Windows 10 - No group policy editor? Policy Plus!

Windows 10 - No group policy editor? Policy Plus!

Updated: October 20, 2018

If you wish to enable, restrict or control certain administrative functionality in Windows, there
are multiple ways you can implement tweaks. But in the end, it all comes down to registry changes. You
can make these manually, with a registry editor (regedit.exe) or you can make them using
Group Policies. The latter is a set of administrative templates that allow
system functionality to be shaped and then replicated across multiple nodes, simplifying management.
Although changes still happen in the registry under the hood, Group Policies are exposed to users via
a friendly human-readable UI editor, and they are safer than manual registry work. The only
problem is, you don't get Group Policies in Windows Home.

Indeed, I've noticed a lot of people clamoring over the fact that Windows 10 Home does not have this
magical group policy editor, which comes with a handy name of gpedit.msc. This is nothing new. Going as
far back as Windows XP at the very least, Home editions of the Windows operating system did not have
the group policy editor, and people who wanted to make changes had to make registry tweaks. Which is
where the utility named
Policy Plus comes in. After me.

Teaser

Tell me more

I shall. First, the attempt to include gpedit.msc into Home versions of Windows is not a new thing.
It's been done for every single version of Windows, and always with rather bad results, I must say. You
would get tweaks that show how to enable or run the Group Policy Editor in Windows Home, but it meant
hacking system files and possibly invalidating the support/warranty, and worse yet, this rarely worked.
Sometimes, you'd have a UI but the changes would not actually be implemented into registry. You'd only
get a bogus visual effect. For that reason, I'm not going to talk about any method where you hack files
across system folders.

Policy Plus does things differently. It presents a UI, in a manner, style and wording that is very
similar to how gpedit.msc looks and behaves like, but it uses its own functions to access the registry
and make necessary changes. Policy Plus is a standalone tool, it is compliant with Windows support, and
it works in all versions and editions of Windows, namely 7 through 10, Home through Enterprise,
although technically, you do not need this for Pro, Ultimate, Education, or Enterprise builds.

Testing, testing

I download the tool and ran it (as admin). It is very consistent with gpedit.msc, but then, it also
differs slightly in how it behaves. By default, it will present a smaller subset of administrative
templates than what you'd expect. But it also has the option to
download these (wait, don't). We will get to that soon.

Main view

View options

Share options

The tool has a lot of nifty features. Apart from the obvious usage, which is just like gpedit.msc,
it lets you import and export policies and registry changes, so you can replicate those across multiple
systems. It also comes with a powerful search function, with detailed filtering.

Cortana search example

Filter options

Support definitions

Showing only Windows 10

However, please note that if you filter, say at least Windows 10, it will only show options that
have been added in Windows 10, but there are also options from previous versions of Windows that may
still be applicable. This means the presented set is more sort of an exclude rather than include
list.

Making changes

I started by trying a few obvious, visible changes. Like camera access. For each selected policy,
you have several options. You can implemented changes for the computer (all users) or for your user.
Some policies are only available for one or the other, some for both. You get detailed explanations on
what each policy does. Moreover, in some cases, you will note a non-intuitive Enabled option to
block/stop/disable certain functionality, and in others, the other way around. Some of the policies are
kind of double-negative options, like do not allow whatever, which means you need to enable it to
prevent something from running.

Working

Working, zoomed

Edit policy details

Semantic Policy, Details, Element Inspector

If you want to learn even more about the particular policy, you can right-click. There are several
options here, all extremely useful. You can check the
Semantic Policy Fragment, i.e. how the system interprets the particular
settings (and then you can script this if you need to). You can also get policy details - again, useful
for scripting. Finally, the
Element Inspector will show you the detailed breakdown of registry paths,
keys and values that are affected by the particular policy, so you know exactly what's happening behind
the scenes.

Semantics

Details

Element inspector

Element inspector, more

Extra templates

Policy Plus contains only a subset of available administrative templates. You can import more. You
can manually
download and install
these, or do it through the tool's menu. Now, this will effectively import all administrative templates
from around Windows 2000 onwards. This is good if you need to administer multiple systems running
different editions of Windows, but it will create an unnecessary clutter otherwise. I tested this in
Windows 10, and then had to sift through hundreds of policies that were only applicable to XP or
Windows Vista or alike. There's really no reason to do this unless you truly need to. Just keep
whatever's available by default, as that's the smallest subset that will actually result in actual,
meaningful functionality changes on your system. If you do use all these templates, search and
filtering can help.

Acquire ADMX

Download templates

Templates downloaded

With new templates

Don't forget to save!

Once you're done, you
must save the changes via the file menu. Otherwise, policy changes won't
be written and you won't see any difference in the system behavior. Let the tool write the changes and
then you can test what gives. BTW, should I remind you that having system
backups and
images is always useful before doing something like this?

Policies saved

Results

Policy Plus works as advertised. The camera example from earlier is a good example. With the new
policy in place with forced deny, the user no longer has the option to turn the camera on/off. I tried
some other random settings, and again, you get the expected results.

Camera disabled

No magical solutions

One thing that you need to remember - Policy Plus is NOT a replacement for buying the "higher"
editions of Windows. For instance, on Windows 10 Home, there was no option to stop telemetry or Windows
Updates. Certain features are just not there, and having a UI does not change that. Policy Plus can
only do what the system can do, with a nicer frontend and more safety than rummaging through the
registry. This is definitely not a short way of having enterprise functionality. It does not work that
way.

WU settings

Most of these options only apply to Windows XP through 8.

Irrelevant options for Windows 10

Telemetry policies

And some of these settings only work in Pro and above.

Conclusion

Policy Plus is an excellent administrative tool for advanced Windows users. It makes most sense for
those running Home editions of their operating system. There are some rather cool features in
Policy plus, like the ability to inspect each option in detail, powerful filtering, and the extra
templates. The usage isn't trivial though, and you need to be careful, but overall, it works reliably
and safely.

You should also be aware that Policy Plus does not replace missing functionality. It will not render
Windows Home into an omnipotent enterprise player. It's all about exposing the registry in a more
convenient way and replicating the work across multiple machines - that's its true strength. For
ordinary work, well this is an overkill. My testing with Windows 10 Home shows that you can implement
most of what you need through the settings plus some extra tweaks of various services. But when
you need a little bit of extra admin rigor, this program can be quite useful. It's definitely a keeper.
Take care.

Cheers.

Source

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