Become a Windows pro by mastering its Policy Editor

One aspect to take into account is that this Editor is only available in Windows, 7, 8 and 10, both in their corresponding Pro and Enterprise versions, as well as in Windows 11. In case of using a Home version of the different Microsoft operating systems we will not have access to it. This is because it is a version for home users, who would not have to use this tool.

Some of the most important adjustments that we can make with this Editor would be:

  • Allow users to access only certain system applications.
  • Prevent users from using removable devices (pendrive, memory card, etc.) on the PC.
  • Block access to the Control Panel and the Settings menu.
  • Hide specific items from the Control Panel.
  • Prevent users from enabling or disabling LAN connections or changing their properties.
  • Prevent data from being read or written to CDs, DVDs, removable drives, etc.
  • Disable Windows key keyboard shortcuts.
  • etc.

By default, policies applied with the Local Group Policy Editor are effective for all users unless otherwise specified by the administrator.

How to open

As we have commented, the Editor is a Microsoft Management Console application and has the file name gpedit.msc that we can find in the folder C: / Windows / System32. There are several ways to open it. All of them will take us to the same place so we can choose the one that suits us best.

The easiest way is through the Start menu finder where we must write gpedit and press Enter when it appears on the screen.

We can also use Run command which we access by pressing the keyboard shortcut “Windows + R”. Here we write gpedit.msc and press Enter or the “OK” button.

If we usually work with Command Prompt we can also use it to access the Editor. To do this we access by typing cmd in the search box of the Start menu, and once it appears we type gpedit or gpedti.msc and press Enter.

Change elements

This Editor has two fundamental sections, such as the “Equipment configuration” and the “User settings”. The former controls the policies that apply to the entire computer, regardless of the user or users who are logged in. The second contains the settings that control user policies, applying to users, rather than the entire computer.

If we click on any of these main sections, a configuration tree opens from where we can exploit all the options for the different aspects of the way the system should behave. If we access the route:

[Code]User Configuration / Administrative Templates / All Settings [/code]

Policy editor all values

Here we can see how all the elements are displayed in the panel on the right side. it’s possible edit the settings of any of these items by double-clicking on the desired one or by right-clicking and selecting Edit from the context menu.

This will open a new window from where we can select the “Enabled” or “Disabled” options depending on whether we want to activate it or not. By default they will appear by default as “Not configured”. On the right side we have a “Help” section for in case we certainly do not know what the function is for and how it affects the possible changes that we can establish.

Make and restore a backup

The Editor does not have any built-in tool that allows us to make backup copies, which does not mean that it is not possible to do it, but that we will have to do it indirectly and manually. For this, it will be necessary to make a backup of the most important files and folders on drive C.

GroupPolicy folder backup

To make a backup of the Policy Editor we must open the File Explorer, for which we press the keyboard shortcut Windows + E. Once this is done, we must navigate to the following path:

[Code] C: / Windows / System32 [/code]

Copy contents of the GroupPolicy folder

By default this folder is hidden in the system, so in order to enable it we must mark the View tab in the browser and click on Hidden elements. Later we open the folder GroupPolicy and we copy the contents of this into another folder in another place, it can be another space on the hard disk, another unit or a cloud storage system such as DropBox.

Restore the copy

In the event that we want to restore it, all we have to do is copy all the content that we had saved inside the original GroupPolicy folder. It is possible that the system asks us for administrator permission because not in vain we are pasting content within the system unit.

Once this is done, the restore has been carried out, but we need to use the Command Prompt so that the changes take place effect. For this we write cmd in the search box of the Start menu and select “Run as administrator.” In the window we write the following command and press Enter to confirm.

gpupdate /force

With this action the Command Prompt will take care of force update and all changes will be applied.

Reset your settings

Another possibility is to restore the settings that we have been able to make in the Editor. This is something that we can do directly from the application itself or by using the Command Prompt. This tool looks and offers the same options for settings and features, so these methods are valid for both the Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows 7, 8.1 and 10, as well as Windows 11.

From the Editor itself

The status of each policy in the editor is “Not configured”, which means that it will allow us to quickly sort all the policies to check which ones have been modified. In this way we can restore its values ​​to the defaults that were originally included. To do this, we must access the editor by pressing the keyboard shortcut “Windows + R” to launch the “Execute” command. Later we write gpedit.msc and press Enter or the OK button. Next, we navigate to the route:

Configuración del equipo / Plantillas administrativas / Todos los valores

Once here, by clicking on the “Status” tab, we can sort the policies that are in “Not configured”. This means that they have not been modified. Therefore, the rest have undergone some modification that we can reverse.

Policy editor filter by not configured

It is important that we know that when we have customized a directive it will be shown as “Enabled” or “Disabled”. On the other hand, if we want it to be displayed by default, it will be necessary to check the Not configured box. This will be the one that is taken as valid for the default configuration in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

To do this, just double-click on each of the policies that we have modified, which will be found as “Enabled” or “Disabled”. In the new window we select the option “Not configured”, as well as Apply and OK to save the changes.

Policy editor set as configured

We can also carry out the previous steps in the same way starting from the User Configuration section, following the path:

Configuración de usuario / Plantillas administrativas / Todos los valores

Using Command Prompt

If we have made many modifications to the Editor settings, resetting them one by one can be tedious and take a long time. If this is our case, we have the possibility to quickly restore all the modified policies to their default values ​​using the tool of the Symbol of the system.

To do this, we will write cmd in the search box of the Start menu. This will make the Command Prompt appear on the screen, so we will have to press the “Run as administrator” button that we find in the right panel. Once this is done, we will write the following command and press Enter to confirm.

RD /S /Q "%WinDir%System32GroupPolicyUsers" && RD /S /Q "%WinDir%System32GroupPolicy"

Once this is done, we will check how the Command Prompt will not show us any kind of response to the established command, so it will not inform us if they have been executed correctly. But this should not worry us as it is normal and everything will have been done correctly.

Later, we write this command to update the changes made in the Local Group Policy console and press Enter to confirm.

gpupdate /force

Once this is done, the command will take care of deleting the folders that store the Group Policy settings from our computer so that Windows can reapply their default values. Now we only have to restart the system so that everything is applied correctly.

Change policies in Windows Home with Policy Plus

It is an independent tool developed to be able to change group policy settings in all versions of Windows, including Windows 10 Home and requires .NET Framework version 4.5 or higher to work. It is a free and open source application that will allow us to make all kinds of changes to the system configuration. Its appearance is similar to the Policy Editor that we can find in the Pro versions of Microsoft’s operating system, but even with a more familiar and intuitive interface. It is completely portable, so it does not require installation or make changes to the registry. We can download it from its page on GitHub.

Policy Plus

The objective of the application is that the configuration of the group policies is available to all users, being able to work with any modern edition of Windows. It is fully compliant with all licenses, allows viewing and editing policies, navigating their menus and displaying additional technical information about each of the objects. In addition, it provides a convenient way to share and import settings.

Edit policies with Policy Plus

As with the official editor, the categories can be found in the menu on the left in the form of a tree. For its part, the information about each of the objects that we select will be displayed in the middle. The list of policies and subcategories of each of them will be displayed in the list on the right. By default, the device settings and user settings are displayed, and just double click on a policy to be able to make changes to it, or by right-clicking and selecting Edit from the context menu.

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