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Windows 2000 Deployment: Distributing Windows 2000 User Settings

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There are many different ways to deploy user settings in Windows 2000, and some are better than others. Windows 2000 deployment expert Jerry Honeycutt has some suggestions for effectively distributing user settings.
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A big part of your deployment project is user settings. Creating an image that contains a basic Windows 2000 installation is a no-brainer. Adding Sysprep, cloning the image, and deploying it using Symantec Ghost is also no problem. Nothing so clean is available for deploying user settings, though.

The easy answer to user settings is just to ignore them. Everyone customizes their computers to suit their needs. This is not an answer, however—it's a productivity problem.

There are two other schools of thought, though. The first school is one in which you create a user profile, customize it by changing settings in each application, and then copy the user profile over the computer's default user profile. The first time users log on to that computer, they get a copy of those settings. This is no longer viable for two reasons. First is that Windows 2000 makes it difficult to create a generic default user profile from a working user profile. There are too many hard-coded paths and SIDs in the registry, for example. Second is the fact that by including settings in the image, you make changing those settings more difficult. Let's say that the settings contain an error; you'll have to touch every desktop in order to fix those settings. You'll also have to update your images. Blech!

The second school is one in which you create user settings separately from images. There are alternatives—better alternatives—at your disposal:

  • Create a default user profile on the Netlogon share. Windows 2000 will copy this profile for new users when they don't have one already.

  • Use Office Profile Wizard, which comes with the Office 2000 Resource Kit at www.microsoft.com/office/ork, to deploy specific portions of a user profile to each user.

  • Use registry tools such as REG files, INF files, Regini.exe, and Reg.exe to deploy individual registry settings. You can use these tools from users' logon scripts.

  • Use system policies or group policies. Windows 2000 and Office 2000 both come with useful policy templates. For example, you can set a policy that determines the level of macro virus protection in Office 2000: Low, Medium, or High. Users can't override this policy, either.

Policy is leaps and bounds beyond all other methods for creating user settings. You are no longer just creating a setting and forgetting about it. You're actually managing settings on users' computers. For that reason, learning how to build policy templates for system and group policies is a worthy goal. Doing so, you can control any setting.

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