Supporting NT and Windows 9x clients when deploying group policies

Windows 2000 group policies affect only Windows 2000-based computers. What can you do if you haven't migrated everything to Windows 2000? Jim Boyce shows you how you can configure your Windows 2000 Server to deal with older clients.

In the Daily Drill Down “Understanding Windows 2000 Group Policies,” I discussed system policies and how they differ from group policies. Group policies work only with Windows 2000 servers and workstations, but chances are you still have some workstations running Windows 9x or Windows NT. What about them? In this Daily Feature, I’ll explain the two choices you have: You can upgrade those workstations to Windows 2000 Professional or try to manage old-style system policies from Windows 2000.

What do group policies mean for my older client workstations?
System policies are the primary mechanism by which you can apply change control to Windows NT and Windows 9x clients. Windows 9x and Windows NT clients don’t support Windows 2000 group policies. In these instances, you need to either upgrade to Windows 2000 to use group policies or continue using system policies for your 9x and NT clients.

The former solution is the best in terms of change control. Even though it might seem like an expensive proposition in some cases, upgrading to Windows 2000 can be very cost-effective because of the considerable control and security that group policies can offer.

What’s my other choice?
You don’t necessarily have to upgrade all of your workstations to Windows 2000. But if you don’t, it can get messy. If you choose to put off upgrading for a while and wish to continue to use system policies, you can still manage system policies from Windows 2000 systems.

Windows 2000’s Setup program installs the Policy Editor, Poledit.exe, in the %systemroot% folder when you install Windows 2000 Server. The Windows 2000 Server CD includes the System Policy Editor in the Optional Administrative Tools package, Adminpak.msi, located in the \i386 folder. You can install these administrative tools under Windows 2000 Professional to enable administrative capability from Windows 2000 Professional systems.

Although Microsoft doesn’t recommend it, you can include system policy templates in the Group Policy console to facilitate changes related to system policies. To add system policy administrative templates, open the Group Policy console and right-click the Administrative Templates branch where you want to add the template(s). Choose Add/Remove Templates to open the Add/Remove Templates dialog box, which enables you to browse for, add, and remove templates.

When you’re working with the Group Policy console, you also can control whether it displays system policy settings. By default, it does not. However, you can click an Administrative Templates branch to select it and then choose View | Show Policies Only to turn on or off the display of system policies. When this option is turned on, system policies are hidden. Turn this setting off, and system policies appear in the console with true group policies displayed in blue and system policies displayed in red.
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