Using Group Policy Objects to control user logon

Learn how to use GPOs to control the login process for Windows XP and Windows 2000 clients in an Active Directory domain.

Group policies can be used to control numerous aspects of the logon process for Windows 2000 and Windows XP clients in an Active Directory domain. The controls are found in the Computer Configuration and User Configuration sections of the GPO under Administrative Templates, System, Logon. The User Configuration's Logon section contains three controls:

The Run these programs at logon control defines those applications or scripts that are launched automatically as soon as the user logs into the network.

The Do not process the run once list control is used to force the system to ignore customized RunOnce lists. The RunOnce list is a Registry key found at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnce.

The Do not process the legacy run list control is used to prevent the system from executing applications defined in the legacy run list. The legacy run list is a backwards compatible remnant left over from Windows NT. It consists of two Registry entries located at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun and HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsNTCurrentVersionWindowsRun.

The Computer Configuration's Logon section contains six controls. Three of those controls are exact duplicates of those found in the User Configuration section. When the controls in both sections are defined, the programs defined under the Computer Configuration section are launched before those defined in the User Configuration section. The other three controls are:

The Don't display the Getting Started welcome screen at logon control is used to suppress the Getting Started welcome screen when a user logs on. The Getting Started welcome screen is the introduction to Windows XP and tour guide that appears the first time a user logs on.

The Always use classic logon control forces Windows XP to use the classic logon prompt (a.k.a. CTRL-ALT-DEL logon window) instead of the Windows Welcome screen. This setting is only useful on non-domain clients since all domain clients are automatically configured to use the classic logon prompt exclusively.

The Always wait for the network at computer startup and logon control forces the system to wait for the network to respond before processing a user logon. If a user has previously logged onto the system and the network is not actively responding, the user will be authenticated using cached credentials -- assuming default configuration of the Windows XP system and GPOs. When this control is enabled, users will be authenticated by domain controllers only when a domain client responds or when the network responds if a workgroup member.


James Michael Stewart is a researcher and writer for Lanwrights, Inc.


This was first published in September 2002

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