Screen Test

Some Group Policy tool tricks for implementing an enterprise-wide screen saver.

Bill: I administer a Windows 2000 network at a local school with approximately 1,000 students. We've recently put in all new Windows XP boxes for use by them. I'm trying to set up a default screen saver through a local group policy using the "My Pictures Slide Show" screen saver.

The screen saver works fine when I log on as the local Administrator, but when another user logs on, that person gets an error message saying the files are not at the location specified in the group policy.

I'm putting the pictures for the slide show in the "C:\Documents and
Settings\All Users\Documents\My Pictures" shared directory, which I thought would be accessible to all users. What am I doing wrong?

Also, several of our machines have come in with a picture slide show
screen saver preset by the manufacturer and even though I specify the screen saver I want in my group policy, the manufacturer's screen saver seems to override my policy for all users other than the Admin account that I'm using to set the policy. Any suggestions on what I can do there?
—Pat Zieten

Pat, here's a setup that should work in a Windows 2000 domain with Windows XP member desktops.

First, make sure that all XP desktops have a screen saver file (.scr) in the %allusersprofile%\documents\my pictures folder. (I did my testing with ssbezier.scr copied from %windir%\system32. You may want to do the same, just to eliminate complexity. Once you get it working with ssbezier.scr, you can substitute your screen saver.)

Now, create a test OU in Active Directory to hold a test user. Call it ScreenSaverTest or some other obvious name.

Create a test user in the ScreenSaverTest OU, then create a GPO called ScreenSaver and link it to the ScreenSaverTest OU.

Edit the GPO and make the following settings under User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Control Panel | Display:

  • Screen Saver - Enabled
  • Screen Saver Executable Name - Enabled with a name and path of %allusersprofile%\documents\my pictures\ssbezier.scr

Wait a few minutes for replication if you have several domain controllers. I'm assuming that the XP desktops reside in the same site as the domain controller acting as PDC Emulator. That's where the GP Editor would have created the GPO and made the change to Active Directory. If you have several domain controllers in several sites, make sure that the GPO fully replicates. Use REPADMIN /syncall /e /P to push the Active Directory changes. You'll need to run it at the bridgehead servers, as well. Use GPOTOOL /v to verify that the policies are up to date at all domain controllers.

At one of the XP desktops, log on as the test user, then run GPUPDATE at the desktop.

Now check the screen saver in Display Properties. The settings should be dimmed, indicating that they can't be changed, and the screen saver should be listed as Bezier. The preview window should show Bezier. This should occur even if the desktops have a different screen saver configured locally. Group policies downloaded from a domain take precedence over local policies.

Now substitute your screen saver for the ssbezier.scr setting in the group policy, run GPUPDATE at the desktop, and see if the settings take effect. If you get an error, then make sure the configuration settings in the group policy reflect the exact name and path at the local desktop, and that the files are available at the desktop.

Group Policies can get a little finicky to test. Make sure you run GPUPDATE to refresh the local settings. Also, you can run GPRESULT /v /scope computer to verify that the desktop gets the policy.

About the Author

Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.


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