I'm on Windows 10 Pro. I noticed that when I apply some policies via gpedit, the corresponding entries are created in the registry. If I undo, the entries are removed from the registry as well.

So I expected it to work the other way around too, but if I manually set the same policy via registry, the corresponding gpedit entries still show as "not configured".

Am I missing something? is the gpedit policy something more than a registry entry? so... where are they stored?


Since the changes you make in the group policy editor affect what you see in the registry, it's perfectly logical to assume that the reverse is also true. However, it doesn't work that way.

Local group policy settings (which is what I believe you are referring to in your post) are stored in registry.pol files located in C:\Windows\system32\GroupPolicy. These files overwrite the corresponding keys in the registry every time the system performs a group policy refresh. The editor never actually reads the registry to see what settings it contains.

A group policy refresh is triggered whenever one of the following events occurs:

  • At a regularly scheduled refresh interval (every 90 minutes by default)
  • A user logon or logoff event (user policy only)
  • A computer reboot (computer policy only)
  • A manually triggered refresh via gpupdate
  • A policy refresh command issued by an admin from the domain controller (if the computer is domain-joined).

It's important to remember that if the computer is domain-joined, domain policies will be applied after the local group policy files are processed (meaning that some settings may get overwritten by domain policy). You will not be able to see domain policies in the local group policy editor.

  • Nice rundown (+1). I'd only add that gpupdate /force may work more reliably sometimes. – dxiv Mar 26 '17 at 7:23
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    @dxiv; That happens because the system caches policy and tries to apply only settings that have changed since the last time a refresh was done. /force makes it reapply all settings. It seems more reliable because you usually only do a gpupdate when you have a problem, and that problem is usually because the cache is bad :-) – Wes Sayeed Mar 26 '17 at 7:28

It works like this for three reasons:

  • Group Policy is designed with "pushing" from an Active Directory domain controller in mind. Machines are not intended to control policy back to the domain controller.

  • The notion of policies and Active Directory was developed in a time when dial-up connections were very common and broadband was not. For registry changes to mirror back to a domain controller in this situation would probably consume a lot of very limited bandwidth, and situations where systems would only occasionally talk to a domain controller through dial-up sessions here and there were not unheard-of in the NT4 days I believe.

  • You probably noticed a lot of the policies have a setting "Not Configured", "Enabled", or "Disabled." Group Policy has the "Not Configured" setting to allow the local setting to remain untouched by policy. This specifically means you, an application, or a local administrator can modify the relevant registry entries and a policy won't change it. You may not want to control every aspect of the system through policy.

So the local registry and a group policy don't sync from machine->AD by design. The local group policy in gpedit.msc works the same way even though it's not syncing to any domain controller.

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    I think your second point, while technically correct, is of minimal import. AD and Windows domains in general were never intended to be used over dialup lines in the first place, only LANs. Your other points are however spot-on. – Jamie Hanrahan Mar 25 '17 at 23:49
  • I just recall that you can or could specify "SMTP" as a protocol somewhere for AD sync ... – LawrenceC Mar 25 '17 at 23:50
  • SMTP? Simple Mail Transfer Protocol? That's a mail transport layer, it doesn't have anything to do with dialup vs LAN. it was probably something else. SLIP or PPP, maybe? – Jamie Hanrahan Mar 26 '17 at 0:02
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    This is what i was referring to: technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc961766.aspx – LawrenceC Mar 26 '17 at 0:21
  • But that doesn't specify dialup, just an application-layer protocol used over whatever is providing your IP connectivity. "Replication protocol used by Active Directory replication over IP transport" - see, it's not an IP provider of its own. For a dialup connection that would be PPP or SLIP. – Jamie Hanrahan Mar 26 '17 at 1:05

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