MDM & GP Tips Blog

Aug 2010

GPMC on Windows Server 2008 R2 and PowerShell


I’m racing toward getting out the door for my 30+ day trip to tour Australia and speak at Microsoft TechEd Australia and New Zealand.

But, I had a quick second to share a fun little PowerShell + GP tip… If you’ve NEVER used PowerShell before.. try this one. It’s fun and easy.

If you want to install the GPMC on a Windows Server 2008 R2 machine via command line, you can use PowerShell. The commands are as follows:

  • Import-Module Servermanager
  • Add-WindowsFeature GPMC

Then, if you then run the following command you will see the status as installed

  • Get-WindowsFeature GPMC

Try it.. something “special” that’s unexpected and neat happens. It’s super-fun !

Also.. I came across this super-nice write up of my latest book. I can’t even figure out the person’s name to thank him for such a nice review..  but, Thank You Mr. or Ms. Whomever you are.

Here’s the review:

Now, get your signed copies at:

Limited number, since I’m running out the door, and won’t have any to sign for a month !

Talk soon.. Gotta run !

Jeremy Moskowitz (Group Policy Community)    (PolicyPak Software)

Jul 2010

GP "must knows" - 4 of them !

Last week was a big week over here at the Group Policy HQ.

Here’s four fun and informative things that I think you’ll want to know.

Item 1: Quick, Informative Interview
Matt Hester, Tech Evangelist from Microsoft sits down with me and asks “What’s new and cool in modern GP?” When my wife saw this video, she dubbed it “Schmoozin’ with the Mosk.” Anyway, it’s fun and it’s here:

2. My TechEd 2010 speech Replay — Application Smackdown with Applocker This was the #5 top-most rated session within all of the 900+ sessions at TechEd 2010. You get to check it out, for free! Learn how to smack down your apps.. Now! Here’s the link:

Of course, when you’re ready for hands-on AppLocker training, I’ve got it in my GP Workshop, of course! ( — in my GP 2.0 Catchup Class.. and more information in the newest book ( in Chapter 8 — Implementing Security with Group Policy !

3. An article I wrote that found it’s way into Network world This was tweeted about 80 billion times last week… “Seven tips for using group policy in Windows 7”

And.. Lastly…
4. I’ve received lots of questions asking me: “Hey Moskowitz, is your book available as an e-Book somewhere?”

Yes, and yes again. Here’s what’s what:

1. If you want to get the newest book as a Kindle edition, you can get it from Amazon. Click here:

2. There are some EXTRA (free) bonus chapters for the GREEN (newest) book here:
(look left)

3. I also have some (older, but still relevant!) eChapter (pay) PDF downloads at the same link:
(look right)

Also… if you buy the Kindle edition, I’m happy to sign your Kindle’s or iPad screen with a sharpie next time I see you. Just ask!

PS: Holy cow! HUUGE Class in DC coming up next week.. Super crazy excited. If you still want to come, I think we have a spot left. You MUST CALL at this point if you want to secure a seat. 302-351-8408.

PPS: I’ve had some upcoming “extra time” suddenly materialize after the DC class. If you think you / your company might be interested in a PRIVATE On-Site class, where I teach your team — PERSONALLY — how to overcome GP and desktop management challenges…  then just buzz me. I’m at 302-351-8408. We can talk about what your challenges are and how a GP class can help you out. Then, we’ll fit it into YOUR schedule. Talk with you soon. (The sooner you call, the sooner you’ll get over the issue your company has and you’ll be happier and more productive.)

Jul 2010

I Practice Safe Group Policy

Sometimes I get asked if there is anything that we can do to be “safer” around Group Policy usage.

The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Here are some quick tips for you to put into practice NOW, if you’re not already on the right track:

Tip 1: Create, link, then disable a GPO

Sounds counter-intuitive, but this tip can be a quick fix to a big problem. I don’t usually like “big fat GPOs with lots of stuff in them.” That’s not my preferred method of GPO creation. But there are clearcut times when you NEED multiple policy settings or multiple preference settings WITHIN a GPO .. and that’s a-ok.

The problem is, you won’t be able to “implement all the settings at once.” So, in essence you’ll have “half-created” GPOs replicating around with your clients getting those partially completed GPOs.

The tip is: Disable the GPO, add what you need to add, then ENABLE it. (You can choose your method: on the LINK, or on the GPO itself.)

