Sadly, the group policy method of drive mapping does not require any scripting knowledge. I say sadly only because I loved my VBScript logon scripts, and now all this code is redundant thanks to Drive Maps.
Windows 8 Drive Maps
- Why Map Network Shares to Drive Letters?
- Why Windows 8 Preferences Are Popular
- Group Policy Drive Maps – Getting Started
- Troubleshooting Group Policy Drive Maps in Windows 8
Companies may have departments such as ‘Sales’ or ‘Accounting’, and some of these users may need access to ‘Product information’, or ‘Expense’. Now rather than the users grappling with the local network, the thoughtful administrator provides Group Policy Drive Maps whereby P: is for ‘Forms’, and E: is for expense claims.
Many users actually believe that a folder called ‘Accounts BigServer’ is on their local machine rather than being a connection to a shared folder on network server. Others may marvel that their machine has a P: drive, but their colleague’s does not; little do they know the administrator controls the drive maps via permissions within the Group Policy Management Console.
Back in the 1980’s the first mapped drives that I ever saw were created wit .bat files using ‘Net Use’ commands. In the 1990s the power of VBScript seemed a huge step forward in giving users access to network printers and of course, shared folders. The advent of Group Policy Drive Maps removes the need for coding expertise, while delivering the same features as logon scripts.
Not only does the group policy method make it easy to create extra local drive letters, but also it makes it simple to change the mapping should the resources be moved to a different server.
Lest I over-promise what Drive Maps can deliver, I would point out that other settings in Group Policy are designed for providing access to shared printers, for example there is a whole folder of policies under Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Printers. Talking of folders, Folder Redirection is an under employed policy for users’ personal folders.
SolarWinds’ Orion performance monitor will help you discover what’s happening on your network. This utility will also guide you through troubleshooting; the dashboard will indicate whether the root cause is a broken link, faulty equipment or resource overload.
What I like best is the way NPM suggests solutions to network problems. Its also has the ability to monitor the health of individual VMware virtual machines. If you are interested in troubleshooting, and creating network maps, then I recommend that you try NPM now.
My speciality is getting people started. So firstly you need GPMC (Group Policy Management Console) on a Windows 2008 server, for once Gpedit does not supply the equivelent preference group policy.
Preparation: You need to share out a folder on a network machine. Best create a folder called ‘YourName’, next right-click and Share. I always use my name in my test folders so that I can find them! I also recommend creating a test OU with a test user.
Key Prerequisite: In an OU, preferably a specially created test container, select ‘New’, then ‘Shared Folder’. Give the share a name, then seek the ‘UNC Path’ box and type in \\ yourserver\ yourshare.
Launch GPMC: I prefer to right-click and ‘Run as administrator’. You may want to create a test OU, and also a test Group Policy. My point is that experimenting on the Domain Policy may confuse users if it’s a live system.
- Scroll down to User Configuration; from there expand ‘Preferences’ (not Policies).
- Click on Windows Settings and you will see ‘Drive Maps’. (If you cannot see Drive Maps, then you are in the Computer Configuration Preference).
- Right-click: Drive Maps, New, Mapped Drive.
- I prefer the Action: Create, rather than Update.
- Select the Location for your shared folder. If there are no UNC paths for your share, then refer to the key prerequisite above.
- Pick a drive letter, for example: ‘K’.
- Take a minute to scan other options, for instance, ‘Label as’ will give the share a more meaningful name.
New Drive Properties
The four New Drive ‘Actions’ are Create, Replace, Update, and Delete. The difference between Replace and Update is that Replace deletes the mapped drive and then creates a new mapped drive, whereas Update does modifies the mapped drive with the new settings.
Testing your Drive Mapping:
You could just run the wizard and rely on the results. Alternatively, you could try logging on as the user. If you choose the latter, then you need a test machine, else make the user a member of the Backup Operators so they can logon to your domain controller.
I find the wizard never lies, if the Drive Map does not show in the results, then it never shows if you logon as that user.
Here is a free tool to troubleshoot network connection and latency problems. Key concept: this is a free tool from SolarWinds that analyzes network packets captured by Wireshark (also a free tool).
When you inspect the data in the Response Time Dashboard, if you hover over an application such as Teredo or TCP, then you get an orange box showing a breakdown of network and application response times, note the 'Peak value' in addition to the 'Average'.
Problem: While you created the shared folders, Active Directory does not recognise it, therefore does process the Drive Map.
Solution: Go to the OU, select New, Shared Folder.
Problem: No users in your Test OU!
Solution: Give Active Directory a chance! Create a user in the OU where you are configuring the policy.
Problem: Delay in replicating the Group Policy from the Domain Controller to the client machine.
Solution: Run Gpupdate on the Windows 8 client.
Problem: Preferences, and therefore Drive Maps, aren’t available to Gpedit on Windows 8 in a Homegroup.
Solution: Make sure you use GPMC in Active Directory.
For more clues search the logs. Windows 2008 writes Group Policy events to the System log, whereas Windows Server 2003 uses the Application log. For example: error 1030 GPO query error, also see 1079 to 1095 for more GPO errors.
The main use for the drive map options on the Common tab is for troubleshooting; to tell the server how to handle any errors.
Run in logged-on user’s security context
Group Policies normally run under the security context of the SYSTEM account, it may solve a permissions problem if this particular policy ran in the user’s context.
Preference Item-Level Targeting
The idea is to filter the policy so that it only applies to particular users or computers. You can even target multiple items by using (AND or OR). If the combined value of all targeting items for a preference item is false, then the settings in the preference item are not applied to the user or computer. This is an easier and better method than WMI filtering.
Stop processing items in this extension if an error occurs on this item
An option to speed up processing, rather than solving any problems.
Summary of Windows 8 Group Policy Drive Maps
Using VBScripts to deliver mapped network drives has been superseded by using GPMC to configure Drive Maps. The way to get started is to scroll down to User Configuration and then look for Preferences.
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