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The One Reason You Should Use Group Policy Preferences

with 7 comments

The job of deploying printers and setting default printers has been quite simply a pain in the butt. Well automating the default printer has been anyway. Now if you are like me and work in an educational environment where there are computer labs, left right and center, libraries, staff notebooks (separated on different campuses), student notebooks etc etc and users all wanting to print to specific printers and of course people not wanting to select the correct one from a list of printers then read on.

Use Group Policy Preferences !!!

In the past I have used the Print Management Console to deploy the printers via Group Policy, now that did work very well, but there was still the “overlooked” problem of being able to set the default printer. To get around this what I used to do was to name the computers in a certain way and then have a vbs script that would get the name of the printer and then set the default based on the computer name.

I was reading an article by GPO Guru Derek Melber about the new Group Policy Preferences that come with Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista and thought I would explore this option.

To start off your client will need the Group Policy Preference Client Side Extensions both XP and Vista Clients need these. Now you can manually download these and install via a computer startup script via Group Policy or if you have a WSUS Server then you can make this “Feature Pack” available via Windows Updates (this is the option I took, less work!).

Now that you have the Group Policy Preference Client Side Extensions installed on the clients, you can go ahead and play with the GPO’s. If you open up the Group Policy Management snap in and edit a GPO object you will see “Preferences”


After expanding “Preferences” you will notice an options there that says PRINTERS. If you right click on Printers and select New > Shared Printer, the New Shared Printer Dialog Box will appear.


From here we can enter in the path to the shared printer and from the Action drop down menu select “Create”, but the best part is that you can place a tick in the “Set this printer as the default printer” box and it will make that printer the default. Interesting thing to note here though is that this check box is only available under a User Configuration and not the Computer Configuration. This is not what I wanted, I need to set a default printer for computers in a specific room.

So what I have done in enable User Group Policy Loop Back Processing under the Computer Configuration > Policies > Admin Templates > System > Group Policy, you can either set that to Merge or Replace. Now what that does is enable you to apply User Configurations to users that log onto those computers that this policy applies to.

This is the Good Part

Once you have created a shared printer to deploy there is a tab on the properties of that called “Common” , if you click on that and place a tick in the “Item Level Targeting” and click on the Targeting Button a whole new world opens up!


Click on the New Item and just have a look at the possibilities there. The one I was interested in was the Organisational Units option. Because what I want to happen is if a computer is in a specific OU install and make printer X the default.


With this option I was able to achieve just that. Just select the OU that the Computer should belong to by using the Browse Button and select the Computer in OU radio box.


Job Done……

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Written by Daniel Anderson

February 18th, 2009 at 3:38 pm

7 Responses to 'The One Reason You Should Use Group Policy Preferences'

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  1. [...] received an email from Daniel today. He’s done a great blog post on how to use GPP to deploy printer settings to workstations. I’m sure Lilia is with me on this though: we can think of plenty more reasons than [...]

  2. The GPP method of deploying printers is far superior to the Print Management Console method because the latter provides no foolproof way of removing printers short of manually deleting registry keys.

    We use GPPs in a loopback policy to set a default printer for users who move around, so that the default is set according to the location of the computer they are logged into at any one time.

    Patrick Dunford

    23 Feb 09 at 9:27 am

  3. And oops, I didn’t read through your whole article, did I :)

    Used to have two lines of VBScript in the loopback policy to set the default printer before the GPP came along.

    Problems are found using the Replace action, which deletes the printer and re-creates it. If you have users for which you don’t set a default printer and they set their own default, the Replace action seems to ensure their default printer setting keeps disappearing. Try the Update action instead ?

    Patrick Dunford

    23 Feb 09 at 9:57 am

  4. Patrick if you set a user general default printer like the main office copier but also set a location printer preference like the library copier using the loop back policy will it over ride the general default printer preference?

    Do I merge or replace?


    24 Feb 09 at 6:59 pm

  5. [...] other day I wrote an article on how I use Group Policy Preferences to Deploy Printers and Set the Default Printer. Today I wanted to share with you how I go about mapping network drives to particular users based [...]

  6. [...] an interesting question from a reader in response to setting a default printer with Group Policy Preferences that I thought I would [...]

  7. G’day Anthony, I have tested that scenario. Check out this post

    Hope that explains things.


    Daniel Anderson

    25 Feb 09 at 2:07 pm

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