So, if you’re working on setting up a GPO which dictates Firewall Rules, you want to ensure that they get ALL the firewall rules one time, instead of possibly downloading the GPO (incomplete) then re-downloading it later.

Tip 2: Think, then name.


This tip is easy to understand. Don’t name your GPOs “Our wonderful desktop settings” or “Everyone’s security settings” because that’s not descriptive enough. Surely there’s something SPECIFIC these GPOs could be named, like “Sales: Desktop Background” or “Marketing: Firewall Settings.” Clarity, clarity, clarity. You likely don’t work alone, so it’s important to be clear and deliberate in how you name your GPOs.

Tip 3: Use GP Comments

You can implement comments about the GPO itself and the settings within the GPOs. So don’t miss out by leaving “breadcrumbs” behind for “the next person” who edits those GPOs. Explain WHY you did something inside the GP comments. Your “future friend” will thank you !

I know you’re looking for more best practices, base-hits and big-wins you can use TODAY to make your world safer and more predictable.

I have exactly 4 spots left for my upcoming 5-day Group Policy Master Class (near Dulles Airport, airport code: IAD.)

I know the takeaways you get from the class will be mega-valuable and I guarantee this will help you with your upcoming Windows 7 rollout, create a smoother transition from XP and relieve the pain around desktop and security management. The best part is you’ll get the hands-on training you need for your real-world problems of today and tomorrow.

Knowing that budgets are tight, I’ve set up class at a hotel with a free airport shuttle (so no rental car needed) and a killer nightly hotel rate.

If you’re thinking about making it.. now is the time. Before the end of this week if you want a guaranteed seat.

Dates: July 19th (Monday) – July 22nd (Friday).

Ensure your seat by:

(I know the website says “The class is full” but I can take 4 more people !)

2. Calling 302-351-4903 and Diane will help you if you need an invoice for a PO. We need the PO in hand to guarantee your seat.

Also… !

“Manager’s Special” PolicyPak Webinar – Today at 2.30 PM EST.

Bring your IT Manager to my “PolicyPak: Save Time, Money, and Effort (and increase security and santity)” talk today. He / She only needs to stay for 15 minutes of the full 60 minute talk. So agenda is:

() “Manager-speak” (how the company will save Time, Money, and Effort) for 15-minutes
() “Geek speak” for 45-minutes with me and learn how to use my free PolicyPak software to make your life easier.

You BOTH need to sign up at

I’ll draw a free book for one lucky geek who brings his/her IT manager along!
Or… One lucky IT pro who brings his/her geek along!

That’s it. See you in the July 19th class or today online !

Jeremy Moskowitz (Group Policy Community)    (PolicyPak Software)

May 2010

Full Disk / Bitlocker Security Hackable


Thanks to those folks who wrote in and thanked me for waving the banner around this issue.

Also, thanks to those folks who asked some clarifying questions. Okay, here are my summarized thoughts (basically, answers to your questions):

1. Sure, it would be great if copy machines could JOIN the Windows domain. Then, heck yeah, you could possibly use some GP trickery to make them more secure. BUT, that wasn’t what I was implying. ?

2. I supplied some GP-based security tips yesterday. One that encrypted the page file, and another one which totally removed it at shutdown. I also said that the best (bestest?) way to get protected is via full disk encryption. So, I totally stand by that.. Full disk encryption is arguably, the best (fastest / intermediate) way to get “pretty darn secure.” I would however, also suggest that I would only perform the “remove page file at shutdown” for machines where there is no other possible solution for security.

Heck, let’s break this “are we secure?” problem down .. way way down, just for fun here.


Question :Okay… Does NTFS provide “security” ?
Answer: Sorry. No. So, in short, if I steal your laptop, and it’s got no full disk encryption, then I can boot it from a USB stick, CD-ROM, or just rip the hard drive out and mount it in my non-Windows (ie: Linux machine) and.. bingo.. I have your files.

Question: Does applying either / both of those policy settings I suggested yesterday really make you more “secure”?
Answer: It’s better than NOTHING for desktops that HAVE to be out in the open, and for whatever reason can not get full disk encryption. And even then, it only protects the page file, which may or may not contain interesting stuff. To be super clear, I would suggest against enabling the “remove page at logoff” for servers at all costs, because rebooting your servers (or workstations with large page files) could take a loooong time.

