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I was curious when a person should use Machine Groups within Active Directory? What are the common uses cases for them? How does one keep them up to date as machines are shuffled by a multi-tiered IT operation? Are there any implications for machine groups if a person does not have access to the user objects to move around in relation to applying policy, etc.

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3 Answers 3

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Machine groups are useful when certain local SYSTEM things happen and you want such events to affect off-machine resources, such as logging software installs pushed by GPO in a central location. If you have a machine group that's doing the installs, and you set that machine group to allow writes to the log directory, those software installs will be logged centrally.

The same holds for a startup-script. If you're doing data-gathering in that script and want to drop the files some place central, a machine group is handy for that.

The thing to remember is that users don't inherit any privs from the machine they log in to. AD considers them two separate entities. This can be both good and bad depending on what you're trying to do, but you do need to remember it.

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Honestly, the only use I've found for Groups in AD for Computers, is to limit the scope of group policies applied to workstations. Microsofts best practices suggests that you should apply policies to OUs, and then place workstations into said OUs... but I find that frequently, this is less than ideal... Groups allows me to refine it a bit more so I can set roles on specific machines.

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I occasionally use groups of machines, for apply Group Policies. With some more advanced policies, applying based on OU alone wouldn't work. I have policies, that should a set of servers that have about 40 policies applied to them. But a couple of those policies, is only applied to a subset, and in some cases, those subsets of machines overlap, so doing it purely on OU would result in an ugly OU structure like this (I have seen this in production on a clients network).

  • foo
  • foo\policya
  • foo\policyb
  • foo\policyc
  • foo\policya+policyb
  • foo\policyb+policyc
  • foo\policya+policyc
  • foo\policya+policyb+policyc

It is much cleaner, to just leave the polcies, at the top, and just have the polices apply only to specific groups, and the group member-ship include the machines, that the policy should apply to.

It really bugs me when I see people with insanely ugly OU structures because they are trying to make policies work. Microsoft called the technology Group Polices, and not OU polcies for a reason.

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