Group Policy settings alter Windows 8 configuration, user interface

Robert Sheldon, Contributor

There are several new Group Policy settings in Windows 8.1 that can affect how users interact with enterprise desktops. In my previous article, I described updated and new Windows 8 Group Policy settings for the Control Panel, Start Menu and taskbar. Here are more settings for system configuration and SkyDrive.

Windows 8 configuration for computers and users

The Edge user interface (UI) template under Windows Components contains policies related to the edge panes on the Windows 8.1 desktop, specifically the Switcher at the left edge of the screen and Charms Bar at the right edge. Windows 8.1 adds four new policies to this template in the User group. One of these policies, Disable help tips, is also included in the Computer group. As the name suggests, the policy disables the tips that Windows shows to the user.

The other three policies have equally descriptive names, so you should be able to readily glean their meaning.

  • Do not show recent applications when the mouse is pointing to the upper left corner of the screen.
  • Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings don't appear when the mouse is pointing to the upper right corner of the screen.
  • Prevent users from replacing the Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell in the menu they see when they right-click the lower left corner or press the Windows logo key + X.

Windows 8.1 settings and Search

The Search template in the Computer group includes five new policies. The first two are Don't search the Web or display Web results in Search policy and Don't search the Web or display Web results in Search over metered connections. Not surprisingly, the policies control whether the Search feature can include the Web in regular searches or searches over metered connections, respectively. By default, users can choose whether their searches include the Web, but these policies override that option.

More on Windows 8 configuration and features

You don't need to start from scratch with Windows desktop manager commands

Four Office 2013 features address authorization and security

Windows 8.1 and UI top enterprise desktop stories of 2013

Windows 8.1 includes features targeting enterprises

Third-party tools give IT options for Active Directory audits

Another new policy is Do not allow locations on removable drives to be added to libraries. The policy prevents folders on removable drives from being included in a library, which is a window that provides a view of folders stored in different locations so a user can easily browse them.

If you want to control the SafeSearch setting used when performing a search, you can enable the Set the SafeSearch setting for Search policy. SafeSearch can filter out adult content from search results, depending on which setting you select within the policy. You have three choices: Strict, Moderate or Off.

In addition, you can use the Set what information is shared in Search policy to control which data (such as user and location information) is shared with Bing when performing a search.

Windows 8 SkyDrive configuration

Windows 8.1 adds three SkyDrive-related policies to the Computer group. The Prevent the usage of SkyDrive for file storage policy prevents apps and features from working with files on SkyDrive. If the policy is enabled, SkyDrive doesn't appear in File Explorer and SkyDrive files aren't kept in sync with the cloud. Also, users can't access SkyDrive from the SkyDrive app or file pickers, and they can't automatically upload photos and videos from the camera roll folder.

Another policy related to Windows 8 SkyDrive is Save documents and pictures to the local PC by default. If this policy is enabled, apps and users can still save files on SkyDrive. They can also use the SkyDrive app and file pickers to open and save files on SkyDrive. However, if this policy is disabled or not configured, files are saved to SkyDrive by default for users with connected accounts.

The third new policy is Prevent SkyDrive files from syncing over metered connections. The policy does exactly what the name suggests.

Plenty more new Group Policy settings

There are more policies for Microsoft's latest OS revision. Other administrative templates and Windows 8.1 Group Policy settings include some related to Windows Update, user profiles and work folders. In addition, Windows 8.1 also includes numerous policies specific to Internet Explorer 11.

Desktop admins who familiarize themselves with the new Group Policy options for Windows 8 configuration will be better able to respond to users who could be affected.

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