Question: Does EFS (encrypting file system) provide “security” ?
Answer:  While I haven’t personally attempted to “bypass” EFS, I’ve seen several writeups of how to bypass it. Indeed, this one tool (found by quick Internet search) claims to immediately make child’s play of EFS. (Again, untested..
PS: I swear I didn’t do anything special to get that TinyURL.. that was auto-assigned to me.

Question: Does full disk encryption provide “security” ?
Answer: It’s an excellent start. Again, it’s the best thing we can do for the majority of attacks. But there are still vulnerabilities.  

Question: Okay.. what vulnerabilities am I still exposed to?
Answer: Three parts

() This one I knew about (which was discovered at Princeton University):
This vulnerability is based on the idea that you can “copy” the memory of a PC. Very interesting.

() This one I didn’t. This uses Firewire to slurp out the computer’s memory via DMA:
Thanks to Darren Mar-Elia, fellow GP MVP for this lead.

() A little internet searching came up with this commercial tool to bust Bitlocker / Truecrypt:
This actually seems to be similar to the Princeton attack; and requires memory to be “captured.” Or, you can try a lengthy “brute force” attack if the machine was fully shutdown.

Also, I think  reasonable reading as well, is the Microsoft response to the Princeton attack, and you can find that here:

In short, I am in agreement with Microsoft’s summary of the assessment:

“This sort of targeted attack poses a relatively low risk to folks who use BitLocker in the real world.”


If you’re concerned about attack #1 and #3, then make sure your computers settings are configured (using GP, of course!) to make the computer fully shut down (hibernate) on idle. Then require the Bitlocker password pin or USB key at startup. Yes, this is kind of a pain in the neck. But it is the way to prevent that attack.

If you’re concerned about attack #2, then use GP (again!) to disable built-in Firewire ports unless absolutely necessary.

To be superduper, crazy clear.. there is no “magic bullet” for security. Here’s some reading to get into the concept of “defense in depth.”

The book isn’t “super technical” in a “click here, do this” kind of way. But it did “get it into my thick skull” that I need to be doing everything I can, at multiple layers to thwart the bad guys and protect my network and keep my company safe.

So.. hopefully this article helps you out.

Here are some I can help you get more secure.

1) I do cover how to do both hardware lockout and power configuration (among many, many security items that I cover) in my GP class (coming soon to Washington, DC — July 19th! !) A handful of seats left.


2) This whole “defense in depth” idea is why I designed PolicyPak. Group Policy does a great job configuring some of the in-the-box operating system items. But what about the rest of the operating system and add-on applications? Hope to see you today or next week online (


3) Of course, you can get a book. ?

That’s it. Talk with you soon!

May 2010

Copier Machine Threat - Hard Drive Scare / Encryption

I came across this little piece of reporting by CBS news.

I have to admit.. I was totally caught off guard by this one.

Seems “gobsmackingly obvious” now that I think about it. But I never did.

This is a report on how all the major brands of copiers STORE the images on local hard drives. Making it SUPER EASY for the bad guys to get your (recycled) copiers and get your important corporate data. Watch this, then, please, figure out who to contact in your company and decide HOW your copy machines are recycled.

What else can you do? Well, from a Group Policy perspective, on our Windows PCs (and not copy machines) here are three ideas:

Idea 1:
Computer Configuration | Policies | Administrative Templates … | System | File System | Enable NTFS pagefile encryption

Idea 2:
“Clear Page File at Shutdown”…
Check out
(not a group policy setting, but can be delivered as a registry preference.)
PS: This one likely wouldn’t beat the forensics apps, but it’s better than nothing.

Idea 3:
You could of course, go “Full disk encryption” like BitLocker or TrueCrypt.. that would do the trick as well.

So, that’s three things to at least CONSIDER in thoughts around this problem for high security machines that COULD be recycled.  True.. I’ve seen companies that literally “shred” the drives in a big “drive cruncher machine”.. but, that seems extreme considering there are software solutions to this very problem.

Note, of course, that enabling these items could slow down your system (especially that second one at shutdown time.) But it might be worth it depending on the situation. For what it’s worth, I’m using BitLocker on one machine, TrueCrypt on another and notice no appreciable slowdown.

