Group Policy Editor or gpedit.msc is a powerful tool for managing and restricting the way Windows environment works. Unfortunately Windows only includes the group policy editor in Professional and Enterprise editions only. Group Policy Editor is not enabled for Windows Home or starter editions.
Group Policy is just a wrapper around Windows Registry. All group policy changes are saved in Windows Registry. While it’s possible to change Windows settings using Windows Registry directly, it’s always a good idea to use a managed human friendly editor.
Downloading ADMX Policy files with Policy Plus
The interface of Policy Plus is very similar, if not identical, to Windows Group Policy Editor. You can choose from Computer or User policies or both at the same time. The tree hierarchy is almost the same as Microsoft’s editor.
Since Microsoft Windows Home or Starter editions do not come with all the administrative templates, Policy Plus gives user an option to download all administrative templates from Microsoft so that all options are active and working. To download all administrative templates, follow the instructions below:
Open Policy Plus
Go to Menu –> Help –> Acquire ADMX Files
Download the policy files preferably in default location
Using Policy Plus
Although you can go through the list tree of settings in Policy Plus, it’s always a good idea to search for a specific setting for quicker access. You can search by three types:
Registry Key path
Text (titles, descriptions etc.)
Double clicking a setting will open the same configuration windows as you get in Windows Group Policy Editor. Just select from the choices mostly not configured, enabled or disabled and press the OK button to apply the policy.
Limitations of Policy Plus
There are some limitations of Policy Plus as compared to Group Policy Editor:
A restart is required for some of the local settings to take effect. This is only the case in Windows 10, 7 or 8 Home editions or Starter editions. The policies will be applied instantly in Pro and Enterprise editions.
If you want to define policies for different users on a Home edition of Windows using Policy Plus, it will be ignored by Windows. You will need to manually change settings in the Windows Registry.
Overall, I have found Policy Plus to be a very handy tool which is free, portable and open source. It can be helpful in situations where the default Windows Group Policy Editor is having issues or is not available. It will be interesting to see if this editor works in a domain environment with group policy restrictions applied on opening gpedit.msc.