Using Group Policy Preferences

Group Policy preferences provide the means to simplify deployment and standardize configurations. They add to Group Policy a centralized system for deploying preferences (that is, settings that users can change later). You can also use Group Policy preferences to configure applications that are not Group Policy-aware. By using Group Policy preferences, you can change or delete almost any registry setting, file or folder, shortcut, and more. You are not limited by the contents of Administrative Template files. The Group Policy Management Editor (GPME) includes Group Policy preferences.

The following table summarizes key differences between Group Policy preferences and Group Policy settings. For more information about Group Policy preferences, see the Group Policy Preferences Overview.

Group Policy preferences

Group Policy settings


  • Preferences are not enforced.

  • User interface is not disabled.

  • Can be refreshed or applied once.

  • Settings are enforced.

  • User interface is disabled.

  • Settings are refreshed.


  • Easily create preference items for registry settings and files.

  • Import individual registry settings or entire registry branches from a local or remote computer.

  • Adding policy settings requires application support and creating administrative templates.

  • Cannot create policy settings to manage files and folders.

Local Policy

  • Not available in local Group Policy.

  • Available in local Group Policy.


  • Supports applications that are not Group Policy-aware.

  • Requires applications that are Group Policy-aware.


  • Original settings are overwritten.

  • Removing the preference item does not restore the original setting.

  • Original settings are not changed.

  • Stored in registry Policy branches.

  • Removing the policy setting restores the original settings.

Targeting and Filtering

  • Targeting is specific, with a user interface for each type of targeting item.

  • Supports targeting at the individual preference item level.

  • Filtering is based on Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), and requires writing WMI queries.

  • Supports filtering at a Group Policy Object (GPO) level.

User Interface

  • Provides a familiar, easy-to-use interface for configuring most settings.

  • Provides an alternative user interface for most policy settings.

You can add, change, or remove almost any registry setting, file, or folder by using Group Policy preferences. You can also update Favorites.


You cannot configure Internet Explorer 9 settings using Group Policy preferences. You can use Administrative Templates, or Internet Explorer Maintenance to manage Internet Explorer settings. For more information, see Using Administrative Templates, or Using Internet Explorer Maintenance Extension.

Configuring Windows Internet Explorer 9 Favorites

Using the Shortcuts preference extension, you can add, change, and delete three types of shortcuts:

  1. File System Object. Traditional shortcuts that link to programs and documents. For example, you can add a custom shortcut for an application to the Start menu.

  2. URL. Shortcuts to webpages. For example, you can add a shortcut to a departmental intranet site to the user’s Favorites menu.

  3. Shell Object. Objects that appear in the shell namespace, including Control Panel, Recycle Bin, and so on. For example, you can add the Control Panel to the user’s desktop.

The Shortcuts preference extension supports creating shortcuts in numerous locations, including the desktop, Start menu, and Favorites folder. You can also specify the full path and name of a folder in which to create the shortcut.

For step-by-step guidance on configuring Shortcut items, see Shortcuts Extension.