I'm looking for direction on some general settings to configure for a Terminal Services server group policy. It is running Server 2003 Standard and hosts about 20 people simultaneously.

Obviously you can get very granular and restrictive, but I'm looking for a good, generic baseline to start out with that balances security with usability. I will tweak as necessary.

My general requirements are:

  • Users cannot install new software, drivers or updates of any kind.
  • User data (Word, Excel, PDF, etc.) should be stored on network drives rather than the local file system.
  • Users should not be able to modify server settings, reboot the server, shut it down, modify power options, etc.

2 Answers 2


You'll get the vast majority of what you want by having the users run with non-privileged accounts. If you let users run with "Administrator" accounts on your terminal server machine you're asking for the box to be destroyed almost immediately. (Besides, users shouldn't even be using their desktop PCs for day-to-day work with "Administrator" rights. The terminal server computer is just a big, multi-headed PC, and no different than the desktop PCs in that respect.)

Beyond that, it looks like you'll want folder redirection to get "My Documents" (and possibly the "Desktop" and "Application Data" folders) onto the server where you want user data stored. You're not really going to be able to stop users from being able to save into the per-user "Temp" directories or under their user profile (w/o breaking how the OS works). Folder redirection and user education are your friends there. Not having "Administrator" rights, though, is going to seriously limit the number of places users can stash files, and make it much more likely that they'll save files in the right place.

Generally, I use a group policy object set in loopback policy processing "Replace" mode, applied to the OU with the terminal server computers in it. (This is a GREAT application for group policy loopback policy processing-- you should read up on it.)

I fill that loopback GPO with all the per-user settings that I want to apply to terminal server users (typically Microsoft Office customizations, folder redirection, tweaks to the Windows look-and-feel, etc).

If you have multiple terminal servers, I'd recommend setting a terminal services roaming user profile for each user (to a location different than their regular Windows roaming user profile) so that their terminal services environment "follows" them between the different terminal server machines.


If you decide that you do want to restrict what programs the user is allowed to run, I suggest you have a look at "Software Restriction Policies" (see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb457006.aspx). You can keep users from being able to execute applications except those that are stored in specific paths (places users aren't allowed to write-- "\Program Files...", "\Windows", etc) or that have specific digital signatures. If somebody downloads an EXE to their %TEMP% directory (a place they're allowed to write), they'll find that Windows won't execute it.

  • 3
    when I setup my very first TS server, I left my test users (about 3 of them) with Admin privlages because some software did not run correctly. That was a huge mistake, before I knew it they were shutting down the server on each other.
    – Matt
    Jun 23, 2009 at 15:39
  • 1
    If it weren't "your problem", letting the users battle it out on the TS box would probably be a lot of fun. smile Jun 23, 2009 at 15:45
  • I can imagine placing bets on who was going to do it next! Jun 23, 2009 at 15:47

I would look to implementing some form of heavy application restriction. Prevent them from running anything other than their office suite and anything else they need for their daily work. Even if they are locked down so that they can't run malware, a rogue app could still consume resources.

Disable wallpaper on it; this can impact on performance. Also force it to 256 colour unless there is a genuine need to go higher.

  • have you noticed that allowing higher color causes the server to slow down? I know technically it would, I just haven't noticted it in the real world.
    – Matt
    Jun 23, 2009 at 16:01
  • Is it possible to specify a list of the applications they can run and deny all others? Jun 23, 2009 at 16:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.