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Automating Windows 8.1 Configuration

Configuring Group Policy preferences

Policy preferences are configured and managed differently from policy settings. You define preferences by specifying a management action, an editing state, or both.

Working with management actions

While you are viewing a particular preference area, you can use management actions to specify how the preference should be applied. Most preferences support the following management actions:

  • Create Creates a preference item on a user’s computer. The preference item is created only if it does not already exist.

  • Replace Deletes an existing preference item and then re-creates it, or creates a preference item if it doesn’t already exist. With most preferences, you have additional options that control exactly how the Replace operation works. Figure 4-3 shows an example.

    Figure 4-3

    Figure 4-3 Options available when configuring preferences depend on the management action that is selected.

  • Update Modifies designated settings in a preference item. This action differs from the Replace action in that it updates only settings defined within the preference item. All other settings remain the same. If a preference item does not exist, the Update action creates it.

  • Delete Deletes a preference item from a user’s computer. With most preferences, you have additional options that control exactly how the Delete operation works. Often, the additional options will be the same as those available with the Replace operation.

The management action controls how the preference item is applied, or controls the removal of the item when it is no longer needed. Preferences that support management actions include those that configure the following:

  • Applications
  • Data sources
  • Drive maps
  • Environment
  • Files
  • Folders
  • Ini files
  • Local users and groups
  • Network options
  • Network shares
  • Printers
  • Registry items
  • Scheduled tasks
  • Shortcuts

Working with editing states

A small set of preferences support editing states, which present graphical user interfaces from Control Panel utilities. With this type of preference, the item is applied according to the editing state of each setting in the related interface. The editing state applied cannot be reversed, and no option is available to remove the editing state when it’s no longer applied.

Preferences that support editing states include those that configure the following:

  • Folder options
  • Internet settings
  • Power options
  • Regional options
  • Start menu settings

Because each version of an application and the Windows operating system can have a different user interface, the related options are tied to a specific version. For example, folder option preference items for Internet Explorer 8 and 9 are configured separately from preference items for Internet Explorer 10.

By default, when you are working with preferences that support editing states, every setting in the interface is processed by the client and applied, even if you don’t specifically set the related value. This effectively overwrites all existing settings applied through this interface.

The editing state of each related option is depicted graphically as follows:

  • A solid green line indicates that the setting will be delivered and processed on the client.
  • A dashed red line indicates that the setting will not be delivered or processed on the client.

When limited space on the interface prevents underlining, a green circle is displayed as the functional equivalent of the solid green line (meaning that the setting will be delivered and processed on the client), and a red circle is used as the functional equivalent of a dashed red line (meaning that the setting will not be delivered or processed on the client). Figure 4-4 and 4-5 show examples of preference items that use editing states.

Figure 4-4

Figure 4-4 Note the editing state indicators.

You can use the following function keys to manage the editing state of options:

  • F5 Enables the processing of all settings on the selected tab. This is useful if you disabled processing of some settings and later decide that you want all settings on a tab to be processed.
  • F6 Enables the processing of the currently selected setting on the selected tab. This is useful if you disabled a setting and later decide you want the setting to be processed.
  • F7 Disables the processing of the currently selected setting on the selected tab. This is useful to prevent one setting from being processed on the client.
  • F8 Disables the processing of all settings on the selected tab. This is useful to prevent all settings on a tab from being processed on the client. It is also useful if you want only a few settings to be enabled.
Figure 4-5

Figure 4-5 Circles provide alternative editing state indicators.

Working with alternative actions and states

A few preferences support neither management actions nor editing states. Preferences of this type include those that configure devices, immediate tasks, and services.

With devices, as shown in Figure 4-6, you use the Action list to enable or disable a particular class and type of device. With immediate tasks, the related preference creates a task. The task runs and then is deleted automatically. With services, you use the related preference to configure an existing service.

Figure 4-6

Figure 4-6 Set the action to enable or disable the device.