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Windows Server

Windows Home Server 2011 : Using the Local Group Policy Editor (part 1) - Working with Group Policies, Customizing the Windows Security Screen

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7/11/2013 3:46:29 AM

Group policies are settings that control how Windows Home Server works. You can use them to customize the Windows Home Server interface, enable or disable features, specify security settings, and much more.

Group policies are mostly used by system administrators who want to make sure that novice users don’t have access to dangerous tools (such as the Registry Editor) or who want to ensure a consistent computing experience across multiple machines. Group policies are also ideally suited to situations in which multiple users share a single computer.

In this section, you learn the details of working with group policies using the Local Group Policy Editor, and I take you through a few more useful group policy settings.

1. Working with Group Policies

You implement group policies using the Local Group Policy Editor, which is a Microsoft Management Console snap-in. To start the Local Group Policy Editor, select Start (or Start, Run), type gpedit.msc, and then press Enter.

The Local Group Policy Editor window that appears is divided into two sections:

  • Left pane— This pane contains a treelike hierarchy of policy categories, which is divided into two main categories: Computer Configuration and User Configuration. The Computer Configuration policies apply to all users and are implemented before the logon. The User Configuration policies apply only to the current user and, therefore, are not applied until that user logs on.

  • Right pane— This pane contains the policies for whichever category is selected in the left pane.

The idea, then, is to open the tree’s branches to find the category you want. When you click the category, its policies appear in the right pane. For example, Figure 1 shows the Local Group Policy Editor window with the Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, System, Logon category selected.

Figure 1. When you select a category in the left pane, the category’s policies appear in the right pane.

Tip

Windows Home Server comes with another snap-in, Local Security Settings, which displays only the policies found in the Local Group Policy Editor’s Computer Configuration, Windows Settings, Security Settings branch. To launch the Local Security Settings snap-in, select Start (or Start, Run), type secpol.msc, and press Enter. You can also select Start, Administrative Tools, Local Security Policy.


In the right pane, the Setting column tells you the name of the policy, and the State column tells you the current state of the policy. Click a policy to see its description on the left side of the pane, as shown in Figure 20.1. To configure a policy, double-click it. The type of window you see depends on the policy:

  • For simple policies, you see a window similar to the one shown in Figure 2. These kinds of policies take one of three states: Not Configured (the policy is not in effect), Enabled (the policy is in effect and its setting is enabled), and Disabled (the policy is in effect but its setting is disabled).

    Figure 2. Simple policies are Not Configured, Enabled, or Disabled.
  • Other kinds of policies also require extra information when the policy is enabled. For example, Figure 3 shows the window for the Run These Programs at User Logon policy. When Enabled is activated, the Show button appears; you use it to specify one or more programs that run when the computer starts.

    Figure 3. More complex policies also require extra information such as, in this case, a list of programs to run at logon.

Tip

After you apply some group policies, you may forget which ones you applied, or you may want to see a summary of the applied policies. You can see such a summary by opening the Resultant Set of Policy snap-in. (Select Start, Run, type rsop.msc, and click OK.) The snap-in looks much like the Local Group Policy Editor, except the only subbranches you see are those that have applied policies.


2. Customizing the Windows Security Screen

When you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete while logged on to Windows Home Server, you see the Windows Security screen, which contains the following links, as shown in Figure 4:

Lock This ComputerClick this link to hide the desktop and display the Computer Locked screen. To return to the desktop, you must press Ctrl+Alt+Delete and then enter your Windows Home Server password. This is useful if you’re going to leave Windows Home Server unattended and don’t want another person accessing the desktop. However, Windows Home Server offers a faster way to lock the computer: Press Windows Logo+L.
Switch UserClick this link to log on with another user account while keeping the Administrator account logged on in the background. Most Windows Home Server systems use only the Administrator account, so it’s unlikely you’ll find this link useful.
Log OffClick this link to log off the Administrator account. You can also log off by selecting Start, Log Off.
Change a PasswordClick this link to specify a new password for the Administrator account. In Windows Home Server, you’re better off doing this through the Windows Home Server Dashboard application.

Figure 4. In Windows Home Server, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to display the Windows Security screen.



Start Task ManagerClick this link to open Task Manager.That Task Manager is a useful tool, but Windows Home Server offers two faster methods to open it: Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc, or right-click the taskbar and then click Task Manager.


Shut DownClick this button in the lower-right corner of the screen to shut down Windows Home Server. Alternatively, click the arrow and then click Restart to reboot the server. You can also restart or turn off Windows Home Server by selecting Start, Shut Down.

Of these five commands, the four (all except Switch User) are customizable using group policies. So if you find that you never use one or more of those commands, you can use group policies to disable them in the Windows Security screen. Here are the steps to follow:

1.
Open the Local Group Policy Editor window.

2.
Open the User Configuration, Administrative Templates, System, Ctrl+Alt+Del Options branch.

3.
Double-click one of the following policies:

  • Remove Change Password— You can use this policy to disable the Change a Password link in the Windows Security screen.

  • Remove Lock Computer— You can use this policy to disable the Lock this Computer link in the Windows Security screen.

  • Remove Task Manager— You can use this policy to disable the Start Task Manager link in the Windows Security screen.

  • Remove Logoff— You can use this policy to disable the Log Off link in the Windows Security screen.

4.
In the policy dialog box that appears, click Enabled, and then click OK.

5.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 to disable all the buttons you don’t need.

Figure 5 shows the Windows Security screen box with the four links disabled.

Figure 5. You can use group policies to disable most of the buttons in the Windows Security dialog box.
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