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Group Policy in Vista adds hundreds of settings, giving administrators more control than ever over users and computers. Some of these settings pertain to Vista's new features, and others add more control over features that were carried over from XP.
Let's look at what you can do with some of the more interesting new Group Policy settings in Vista. You can download a spreadsheet containing all of the Group Policy settings for computer and user configuration that are included in the administrative template files that ship with Vista from the Microsoft Web site. Note that administrative template files in Vista use a new XML-based file format (.ADMX).
Removable devices such as USB thumb drives, flash memory card readers, and external USB hard disks, as well as CD and DVD writers and even the venerable floppy disk drive, are extremely convenient for transferring data between two computers.
Unfortunately, they can also pose a big security problem for companies: Users can easily download data that shouldn't leave the company networks to a removable device and take it with them or they can upload data from a device and unknowingly introduce viruses or malware to the company computer.
In the past, some companies went so far as to physically destroy USB ports by filling them with epoxy or some other substance. A less drastic measure was to disconnect the USB ports inside the computer and remove optical drives capable of burning discs. You could buy third-party software to allow you to enable or disable access to USB devices, CD/DVD writers, etc. Or you could create a custom .ADM file to block usage of these devices in XP.Vista makes it much easier.
Here's what you do to apply a policy controlling access to removable media to the local Vista computer:
- Click Start | Control Panel | Administrative Tools.
- Select Local Security Policy.
- In the Local Security Policy console's left pane, under Computer Configuration, expand Administrative Templates and click System.
- Scroll down in the right pane and double click Removable Storage Access, shown here.