Enabling Group Policy Preferences Debug Logging using the RSAT

Sometimes you need to enable additional logging when you are troubleshooting a particular component in Windows. Group Policy Preferences includes the ability to create verbose debug logging for each included client-side extensions. You activate Preference debug logging through Group Policy. Preference debug logging policy settings are located under the Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\System\Group Policy node when editing a Group Policy object.00-gpp-debugYou can individually enable each preference client-side extension. Logging and tracing entries provide you with a several configuration options including what type of data to write to the event logs (Informational, Errors, Warnings, or all), enable trace logging and the location of the trace log file, and the size of the file.01-gpp-debugYou can configure the location of the trace files; however, keep in mind that file system permissions changed on Server 2008 and Windows Vista. Make sure permissions do not interfere with creating the log file. You’ll notice the default location for all three log files is
%COMMONAPPDATA%\GroupPolicy\Preference\Trace. The variable
%COMMONAPPDATA% is not recognized by Windows, however; it is meaningful to Preference client-side extensions. Preference client-side extensions recognize this variable and expand it according to operating system on which the client-side extension is installed. For Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, %COMMONAPPDATA% expands to
%SYSTEMDRIVE%\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data. The equivalent path for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista is %SYSTEMDRIVE%\ProgramData (this folder is hidden by default, but you can manually type the path in Windows Explorer).

Logging and tracing missing from RSAT

You’ve installed Windows Vista Service Pack 1; you’ve downloaded and installed RSAT. You try to enable Logging and tracing, but it’s not there. Well, there is a reason for this.02-gpp-debugAdministrative Templates show in the user interface because of two files: an .ADMX and an .ADML. Logging and tracing does not appear because the GroupPolicyPreferences.admx and .adml files are not included with RSAT. You need to copy these to your local or central store.

You have two options as to how to get a copy of the Group Policy Preferences ADMX files. You can download the entire Windows Server 2008 ADMX file set, or you can download just the Group Policy Preferences ADMX file set. You can download the installer for either of these file sets from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=927fc7e3-853c-410a-acb5-9062c76142fa&DisplayLang=en. These MSI applications install their contents to the default location of %PROGRAMFILES%\Microsoft Group Policy.

The Group Policy Preferences ADMX installation creates an additional folder named Preferences, which contains a single ADMX file with multiple locale folders. You want to copy the GroupPolicyPreferences.admx file into your policydefinition folder. If you are using a central store, then you must copy the file to the policydefinition folder on SYSVOL, otherwise; copy the file to your local store. You’ll then want to copy the .ADML file to the corresponding locale folder located in your policydefinition folder. See the Managing Group Policy ADMX Files Step-by-step guide for more information on managing ADMX Files and creating a central store. After you’ve copied both the .ADMX and .ADML file into the proper store, then close all instances of GPMC and its editor. Restart GPMC and edit the GPO in which you want to add Logging and tracing policy settings. Expand the nodes under Computer Configuration and you should now see Logging and Tracing options.

– Mike Stephens

Installing GPMC on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista Service Pack 1

For some time now, we’ve had inquiries about where the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) is located in Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista SP1. It’s well documented that Server 2008 includes GPMC but, it does not appear in the administrative tools.

The Group Policy Management Console is included in Windows Server 2008; however, you must install it before you can use it. The domain controller promotion process installs GPMC on the server, in addition to adding the domain controller to the domain. Additionally, you can install GPMC on a member server as long as it’s a member of the domain. Let’s look at two ways to install GPMC on Windows Server 2008 (other than through DCPROMO).

Installing GPMC using Server Manager (Windows Server 2008)

The Group Policy Management Console is a Feature in Windows Server 2008. You install Features using Server Manager. Once installed, you can access the feature using Server Manager or you can the specific management console (like gpmc.msc).

  1. Open Server Manager by click Start and then point to Administrative Tools. Click Server Manager
  2. Click Features in the console tree. In the Features pane, click Add Features
  3. Select Group Policy Management from the list of available features in the Add Feature Wizard. Click Install.
  4. Start using GPMC or close Server Manager.

There’s another way to install GPMC using Server Manager, which usually installs quicker that using the Server Manager user interface. Server Manager includes a command line utility for installing Features and Roles named ServerManagercmd.exe.

Installing GPMC from the Command Line

  1. Open an elevated command prompt.
  2. In the command prompt, type ServerManagercmd –install gpmc
  3. Start GPMC from the command prompt by typing start gpmc.msc
  4. Close the command prompt.

Installing GPMC on Windows Vista Service Pack 1

Installing GPMC on Windows Vista Service Pack 1 can be a little confusing. First, you must download the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 before you can install GPMC. You may remember that GPMC was included in Windows Vista RTM; however Service Pack 1 removes it. After installing RSAT, you then want to install GPMC. Installing RSAT simply includes the Remote Server Administration tools on the Windows Vista SP1 computer but does not deploy for use—you’ll want to choose which RSAT tools you want used on the computer.

  1. Download and install the Remote Server Administration Tools (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink.?LinkID=95703).
  2. After the installation is complete, then click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Programs.
  3. Click Turn Windows Features on or off from Programs and Features.
  4. Click Remote Server Administration Tools and then click Feature Administration Tools from the Windows Features dialog box.
  5. Click Group Policy Management Tools and click OK to complete the installation.

You’ll now see Group Policy Management included under the list of Administrative Tools (On Vista, you may need to actually show the Administrative Tools on the start menu – this can be done through Control Panel –> Taskbar and Start Menu –> Start Menu –> Customize–> System Administrative Tools). You can also start GPMC from the command line or run/search menu by typing gpmc.msc.

– Mike Stephens