Weekly quickTIP

Do you Really Need ADMX Files?

Use 'em if your org has completely migrated to Vista or Windows 2008. Otherwise, the older, 'sans X' format files work just as well.

You’ve probably learned quite a bit already about the change in the Group Policy Administrative Template file format for Vista and Windows Server 2008. (If you haven't, start here.) That change converts our proprietary ADM format for templates to an XML-based ADMX format.

The new format sports some new functionality like the ability to control multi-string and binary registry values. It can also support multiple languages for the descriptive text associated with a Group Policy Object. Most importantly, when combined with a Group Policy Central Store, it can help prevent the duplication of templates that currently exists with the ADM format. This duplication is a major cause of SYSVOL bloat, which can cause problems with replication in large domains.

But the new XML format is quite a bit more challenging to use than the old format. Notwithstanding the proprietary language built specifically for creating policies in the old format, XML can be ... well ... cantankerous when it comes to development. And, as systems administrators, we’re usually looking for something that’s a quick and dirty fix rather than robustness of code.

Even after you create your Group Policy Central Store, there are a few key things you should know about Group Policy application. First, the GPMC in Vista and Windows Server 2008 can and will manage policy for both ADM and ADMX files. If you create templates in the old format, you can use those old-format files to configure Vista and Server 2008 systems as well. You are not required to use the new format. However, any ADMX-formatted templates can only be used to manage Vista and Windows Server 2008.

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So, it seems that since we have the backwards compatibility to use the old format with our new operating systems, we may not necessarily need to learn a new language. Unless your organization has SYSVOL replication problems, the need for multi-language support, or the desire to modify those binary or multi-string values, you might be better off by sticking with the old format. At least until your shop is fully upgraded to Vista and Server 2008.

What are your thoughts about the new ADMX format? How about Microsoft’s new push for many traditional administrative functions to leverage XML? Do you like it or hate it? Let us know.

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

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