Speaking of security, and “doing all you can” to thwart the bad guys… I’m doing my weekly PolicyPak demonstration tomorrow at 2.00 PM Eastern. If you want “extra thumbscrews” to ensure that your security is maintained at all times, then join me for this free informative talk.

Here’s the link:


PS: And my pants are already back on, thank you very much.

Jeremy Moskowitz (Group Policy Community)    (PolicyPak Software)

May 2010

Group Policy: Disabled

Hey Team:

Short sweet tip, and a short sweet announcement.

Short sweet tip first:

You are the King or Queen of your castle, er, domain.

I like to think of every policy setting as a little “edict” that I’m forcing my user population to embrace.

Well, on the Policy side of the house there are a zillion policy settings that can be set to one of three states:

– Enabled,
– Disabled,
-or Not Configured.

Enabled means: “Do this thing, and do it at the level I’m currently working within.”

So, if you’ve got a GPO, link it over to the domain (thus affecting all user accounts in the domain) and Enable a policy setting like “Prohibit Access to the Control Panel.” Then, as expected, everyone in your kingdom will magically embrace the stone-cold fact that their days of messing around within the Control Panel are now over!

Huzzah! Mission accomplished! You and your other network sovereigns cry out with joy!

Except this decree affects YOU as well. Oops… Seems like you poured the burning hot oil on yourself on this one.

Okay.. Great. What are you to do?

Disable that same policy setting from earlier — but now, at a level that affects YOUR (the King and Queen’s men) accounts.

That’s right. Disable.

Disabled’s job isn’t (generally) to “disable” stuff. No, no!

The “Disabled” setting’s job is to “invert” a higher-level policy.

So, assuming you had an OU called “Exalted Leaders OU” and your account was in there, you could simply create a new GPO, link it over to the GPO named “Exalted Leaders OU” and edit the policy setting for the SAME SETTING — “Prohibit Access to the Control Panel.”

Except this time.. instead of ENABLING the policy — you’ll DISABLE it, thus rendering it innocuous to your user account.

It’s like your own “suit of armor” to avoid the burning hot oil.

Try it out and let me know what you think, either in the comments of this blog post on

Okay.. and now for the short, sweet announcement:

That is.. the upcoming Washington DC (Northern VA) class — July 19th is OFFICIALLY ON.

We already have 10 people signed up with guaranteed seats, and another 9 people “swearing on a stack of Group Policy Bibles” that they are working on POs and whatnot.

Since we only have so many seats, ensure your butt is in the right place by securing your seat before they’re all claimed!

Go to

And to answer your question before you ask it: Yes, yes.. the class is fully updated for WS08 and Win7. The result is that after the class is over, you’ll actually KNOW WHAT TO DO when you’re rolling out and managing Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 and R2.

On that page, you can:

[] Read what the class is all about, and check out the hands-on lab content.
[] Watch the 20+ video testimonials.
[] Click SIGN UP and we’ll send you a Welcome letter. 

Oh, again: Everyone taking the class gets my newly updated book (Which, by the way, is FLYING off the shelves here at GP H.Q. Thank you, thank you, and sincerely thank YOU for being so enthusiastic and supportive.  My publisher says thanks, too.  ?  )

On Amazon it’s ranked #2 in “Networking books.”  Awesome!!

() Get your own signed copy:
() Get it on Amazon..

PS: Hey.. who’s gonna help me out and write some nice stuff on Amazon about the book? ? Thanks in advance !

Apr 2010

What is AGPM4?

(Note: This tip may look familiar. It’s a “re-do” of something I blogged about back in 2008, but I wanted to re-talk about it, adding some new 2010 Juice to this 2008 discussion.)

Note: UK & European people / Aussie & New Zealand people… I have a special request at the VERY END of this email, so, please don’t ignore ! Just jump to the end right now if you only have a second.

Okay.. on with the deep thoughts of the day:

Dealing with GPOs can sometimes feel like you’re juggling grenades.

As soon as you open a GPO for editing, it’s already whizzing around your network,
replicating around your DCs and potentially available for any clients looking for
an update.

What if you’re in the middle of editing a GPO and you suddenly get called away, with, say a half-finished GPO?

Well, it’s likely at least SOME Windows machines will ask for that update and download it.

Also, I don’t know about you, but even with my daily GP comings-and-goings, I
still kinda wish there was an “Are you sure?” prompt when I’m editing stuff or
for when I’m about to do a bone-headed move.

