Every now and then, readers send me email pointing out that many of the registry editing tips I offer in this commentary can be replaced with Group Policies. I usually respond to these reader messages by pointing out that about 30 percent of Windows Client UPDATE's readers don't use Group Policies and find registry edits useful. However, for the 70 percent of readers who do use Group Policies, I dedicate this column to the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC). Microsoft released GPMC last April. GPMC is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in you can use to manage Group Policies on Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 systems.

You install GPMC on either Windows 2003 OSs or on a Windows XP Professional Edition client running Service Pack 1 (SP1) and the Windows .NET Framework. You can use GPMC to manage Group Policy on a Win2K Active Directory (AD), but GPMC won't run on a computer running any version of Win2K. If you don't use GPMC in a Windows 2003 environment, some GPMC functionality that's available only with Windows 2003, such as Group Policy modeling, won't be available. You can download GPMC for free directly from Microsoft's Web site, but the license requires at least one copy of Windows 2003 somewhere in the user's enterprise.

GPMC replaces many administrative tools that Win2K Group Policy administrators need, including the MMC Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in, the MMC Active Directory Sites and Services snap-in, and the MMC Resultant Set of Policy snap-in, in addition to the ACL editor and the Delegation Wizard. GPMC lets administrators perform all core Group Policy management tasks from one console. Although AD snap-ins still exist, systems administrators whose core responsibility is managing group policies won't need them. The familiar MMC Windows 2000 Group Policy snap-in, which lets you directly edit Group Policy Objects (GPOs), has been renamed GPO Editor. You can launch it directly from GPMC.

You can find complete details about GPMC, along with links to the download and to information about using GPOs, on the GPMC home page at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/gpmc/gpmcintro.mspx .