
- Expand the Forest node on the left pane of the console.
- Expand Domains.
- Locate the Organizational Unit (OU) where you wish to link the GPO.
- Right-click the OU and select Create and Link a GPO Here.
Note that once the GPO is added, any objects that exist in this Organizational Unit will have the policies defined by the linked GPOs applied to them.
Enter a name for the GPO you are creating and click OK. Doing this creates the object and link to the Organizational Unit.
Be sure to use a descriptive name for the GPO to make future management a bit easier. Once the object is created, there will be no settings defined within the object. Right-click the GPO and select edit to configure the settings you need.
You'll see a lot of options for configuration. To find the Wireless settings, expand the computer configuration node, then expand Windows Settings, and from there, Security Settings.
Listed under Security Settings you will see Wireless Network (IEEE 802.11) Policies. Click on this node to display any existing configuration items.
Now, you're ready to create a new wireless network policy.
Right-click in the details pane on the right of the console with the Wireless Network Policies node highlighted and select Create Wireless Network Policy.
This will open the Wireless Network Policy Wizard. Bypass the welcome screen and enter a name for the Wireless Network Policy and a description.
Clicking Next in the dialog box will complete the wizard and display the Completing the Wireless Network Policy Wizard dialog box. Leave the Edit properties box checked so that you can move right into creating the settings for the policy.
In the properties dialog box, the General tab displays the settings just created in the wizard and also allows you to configure the following:
Check for Policy Changes Every x Minutes allows you to set the interval for checking for updates.
Under Networks to Access options, you can choose:
- Any available network (access point preferred)
- Access point (infrastructure) networks only
- Computer to computer (ad hoc) networks only
Use Windows to Configure Wireless Network Settings for Clients allows Windows to manage the wireless settings on client computers.
Automatically Connect to Non-Preferred Networks allows you to connect to networks that are not listed on the Preferred tab of the properties dialog box.
The Preferred Networks tab of the Wireless Network Policy Properties dialog allows configuration of the preferred networks that clients should connect to.
To add a preferred network, complete the following steps:
- Click the Add button on the Preferred Networks tab.
- Enter the Network Name (SSID) for the preferred network.
- Enter a description of the network.
- Select the Network Authentication type for the network.
You can now choose the network type that best suits your needs:
- Open: no authentication needed
- Shared: authentication key shared automatically
- WPA: Wi-fi Protected Access
- WPA-PSK: Wi-Fi Protected Access - Pre Shared Key
For Open and Shared authentication types, you can choose not to provide the key automatically. With either WPA setting, this option is grayed out.
When you've finished selecting your settings, click OK to close Properties and allow Group Policy to refresh in your Domain. Any objects moved into the Organizational Unit with this Group Policy Object linked and enabled will be configured to allow Wireless Network Policies to be used.
Do you have any other questions about managing your wireless network that you would like us to cover or methods you would like to share? Let us know by adding your comment or question to the IT Dojo blog.
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I'm Bill Detwiler. Thanks for visiting TechRepublic's IT Dojo.