Let’s think about all the times I wish I could put some process around my GP world. For instance, there
is no “Are you sure” when…

() Creating GPO
() Editing GPO
() Linking a GPO
() Deleting a GPO

You get the idea. There’s a lot of potential for quick damage there.

And, no way to see history of a GPO and “roll back” a set of changes once a GPO is rolled forward (though there is manual backup and restore capability.)

That’s why I like products that put a little “process” around GP management.

Microsoft’s AGPM v 4.0 was recently released as part of the MDOP subscription service ( and it’s got some neat-o features. Since AGPM 3.0, there are a handful of new items, but nothing too radical.

It’s strange, but I ask a lot of people if they’ve even HEARD of Microsoft’s AGPM (Advanced Group Policy Management) product, and I often get blank stares.

So, in the interest of GP Public service, I’m here to clear up what it is and what it does. Let’s spend a quick minute discussing what it is and how to get it.

What it is: It’s one of the 6 tools which are part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pak (MDOP).

What does it do: It puts “Change management” around GPOs, so you have a full trackable history of what people did plus a way to roll back if there are problems.

How to get it: MDOP is a yearly subscription service which is only available to Microsoft SA customers who then ADDITIONALLY pay about $10 a seat, PER year.

Holy moly factor: Yep. With the SA costs and the yearly ongoing $10 a sat, it can be expensive, but because MDOP is a set of 6 products, it’s actually a pretty good bargain overall. But it’s pretty understandable to have a strong reaction to the cost.

AGPM’s Philosophy: You can think of AGPM almost like a library system. (At least, that’s how I think of it.) Only one person can have a GPO “checked out” at any given time for editing. And those edits don’t happen ONLINE and LIVE. They happen OFFLINE and are trackable. Essentially removing any direct impact to live computers — until you’re ready to rock.

What’s new in AGPM 4.0 vs AGPM 3.0: There’s a smattering of stuff, but here’s the hitlist:

() Searchable names and fields within the “Change Control” node
() Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 compatibility
() Export / Import from “test lab” to “production” domain or forest

Note that two COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS about AGPM are:

1. You have to deploy some “client” or “agent” to every machine. False. Totally false. Yes, AGPM has a “client” piece, but it’s just a fancy way to describe the “GPMC-add-on” piece which shows the AGPM stuff within the GPMC.

2. You get the ability to control “more stuff” on your target machines. False. Totally false. Remember: Group Policy “magic” only occurs when you have a new CSE (client-side extension) on your target machine, which can pick up your “directives” inside the GPO. AGPM doesn’t do this. Products like Specops Deploy, BeyondTrust Priv Manager, and PolicyPak Application Manager all ship “true CSEs” which extend Group Policy’s magic and ability. AGPM does no such thing.

So, are you using AGPM? Here’s my one-question survey:

PS: If you have no plans to be an SA customer and then get the MDOP suite, then, note you can get MDOP comparible functionality from 3rd party vendors, like NetIQ with their GPA product, Quest with their GPOAdmin product, or ScriptLogic with their Active Administrator product.

In the effort of full disclosure, note that some of those 3rd party vendors do occasionally advertise on (but they didn’t know this email was going out until.. well, right this second.)

Other notes:

1. My new book thoroughly covers AGPM 4.0 in a deep, deep way. And, that chapter is totally, totally FREE. Head over to and click eChapters and find the AGPM chapter on the LEFT (GREEN) side. It suggests a way for you test this all yourself. You’re then also in the “right place” if you wanted to get your own signed copy of the printed book to get the rest of the story.

2. I’m doing a “Do more with Group Policy and PolicyPak” LIVE demonstration TOMORROW at 11.00 AM EST (weird time, I know.). But sign up for the free live demonstration at See you there !

3. We’ve got lots of PEOPLE COMING in my upcoming class in Washington, DC / VA July 19th. Some discount seats still left. Honestly, these will not last long. $200 + Free book for the next three people who sign up at and use discount code FIRSTFIVEDC at checkout.

3. If you’re in UK / Europe and might want me to have a public training class over there, please click this link:

4. If you’re in AUS or NZ, and might want me to have a public training class over there, please click this link:

5. If you’re “happy and you know it” .. clap your hands. Just seeing if you’re paying attention.

Thanks for reaching the end of this long email. ?

