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Stupid printer tricks / http://www.flickr.com/photos/tstadler/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I've been sorting through our group policies and rewriting them ready for a switch over to Windows 7. During my thorough investigation it turns out our current policies overlap a fair bit, and it's no wonder we have trouble tracking down why something we're sure we've set in GP turns up unset on logon1.

So my big project has been going through our settings one by one, and deciding which of these categories they fall into:
  1. Common Computer settings - all the computers should get these as they are vital to the function of the network, or are likely to break something if they aren't explicitly set for our staff and students.
  2. Common User settings - everything else that just can't be set in the Computer policy.
  3. Staff Settings
  4. Student Settings
  5. Printers

The interesting trick I've learned about the printer GPs though is how to apply printers based on the computer's OU without using local loopback!

The Problem

The problem with managing printers in a school environment is that unlike corporations (which GP is clearly geared towards) people move around all the time but want to be connected to both their printers in their offices on the other side of the school, but also the local printer in the classroom they're in2. Microsoft decided that without any extra tricks they would let you set a default printer for a user, but not for a room because Betty from HR will only ever use the one computer in her office.

The Old Trick

Then they told people you could get around this by enabling local loopback, which applies both computer and user policies to a user, so you could set the printer as default in a computer policy using the "user" section, then make the computer read the computer section at logon and apply the printer. The problem with this3 is that it could slow down your logins, as it increases the number of policies it has to read and evaluate to prepare the desktop.

The New Way

In my quest to eliminate unnecessary policies, I wanted to kill local-loopback too. A bit of research turned up this page on using GP Preferences to assign default printers, which I already knew and was using, but it advocated using local-loopback.

But

Further down that page was a comment by Michael Moore who had this bit of advice:
Actually, if you Item Level target a group which has a computer in it, it will still install the printer even though these preferences are under the User Configuration Section of the GPO. Try it, saved on loopback.
Michael Moore

So I followed the directions on that site (it has helpful screenshots) to create a printer policy and target specific computer OUs, but then instead of turning on local-loopback, I simply ticked Run in logged-on user's security context (user policy option).

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Now my printers deploy and are set as default based on the current computer's OU without using local-loopback at all.

  1. This is going to get more technical than usual. Regular readers can tune out... Now []
  2. they also want the computer to magically know which one they want to print to by default each time it changes, but that's another story []
  3. anecdotally at least, I can't find hard evidence []

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