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I am doing a lot of work in higher education where it is a rather common requirement to reconfigure a number of Windows domain members (e.g. PCs in a classroom) for the duration of a specific course or event and have this configuration undone afterwards.

As most of the configuration changes we are requested to do can be done through Group Policy Objects and those changes automatically get reversed when the GPO is unlinked or deactivated at the OU level, this is a very comfortable route to take.

The only downside is that repeated manual linking and un-linking of GPOs on OUs needs a lot of reminders and IT staff on duty before the courses start and after they end - something the operations team cannot guarantee at all times.

Is there a way to specify a time frame for the validity of a specific GPO?

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This can be done by the means of WMI filtering. The group policy client would execute the WQL query from an attached WMI filter and only apply the GPO if the query would return a non-zero number of rows. So by creating a WMI filter checking if the current system time is within a given time interval and linking this WMI filter to the GPO you want to timebomb you get exactly what you wanted.

The win32_operatingsystem WMI class has a localdatetime attribute which can be compared to a given string date in the format 'yyyymmdd hh:nn:ss' so using the WQL string like

select * from win32_operatingsystem where localdatetime >= '20150220 00:00:00' and localdatetime <= '20150223 15:00:00'

in the root\CIMv2 namespace would make sure that the GPO only would be applied to systems where the local time is between Feb, 20 2015 00:00:00 and Feb, 23 2015 15:00:00:

configure WMI filter with WQL string

Make sure you have linked the WMI filter to the desired GPO:

link WMI filter to GPO

Things to keep in mind:

  • the WQL is evaluating the local date and time on the client, which might or might not be synchronized with the time source you mean to use. The client's time will not run too far ahead or behind of the domain controller's time, otherwise Kerberos authentication will break, but there might be minor deviations, do account for them
  • the group policy client will check for GPO changes and re-apply them rather infrequently by default:

    By default, computer Group Policy is updated in the background every 90 minutes, with a random offset of 0 to 30 minutes.

    So the default settings will only allow for a precision of +2 hours. The update interval can be changed by (another) group policy setting, if needed.

  • your policy needs to be able to revert all changes when no longer applied. This is the case by default for all managed Administrative Templates. Group Policy Preferences settings might need to be explicitly set up to "remove this item when no longer applied": GPP-common-tab

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    Very clever, kudos to you. – Massimo Mar 17 '15 at 20:44
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    From my experience there are some policies in Administrative Templates that don't revert the changes they've made, so better do some testing first... Also, what Massimo said... – EliadTech Mar 17 '15 at 20:45
  • Agreed, any settings that right to the registry don't just revert to default when unlinked, or even set to "Not Configured" – mortenya Mar 17 '15 at 21:00
  • Add in a scheduled task to trigger a GPupdate at start and finish times and you could possible(?) get a little more precision without having to tweak the update interval? – Get-HomeByFiveOClock Mar 17 '15 at 21:03
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    @mortenya the "managed" part of the Administrative Templates makes sure that the settings are actually made in another subtree of the registry hive - e.g. HKLM\Software\Policies or HKCU\Software\Policies. These "policy" locations are cleared if the policy object setting the key no longer applies or the property is set to "Not Configured". For old-style ADM templates writing to the registry you are right, these are "tattooed" into the client's registry and not removed afterwards. Related: serverfault.com/questions/566180 – the-wabbit Mar 17 '15 at 21:15

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