PS: Going on vacation for a week after my talk on Friday. Diane is here all week if you need a PO for the class or any other special situation. 302-351-4903. Thanks Team !

Jeremy Moskowitz (Group Policy Community) (PolicyPak Software)

Mar 2010

Use the GPupdate /force (Part 2)

So, in a previous installment, we explored GPupdate /force.

One use, as we examined enabled us to move a user or computer account around in AD, and have it’s new location “magically picked up.”

Let’s examine the other use of of GPupdate /force. Let’s take a closer examination of how “GP does it’s thing.” When a user (or computer) get it’s first batch of GPOs, it has to download them.

Now, the good news is that WHAT it downloads is really, really small. Usually 1, 2, 3 or 4k ish. That’s KILOBYTES, like what my VIC-20 was packin’ back in the day.

So, okay. First myth busted: the download “payload” of Group Policy objects isn’t that big (under most circumstances.)

Now, it’s true that the stuff the GPO is DOING can have an impact. But, even then, it’s usually pretty nominal if you’re sticking mostly to GPPrefs and/or Admin Templates (registry settings.)

Okay. So, back to /force versus no /force. ?

So if your user or computer is just sitting there a while, it asks, every so often “Hey.. any updated (or new) GPOs out there for me?” If the answer is YES, it downloads JUST the new or changed GPOs and processes those.

Wow. Neat. So how does it KNOW which ones are NEW or CHANGED? The GPO Version number, of course. This is little internal counter (found on both the user and computer sides.) If either version changes, then blamo! the GPO comes down and is processed.

Okay, okay. Back to /force versus no /force.

When you run GPupdate by itself (no force) you’re “accelerating the hands of time” and forcing the user and computer side to ask “Hey.. any updated (or new) GPOs out there for me?” Again, if YES, those come down and apply.

Then why would you ever NEED /force ?

Honestly, under most circumstances.. you shouldn’t.

A key case when you WOULD need the /force would be, say, if someone with local admin rights did a no-no, like change a value that only the protected SYSTEM should get to. For example, if a local administrator deleted a registry key, which restricted access to the control panel. Now — REGULAR USERS cannot do this. But ADMINS can.

Then running a GPupdate — by itself — wouldn’t fix the problem. Only a GPupdate /force will “re-bring down” the settings — EVEN IF THE VERSION NUMBER HAS NOT CHANGED. Only this will shore up the hole that local admin has created.

That being said… On the other hand, I have seen plenty of times where GPupdate /force is like a kick to the system’s head. There is some magical quality about /force which does sometimes “jumpstart” you out of a problem, and .. whoa.. things seem to “just be all a-ok, ducky” right now.

Has the /force helped you get out of a pickle? Post your story to my blog.

Ready to learn more? Group Policy University.. Live or Online.

Next Live.. the week of Seattle April 19th.
Online.. whenever you need it it.
One line:

Jan 2010

Oodles of Great News today...


Several pieces of good news this week !

1. LAX Class — On on on ! March 22 – 26th.

We’ve got the first seven people signed up for my GPanswers five-day training class !

That means the class is ON ! Now, the only problem is.. will you be able to get one of the remaining seats?

If you were waiting for the class to be OFFICIALLY ON, well, we are now. So, don’t miss out.

Sorry, we cannot “save you a seat.” You can save your own seat when you use a credit card or utilize a PO. Then, your seat is a GUARANTEED. Sign up at…
or call Diane at 302-351-4903 for POs / special arrangements.

Special deals available for “Lone Wolf or Self-Pay” consultants, and discounts available when you sign up 3 or more.  Must call Diane to take advantage of these specials.

Sign up today. See you in LA.

2. I’ve been granted another year as a Enterprise Mobility MVP. There are exactly nine GP MVPs. Yowsa. Anyway, thank you for supporting my efforts here.


3. Speaking of thanking you.. check this crazy picture out… (safe for work.)

This is a picture (you can see the flash) of something printed in SQL Server magazine. Remember that “Community Choice” award survey I asked you to fill out? Something must have worked and you must have told two friends, because of all the websites… we came in #3 overall.

Holy cow.

We even beat out the MAGAZINE’S OWN website (the one who took the survey !)

What? Must have been a “rounding error” or something, but I’ll take it.


