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Active Directory Policies

GPO to prevent regular users from changing MSI installation options

In a managed IT environment, ensuring the consistency and security of software installations is essential. Allowing regular users to change installation options during the installation of an MSI package can lead to configuration discrepancies and potential security risks. In this article, we will walk through the process of creating a Group Policy Object (GPO) to deny regular users the ability to modify installation options while installing an MSI package. This guide is designed for system administrators and provides detailed step-by-step instructions, advanced configuration options, and real-world use cases.

Understanding the Need for Control

The ability to control software installations is critical for system administrators for several reasons:

  1. Consistency: Ensuring that all software installations follow a standardized configuration reduces compatibility issues and streamlines troubleshooting.
  2. Security: Allowing users to change installation options can introduce security vulnerabilities or allow the installation of unapproved or malicious software.
  3. Compliance: In regulated industries, maintaining control over software installations is often a compliance requirement.

Prerequisites

Before proceeding, make sure you have the following:

  • Administrator Rights: You must have administrative privileges in your Active Directory (AD) environment.
  • Group Policy Management Console (GPMC): This tool must be installed and accessible.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Open Group Policy Management Console (GPMC)

Launch the GPMC by typing “Group Policy Management” in the Start menu search or by running gpmc.msc.

Step 2: Create or Edit a Group Policy Object (GPO)

  • To create a new GPO, right-click on the domain or an Organizational Unit (OU) and select “Create a GPO in this domain, and Link it here…”.
  • To modify an existing GPO, locate it under the appropriate domain or OU, right-click it, and select “Edit”.

Step 3: Navigate to Software Restriction Policies

In the Group Policy Management Editor, navigate to: Computer ConfigurationPoliciesWindows SettingsSecurity SettingsSoftware Restriction Policies.

Step 4: Create a New Software Restriction Policy

  • Right-click on “Software Restriction Policies” and select “New Software Restriction Policies”.

Step 5: Define Additional Rules

  • In the right pane, right-click on “Additional Rules” and select “New Path Rule”.
  • Browse and select the path to the MSI package that you want to restrict. You can also specify a network path if needed.

Step 6: Set Security Level

  • After selecting the path, set the security level to “Disallowed”.
  • Click “OK” to save the rule.

Step 7: Apply and Enforce the GPO

  • Click “OK” or “Apply” to save the changes.
  • Link the GPO to the relevant OU(s).
  • The policy will be applied at the next Group Policy refresh cycle. To expedite, run gpupdate /force on the client machines.

Advanced Configuration and Use Cases

1. Multiple MSI Packages

If you need to restrict multiple MSI packages, create separate path rules for each one within the same GPO. This allows for granular control over which packages are restricted.

2. User-Based Restrictions

While this article focuses on computer-based policies, you can also implement user-based software restriction policies to restrict certain users from running specific MSI packages.

3. Custom Error Messages

Configure custom error messages for users who attempt to modify installation options. This helps communicate the policy and its reasons clearly.

Real-World Use Cases

  1. Enterprise Software: Ensure that critical enterprise software is installed consistently with predetermined settings to avoid compatibility issues.
  2. Security Software: Prevent users from modifying the installation of security software to maintain a secure environment.
  3. Regulated Industries: Maintain compliance with industry regulations that require strict control over software installations.

Security Considerations

  • Regular User Education: Communicate the policy changes to regular users to ensure they understand the reasons behind the restrictions and to minimize frustration.
  • Exception Handling: Consider creating exceptions for power users or IT personnel who may require flexibility in software installations for specific tasks.

Troubleshooting

  • Policy Not Applied: If the GPO does not apply as expected, use tools like Resultant Set of Policy (RSoP) or gpresult for diagnosis and troubleshooting.
  • Package Not Restricted: Ensure that the path to the MSI package in the GPO matches the actual path to the package.

Conclusion

Creating a GPO to deny regular users the ability to change installation options during the installation of an MSI package is a crucial step in maintaining software consistency and security within an organization. By following the detailed steps outlined in this guide, system administrators can effectively manage software installations, enhance security, and reduce the risk of configuration discrepancies.

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