Installing Software Using Group Policy

A Window 2000 environment running Active Directory provides the ability to use group policy to distribute software to users and computers. This allows for the distribution of software at the site, domain, and organizational unit levels (the 3 levels within Active Directory to which group policy can be applied). Note that software can only be distributed to client systems running Windows 2000.

In a group policy object, the distribution of software is handled as part of both the computer and user sections.

When distributing software, two options exist –assigning and publishing. Software can be assigned to both users and computers, but software can only be published to users. The difference between the distribution types is outlined below.

Assigning software to users: Doing this will distribute software to users, but will not actually install it on their system. When software is assigned to a user, it ‘follows’ them, or appears to be installed on every machine they logon to. In reality, only shortcuts appear on the programs menu. If they user clicks on the shortcut, then the application is actually installed on that system. Assigning software tousers gives that user access to the applications they need, even if the system doesn’t have the software already installed.

Assigning software to computers: This method actually installs the software assigned to the computer the next time the system is restarted, making it available to all users of the system.

Publishing software to users: This method adds the application to the Add/Remove programs section of control panel, allowing the user to install the application if necessary. It does not appear to be installed as software assigned to a user does. A published application can also beinstalled via document invocation. For example, if a user clicked on a zip file, WinZip would install if it had been published to the user.

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.