4. There’s a GPPreferences hotfix / rollup now available for Windows Vista clients.

There’s no new functionality in here (and some is slated to come, retroactively for Vista at some point..) But this is a nice hotfix rollup if you’re using Vista clients.

5. Team… I want to expand the GP FAQ we have online at Do you have a BURNING FAQ question you want answered? If so, send me an email with the subject line of BURNING FAQ, and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming Tip of the Week / online in the FAQ section. Remember: Subject line of BURNING FAQ, and please, hold-yer-horses for an immediate answer. I’ll be hand-crafting the answers of the ones I pick and then presenting those answers at a later time. I likely won’t be able to answer all. I hope you’ll understand.

That’s it for now. Thanks team. You’re the best! Have a great 2010, and see a bunch of you lucky ones in LA in March!

Jeremy Moskowitz
Twitter: jeremymoskowitz (Group Policy Community)    (PolicyPak Software)

Dec 2009

Backup Tips for the 21st Century: Backup procedures so easy, your Mom could (and should) do it.


“Jeremy Moskowitz’s guide to how to backup your computer (which should be enough for most people)”

In a departure of my usual stuff here, this guide is not specifically geared toward IT managers or even IT pros. Rather, this is a guide that you should give to anyone and everyone you know with a computer.

IT backup and restore procedures will be significantly different than this. This is for “regular Joe and Jane” with one, two or maybe three computers in the house.

I wrote this document up after I saw this picture (See below). In short, you never know what is going to happen to your data.

There are *SEVEN* things you need to do to keep absolutely safe.

Omitting any of these steps is not advised, but I can see if you only did just ONE, you would still be BETTER OFF than most. Doing all seven is a near guarantee you will not be “up the creek when the water really hits.”

The Motto I live by: “There are people who back up their data, and those who will.”

That’s because DISK DRIVES ALWAYS FAIL.  ALWAYS. It’s is a guarantee.  Even the newest ones with no moving parts. They all fail. Eventually.

Read more to discover how “mere mortals” (not IT folks) should be backing up their data to prevent disaster.


Look at this picture. Ow. You never know what’s going to happen.

I know.. You’re thinking “Holy cow, Moskowitz. Really? Seven things I gotta do? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Sorry. Yes. One method isn’t enough. Two *CAN* be enough. But you cannot count that any ONE method will always work.

That’s why you need at LEAST TWO. And the others are GOOD IDEAS.

Let me explain how I do it, and you can copy or otherwise parrot what I do. Or not. For the record, I haven’t lost any data since 1994, your mileage may vary.

Thing #1: Get an online backup service.

() What is it:

It’s a little application that runs on your PC or Mac and constantly backs up your files to the online service thru the Intertubes. I use (don’t sign up until you read this whole thing.) Others seem to like

() How does it protect you:
You tell it where your “data” is.. (or let it decide) and if you DELETE a file, or a directory, you go online and RESTORE it.

() What happens if I blow away my whole hard drive or change hard drives
You can get it all back.. your data. Pictures, docs, etc. Not applications. You can transfer your subscription to other computers at the same time.

() What about applications I’ve installed:
You should have another copy of these somewhere. At least a LIST of what’s important, offline, somewhere. See my answer a little later.

() What about if I overwrite a file by accident
Carbonite says they keep 3 months of backups of a file. Never used it.

() What does it cost:
$55 a year for “all you can eat.” Multi-year discounts. Get it. It’s a freekin’ no-brainer. $55 a year per computer.. GIGS of storage. They do not monitor.

() Mac and PC?
Yes. Get it.

() Do I need to license each computer in my house?
Yes. Do that.

() Does it take 90 years to upload all my stuff?
Yes. The first time is quite painful for your internet connection. After that, easy.

() Are there other backup services like this?
Yes, lots. I happen to use this one. Others like

Thing #2: Get a full-disk backup program

If you’re not using Windows 7, do that soon. Inside Windows 7 is a very decent “Full Disk backup” program. XP has one too, but it’s not quite as good.

In Windows 7, just type “Backup” at the start prompt. The Windows 7 default backup routine is to take a full disk backup. Macs have a built-in excellent program called Time Machine. Check it out, and use it.

If you’re using XP, or even Windows 7, I might suggest something like

This takes a full SNAPSHOT of your machine, (and increments) and puts them on an external USB disk (more later). When the shit hits, you boot off a CD (that you make) and .. whamo.. pull from your recovery backup.

