Simple Questions: What is the Local Group Policy Editor & How to use it?
Local Group Policy is one of those Windows features that's not very popular among casual computer users, but it's much loved by network administrators. Local Group Policy Editor lets you control all kinds of Windows settings, from one single central point. That's especially useful if you are a network administrator and you must set the same rules for many computers or users of the same domain. However, because it offers a wide array of options and settings that you don't normally find in the usual places from around Windows, Local Group Policy Editor can be very useful to home users as well. Read on to find what exactly the Local Group Policy is and how you can work with Local Group Policy Editor:
What is the Local Group Policy?
By definition, the Group Policy is a Windows feature that offers you a centralized way of managing and configuring the Windows operating system, the programs and user settings from the computers that are enrolled on a domain. Group Policies are obviously most useful if you are a network administrator and you need to enforce certain rules or settings on the computers and/or users found in the network that you manage. However, this situation is outside of the scope of this tutorial.
Local Group Policy is a variant of Group Policy that also lets you control individual computers, not only computers that are registered on a domain. Like, for instance, your home computer with Windows 10, Windows 8.1 or Windows 7. That means that this tool can be very useful to home users as well as to network administrators.
To put it into simple terms, you should think about Local Group Policy as a set of laws that govern how Windows works on your computer.
Can I use Local Group Policy Editor?
Because Local Group Policy Editor is a rather advanced tool, you should know that it's not available in the Home editions of Windows. You will be able to access and use it only in:
- Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise
- Windows 8.1 Professional and Windows 8.1 Enterprise
- Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise
A few examples of what you can do with the Local Group Policy Editor
OK… we know that the easiest way to understand something is to get practical and share real-life usage situations. By using the controls that Local Group Policy Editor offers to you, you can configure many Windows settings and you can also enforce them so that the users on your computer cannot change them afterward. Here are just a few examples:
- Allow users to access only some of the applications found on your computer.
- Block users from using removable devices (ex. USB memory sticks) on the computer.
- Block users' access to Control Panel and to the Settings app.
- Hide specific elements from the Control Panel.
- Specify the wallpaper used on the Desktop and block users from changing it.
- Block users from enabling/disabling LAN connections or block them from changing the properties of the computer's LAN (Local Area Network) connections.
- Deny users to read and/or write data from CDs, DVD, removable drives etc.
- Disable all the keyboard shortcuts that start with the Windows key. For instance, Windows + R (which opens the Run windows) and Windows + X (which opens the power user menu) will stop working.
These are just a few examples: the Local Group Policy Editor from Windows allows you to configure many other settings.
How to start the Local Group Policy Editor in Windows 7
In Windows 7, a way to open the Local Group Policy Editor is to use the search feature. Open the Start Menu, enter "gpedit.msc" in its search box and then click the "gpedit" search result.
An alternative is to use the Run tool. To launch it, open the Start Menu, navigate to Accessories and then click on the Run shortcut. A faster way to open Run is to simultaneously press the Windows + R keys on your keyboard. Inside Run, type "gpedit.msc" and then click on OK.
This is what the Local Group Policy Editor window looks like in Windows 7:
How to start the Local Group Policy Editor in Windows 8.1
Just like in Windows 7, launching the Local Group Policy Editor in Windows 8.1 can also be done quickly with the help of the search.
Go to the Start screen and start typing the words "local group policy". Once the search results are shown, click or tap on "Edit group policy".
You can also use the Run window in order to launch the Local Group Policy Editor. Open the power user menu with a right click or a long tap on the Start button and then press on the Run shortcut. If you prefer using your keyboard, launch the Run window by pressing the Windows + R keys simultaneously. Inside the Run window, type "gpedit.msc" and then click or tap on OK.
In Windows 8.1, the Local Group Policy Editor window looks like this:
How to start the Local Group Policy Editor in Windows 10
In Windows 10, launching the Local Group Policy Editor is done just like in Window 8.1 or in Windows 7. A fast way to do it is to use the search box offered by Cortana. Click or tap the search box from the taskbar and enter the words "group policy". Then, click or tap on the "Edit group policy" search result.
Or, you can use the Run window: to open Run, right click or long press on the Start Menu button to open the power user menu and then click or tap on the Run shortcut. You can also simultaneously press the Windows + R keys on your keyboard. Then, type "gpedit.msc" in the Run window and click or tap on OK.
This is how the Local Group Policy Editor looks like in Windows 10:
NOTE: The Local Group Policy Editor looks and offers the same options, settings and features regardless if you use Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. That's why, for simplicity, from now on we'll only use screenshots taken in Windows 10.