How to Apply Local Group Policy Tweaks to Specific Users

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For users of Windows Pro or Enterprise editions (and the Ultimate editions of Windows Vista and 7), the Local Group Policy Editor offers quick access to a number of powerful features you can use to control your PC. If you want to apply policy settings to specific users instead of the whole computer, though, you have to do a little extra setup before you get started.

The Local Group Policy Editor divides policy settings into two categories: Computer Configuration, which holds policies that apply regardless of which user is logged in, and User Configuration, which holds policies that apply to specific users. If you just run the tool, however, it offers no way to apply those settings to users. Instead, you have to fire up the Microsoft Management Console framework, add the editor as a snap-in, and then configure it for the users to whom you want to apply policies.

To get started, you’ll open a blank Microsoft Management Console. On the Start menu (or at the Run command), type mmc.exe, and then click that selection to run it.

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Click Yes at the User Account Control Prompt.

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Next, you’ll add the group policy snap-in to the management console. In the console window, click the File menu and then choose “Add/Remove Snap-in.”

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On the left side of the snap-ins window, select “Group Policy Object Editor” and then click the Add button.

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Next, you’ll need to select a specific policy object (in this case, the user or group you want to control). In the window that pops up, click the Browse button.

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Switch to the Users tab, select the user (or user group) to which you want policies to apply, and then click OK. In this example, we’re going to set it up to create policies for non-administrator accounts, but you can easily create additional consoles using these steps to have consoles for applying policies to administrator accounts or even specific user accounts.

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Back at the Select Group Policy Object window, click Finish.

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And back at the snap-ins window, click OK.

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The main console window now shows the new policy snap-in you’ve added. Click the File menu and then choose “Save As” to save the new policy console. Name it whatever makes sense to you, but it’s helpful to include which users it applies to in the name. For example, we’re naming this one “Group Policy for Non-Administrators”

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And that’s it. Whenever want to apply policy settings to that particular user group (or user), just double-click your new MSC file. It’ll launch the Group Policy editor, and you can set policies the way you normally would–but they’ll only apply to the group you’ve specified.

Also note that when you configure policy for specific users this way, only the User Configuration settings are available in the Group Policy Editor. The Computer Configuration settings are not. To get back to those, just run Group Policy Editor the normal way.

Walter Glenn is a long time computer geek and tech writer. Though he's mostly a Windows and gadget guy, he has a fondness for anything tech. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.