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Windows Server 2008 R2 : Local Group Policies

3/8/2011 10:08:12 PM
Two different types of policies can be applied to Windows systems and Windows system user accounts: local group policies and Active Directory group policies. Local group policies exist on all Windows systems, but Active Directory group policies are only available in an Active Directory forest. Until the release of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, servers and workstations could contain and apply only a single local computer and user policy. This policy contained the settings that could be applied to the local computer and the user objects to control the security and configuration settings.

In many environments, usually due to legacy or line-of-business application requirements, end users were frequently granted local Administrators group membership on workstations and essentially excluded from the application of many security settings applied by both the local and group policies. End users with local Administrators group membership have the ability to override settings and make configuration changes that could compromise the security, or more frequently, reduce the reliability of the system.

Starting with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, administrators now have the ability to create multiple local group policies. One of the new features is that specific user group policies can be created for all users, for users who are not administrators, and for users who are members of the local Administrators group on the computers. This new feature can be especially valuable for computers configured in workgroup or standalone configurations to increase the security and reliability of the computer. In domain configurations, computer security policies are usually specified using group policies and applied to the Active Directory computers.

Local Computer Policy

The default local computer policy contains out-of-the-box policy settings, as shown in Figure 1, which are available to configure the computer and user environment. This policy will be applied first for both computer and user objects logging on to the workstation in workgroups or domains.

Figure 1. Examining local computer policy settings.

Local User Policies for Non-Administrators and Administrators

Starting with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, and continuing with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, administrators now have the option to create multiple local user group policies on a single machine. In previous versions, the single local computer policy allowed administrators to apply the single policy settings to all users logging on to a workstation that is part of a workgroup. Now, workgroup computers and domain computers can have additional policies applied to specific local users. Also, policies can be applied to local computer administrators or nonadministrators. This allows the workstation administrator to leave the user section of the default local computer policy blank, and create a more-restrictive policy for local users and a less-restrictive policy for members of the local workstation Administrators security group.

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