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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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Loopback GPO processing

It’s been a while since I dabbled in GPOs so today I stumbled upon something I knew but had forgotten.

There are two sort of settings in a GPO (Group Policy Object): Computer settings & User settings. Computer settings apply to the computer itself, use settings apply to the user logging in to the computer.

You apply GPOs to OUs (Organization Units). Thing is, usually your user objects and computer objects will be in separate OUs – say you have an OU for all your desktops, an OU for all your servers, an OU for all your regular user accounts, and an OU for all your admin accounts. In such a scenario how would you go about applying a GPO to only admin accounts that login to a server.

You might link the GPO to the server accounts OU thinking that will cause it to apply to all users logging in to that servers. And it will, but there are two catches:

  1. It will apply to all users logging in to that server, not just the admin accounts (unless you separately disable non-admin accounts from logging in to that server – in which case you are covered); and
  2. More importantly, any user settings in the GPO will not be applied to users that login as the GPO is set to apply to computer objects (because that’s what the OU contains) and since user settings don’t matter to computers these will not be applied to users that login. By default, a user’s policy settings come from GPOs applied to the user object, not the computer object.

You could, of course, apply the GPO to the admin accounts OU but that has the side effect of applying the GPO when admin accounts login to a regular computer too. Not what you want.

The way to resolve this is via loopback GPO processing. Loopback GPO processing tells the computer to apply the user settings assigned to it to all users logging in to that computer. You can use loopback GPO processing to replace the policy settings applied to the user with the user policy settings on the computer. Or you can use loopback GPO processing to merge the two (with the user policy settings on the computer taking precedence).

To enable loopback GPO processing for a particular GPO, go to its Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Group Policy section using GPMC, open the Configure user Group Policy loopback processing mode policy setting, and change it from Not configured to Enabled and select one of Replace or Merge.

Loopback GPO processing by rakhesh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.