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© Rakhesh Sasidharan


Tip: Overriding a GPO setting via Registry

At work our Desktops team has put a policy in place that enables Outlook cached mode for every one. Which becomes a pain in the a$$ when you have to disable and enable cached mode for some users as part of fixing issues (OST file corruptions, no incoming emails, etc).

Thankfully this is a setting you can temporarily override via the registry. Just got to modify a key under HKCU.

But … if you open the registry as the affected user and try modifying the key, you can’t because of lack of permission. Expected, right? What’s the point of a policy if users can modify the registry directly to override it. Admin users can modify the key, but if you open the registry as an admin then HKCU points to the admin and not the user.

Here’s how you workaround though: open the registry by doing a “run as” as the admin. Then go to HKEY_USERS. One of the entries there will be for the user logged in. (There shouldn’t be many entries, but if there are then you can find the one you want in one of two ways: (1) Use psgetsid from the Sysnternals tools to find the SID of the logged in user. That’s the entry you want. Or (2) go to HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList. You will find entries there with the same names as under HKEY_USERS. Check the ProfileImagePath key in each – the one with the path to the logged in user is the key you want).

Once you find the key of the logged in user under HKEY_USERS that’s it. Everything under here is the HKCU of the logged in user so any changes you make here reflect HKCU. Go ahead and change whatever you want – the change will succeed because you are now using an admin account to make changes to the logged in user’s HKCU. Hah!

Hope this helps someone.

Outlook 2010, Contacts, InterAction

Had a good time with one the secretaries today helping him out with Outlook contacts and the Country field.

By default Outlook has a Country field you can sort on or group by. But what is this Country field? You have the option of setting a business address, a home address, and an “other” address; but there’s no option to define a Country value independent of these. Through trial and error I figured that the Country field is automatically set by Outlook when you set a Business/ Home/ Other country. Which makes sense. (I didn’t test what happens if the countries for each of these are different. My guess is the last modified entry takes precedence).

Anyways, there’s a catch with the Country field being automatically set this way. If you create a contact in Outlook it works, but what if the contact is added some other way? Maybe the contact is imported, or in our case we use a CRM software called InterAction which syncs Outlook contacts with its database.

When someone adds a contact to InterAction and set the Business Country as something, Outlook doesn’t automatically set the Country value while syncing. Even opening and save/ closing the contact in Outlook doesn’t help. You have to open the contact, go to the Business address field, and then save/ close for Outlook to set the Country field. That’s not very practical so in general it’s wiser to ignore the Country field in Outlook and use the Business/ Home/ Other country field.

That was the first issue the secretary had. Next was that many Outlook contacts that didn’t have a Business Country had the value set as United Kingdom in InterAction. That’s odd because the value should have synced! I tracked it down to an InterAction setting. You see, when you make a new contact in InterAction it expects a Business Country field and leaves the default as United Kingdom (possibly a setting from our admins). But what happens is that – and this is a big I think – if a contact you open in InterAction does not have a Business Country value then it shows a value of United Kingdom even though the value is actually empty! That’s why InterAction showed these contacts as of being in the UK while Outlook had a null value.

Nice. That’s two things sorted for the secretary.

The last thing was how can he enter the correct Business Country values? For this I first grouped his contacts by the Business Country field and then sorted by the Business Phone field. This way I could see in one place all the entries that needed fixing, and based on their phone number I can decide which country they must belong to. So can I batch change the Business Country value? Sure! Once you group the contacts thus (by the field you want changing, in this case Business Country) select multiple contacts and drag and drop to the group you want and their field is automatically updated. Sweet! To make it even easier if you have many groups, simply go to the View tab and collapse all groups initially. Then expand the one without Business Country, and drag and drop to the group you want. Easy peasy!

That’s all. No screenshots as I typed this post from my iPhone using the WordPress app.