Thing #3: Backup to an external USB drive (and back up MOST important stuff here.)

In Step #2, you saved an “image” of your PC somewhere. Where? Here. External USB disks are just DIRT CHEAP.

Here’s 250GB for $59.99. More Googling with yield better results, even.

Get two or three. See next FAQ for why.

Thing #4: Don’t keep all your backups / computers in your house !

Keep one backup in the house, another at your Mom’s or in the safe at the bank. True, the bad guys can break in and steal your backup at Mom’s, so a safe deposit box is better.

Why are you doing this “offsite backup?” So, if your house burns down, so does your laptop, -AND- the backup you have in the house. Having another at your Mom’s or in the Safe at the bank is a GOOD IDEA.. But this takes DILLIGENCE.

I know someone who did thing #3 (above) but his laptop *AND* his backup were caught in a flood. If he did Thing #4 as suggested here, he would still have been protected.

So, what do *I* do? Every Monday, I rotate to have TWO in the bank and ONE coming back to me for making a new backup.

If you have EXTRA room after thing #2, then make a DIRECT copy of your MOST IMPORTANT STUFF directly to the external disk drive.

Why? Because if something got CORRUPTED in the backup of step #2, you at least have YOUR MOST IMPORTANT STUFF as just regular “plain ol’ files” for you to recover.

Just plug in your USB backup and, COPY BACK.

Thing #5: Rotate between AT LEAST two, possibly three USB drives.

This is similar to #4, but three is better than two. This gives me THREE weeks to get something back from the dead if I messed up.

Thing #6 Keep copies of your ORIGINAL disks, downloadables, KEYCODES and Drivers.

I have some key “special” folders in case I need them:

() Keycodes: c:datakeycodes. It has WORD and TXT files with all the keycodes of everything I’ve ever bought.

()ISOs: c:ISOs.  This is a collection of the DVDs and CD-ROMs I have physically purchased, including Quickbooks and Microsoft Visio. To make ISO files, consider

()Drivers: c:Drivers: This has every driver I would need to get my Laptop and desktops system back going again (sound, video, network, disk, etc.)

This collection is enormously helpful if need to restore them or repair them, or I’m building / re-building a system.

For instance, this week, I built a new Windows 7 machine last Thursday and was up and running in 3 hours because I had all my ISOs, keycodes and drivers — all in one place, ready to go.

Thing #7: Test your restore procedure.

This can be really tricky, especially for item #2 (full snapshot backup.)

For laptops, invest in a second hard drive, even if you use it JUST for this test. That’s right. For about $100 or so, you can get, say, this drive:

And then TEST RESTORE from Step #2 onto this drive. MOST laptops can quickly pull out the drive, replace it with this new drive, and allow you to test your restore in full.

Then, when your test is complete, keep using that disk, or swap back to the original. Do this every 3-6 months or so.

For Desktops.. same deal. Get another drive. Get a technical friend to help you if you need to. It IS harder on a desktop than a laptop.

But do TRY to do a similar “full recovery” test. You will be SO GLAD you did this NOW and find problems NOW, as opposed to WHEN the problem occurs and you cannot correct from it anymore.

If you don’t want to do this, at LEAST try to do perform test restores of your DATA from your ONLINE service and your external USB-drive extra-copies

For extra credit, try to recover data from ANOTHER COMPUTER, in case yours becomes a smoldering mess or you drop it in a lake or something.

Other advice:

1. If you do just ONE thing on this list, do #3. You’re a total fool if you do not at this point because USB disks are so cheap, and they work on Macs and PCs.

2. Its better to do ONE of these than NONE of these. I’ve outlined 7 steps here. But if you only want to do one, but do it religiously, it’s better than doing NONE.

3. Don’t count on one method working 100% of the time. That’s why I use three methods and hope ONE of them works when the time comes.

4. Keep it simple. The LESS COMPLICATED you backup and restore procedure is, the better.

5. If all else fails, and you didn’t listen to me AT ALL, and your hard drive dies, and you DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO Go here:

For a SMALL FORTUNE, they will open your hard drive and try to recover your data.

It’s not surprising that these companies stay in business. Most people do not back up. Will you pay NOW (cheap backup) or LATER (expensive recovery service that doesn’t always work?)

It’s up to you.

That is all.

Good luck.