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Rolling Out Firefox via Active Directory

Leverage AD to roll out and update the Firefox Web browser in a Windows domain.

Deployment and management simplicity are two key reasons (aside from the fact that’s it’s bundled with Windows) that most organizations use Internet Explorer as the default workstation Web browser. So, organizations often overlook Firefox due to the belief that it cannot be deployed or managed with Active Directory.

If deployment and management simplicity had previously held you back from evaluating and deploying Firefox across your organization, then you should take a look at FrontMotion Firefox Community Edition. Firefox Community Edition is free and includes Microsoft System Installer (MSI) deployment package files as well as an administrative template for group policy-based management.

To deploy Firefox using a group policy object (GPO), you will need to download the appropriate MSI file for your organization’s desktop environment. In my case, I used the FMFirefoxCE- package for the U.S. English Firefox version.

Once you've downloaded the MSI file, you can deploy it using a GPO by following the steps in the Active Directory Deployment section on the FrontMotion Firefox Community Edition page.

If you would like to deploy Firefox with added functionality (such as with the IE Tab extension), you can build Firefox deployment packages with up to 10 extensions using FrontMotion’s Firefox Packaging Service. The packaging service is not free, but is offered as an annual subscription for $150.

Once Firefox has been deployed to the desktops in your domain, you need to download the Firefox administrative template (firefox.adm) in order to centrally manage the Firefox browser settings. Import firefox.adm into a GPO by following these steps:

  1. Open the GPO you wish to edit in the Group Policy Object Editor.
  2. Under Computer Configuration, right-click on Administrative Templates and select Add/Remove Tempates.
  3. Click the Add button and then browse to and select the downloaded firefox.adm file, then click Open.
  4. In the Add/Remove Templates dialog box, click Close.

You can now use the Firefox administrative template in the Group Policy Object Editor to centrally configure the following browser settings:

  • Homepage (configured under General Settings)
  • Automatic image resizing
  • Default browser check
  • Firefox cache size
  • Default download location
  • Proxy settings
  • Disable XPI installs
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The free FrontMotion Firefox Community Edition MSI deployment files and administrative template provide the tools you need to deploy and manage Firefox as you do with IE. Granted, the administrative template has not matured to the point that you can tweak every Firefox setting, but it does provide the features necessary to manage the more common Firefox configuration elements. The folks at FrontMotion have put together a very good Firefox deployment and management solution and I hope that you find it as useful as I have.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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