Deploying Scripts Using Group Policy

In a Windows NT 4.0 domain environment, assigning scripts to users was more of less restricted to simple logon scripts. Not particularly flexible, but generally enough to get the basic jobs done – mapping directories, printers, environment variables, and so forth. For all intents and purposes, however, you were still in a simple batch file environment. In order to get into any more advanced scripting, you needed to use an additional scripting language such as Kixstart. In a Windows 2000 domain, however, the power of Group Policy unleashes script deployment capabilities that make NT 4.0 pale in comparison.

For those who like their networks a little old school, you can still deploy logon scripts in the properties of a user account in a Windows 2000 domain. While this is still acceptable, it constitutes a waste of a wonderful opportunity. With Group Policy, not only can you deploy scripts to multiple users in a single step, you can also define scripts settings in a hierarchical fashion. Scripts can be assigned not only to all users in a domain, but also according to sites and OUs. In cases where multiple GPOs affect a user, multiple scripts can be applied. This capability represents a powerful feature that shouldn’t be overlooked by system administrators.

Logon scripts aren’t the only type that can be defined with Group Policy. GPOs can be used to apply Logon and Logoff scripts to Users, and Startup and Shutdown scripts to computers. As the names suggest:

  • Logon scripts are applied once a user logs in
  • Logoff scripts are applied once a user logs off
  • Startup scripts are applied when a computer boots
  • Shutdown scripts are applied when a computer shuts down

The ability to define scripts in these different ways provides an additional level of functionality not experiences in previous versions of Windows. Furthermore, you are no longer limited to simple batch scripts – more powerful VBScripts can be used to further extend the abilities of the administrator.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.