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How to use Group Policy to remotely install software in Windows Server 2008 and in Windows Server 2003

Support for Windows Server 2003 ended on July 14, 2015

Microsoft ended support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

For a Microsoft Windows 2000 version of this article, see the following Knowledge Base article:
314934 HOW TO: Use Group Policy to Remotely Install Software in Windows 2000
Summary
This step-by-step article describes how to use Group Policy to automatically distribute programs to client computers or users. You can use Group Policy to distribute computer programs by using the following methods:
  • Assigning Software
    You can assign a program distribution to users or computers. If you assign the program to a user, it is installed when the user logs on to the computer. When the user first runs the program, the installation is completed. If you assign the program to a computer, it is installed when the computer starts, and it is available to all users who log on to the computer. When a user first runs the program, the installation is completed.
  • Publishing Software
    You can publish a program distribution to users. When the user logs on to the computer, the published program is displayed in the Add or Remove Programs dialog box, and it can be installed from there.
Note Windows Server 2003 Group Policy automated-program installation requires client computers that are running Microsoft Windows 2000 or a later version.

Create a distribution point

To publish or assign a computer program, you must create a distribution point on the publishing server. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Log on to the server as an administrator.
  2. Create a shared network folder where you will put the Microsoft Windows Installer package (.msi file) that you want to distribute.
  3. Set permissions on the share to allow access to the distribution package.
  4. Copy or install the package to the distribution point. For example, to distribute Microsoft Office XP, run the administrative installation (setup.exe /a) to copy the files to the distribution point.

Create a Group Policy Object

To create a Group Policy Object (GPO) to use to distribute the software package, follow these steps:
  1. Start the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in. To do this, click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Active Directory Users and Computers.
  2. In the console tree, right-click your domain, and then click Properties.
  3. Click the Group Policy tab, and then click New.
  4. Type a name for this new policy (for example, Office XP distribution), and then press Enter.
  5. Click Properties, and then click the Security tab.
  6. Clear the Apply Group Policy check box for the security groups that you don't want this policy to apply to. 
  7. Select the Apply Group Policy check box for the groups that you want this policy to apply to.
  8. When you are finished, click OK.

Assign a package

To assign a program to computers that are running Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, or Windows XP Professional, or to users who are logging on to one of these workstations, follow these steps: 
  1. Start the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in. To do this, click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Active Directory Users and Computers.
  2. In the console tree, right-click your domain, and then click Properties.
  3. Click the Group Policy tab, select the policy that you want, and then click Edit.
  4. Under Computer Configuration, expand Software Settings.
  5. Right-click Software installation, point to New, and then click Package.
  6. In the Open dialog box, type the full Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path of the shared installer package that you want. For example, \\file server\share\file name.msi.

    Important Do not use the Browse button to access the location. Make sure that you use the UNC path of the shared installer package.
  7. Click Open.
  8. Click Assigned, and then click OK. The package is listed in the right-pane of the Group Policy window.
  9. Close the Group Policy snap-in, click OK, and then close the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in.
  10. When the client computer starts, the managed software package is automatically installed.

Publish a package

To publish a package to computer users and make it available for installation from the Add or Remove Programs list in Control Panel, follow these steps:
  1. Start the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in. To do this, click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Active Directory Users and Computers.
  2. In the console tree, right-click your domain, and then click Properties.
  3. Click the Group Policy tab, click the policy that you want, and then click Edit.
  4. Under User Configuration, expand Software Settings.
  5. Right-click Software installation, point to New, and then click Package.
  6. In the Open dialog box, type the full UNC path of the shared installer package that you want. For example, \\file server\share\file name.msi.

    Important Do not use the Browse button to access the location. Make sure that you use the UNC path of the shared installer package.
  7. Click Open.
  8. Click Publish, and then click OK.
  9. The package is listed in the right-pane of the Group Policy window.
  10. Close the Group Policy snap-in, click OK, and then close the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in.
  11. Test the package.

    Note Because there are several versions of Microsoft Windows, the following steps may be different on your computer. If they are, see your product documentation to complete these steps.
    1. Log on to a workstation that is running Windows 2000 Professional or Windows XP Professional by using an account that you published the package to.
    2. In Windows XP, click Start, and then click Control Panel.
    3. Double-click Add or Remove Programs, and then click Add New Programs.
    4. In the Add programs from your network list, click the program that you published, and then click Add. The program is installed.
    5. Click OK, and then click Close.

Redeploy a package

In some cases, you may want to redeploy a software package (for example, if you upgrade or change the package). To redeploy a package, follow these steps:
  1. Start the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in. To do this, click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Active Directory Users and Computers.
  2. In the console tree, right-click your domain, and then click Properties.
  3. Click the Group Policy tab, click the Group Policy Object that you used to deploy the package, and then click Edit.
  4. Expand the Software Settings container that contains the software installation item that you used to deploy the package.
  5. Click the software installation container that contains the package.
  6. In the right-pane of the Group Policy window, right-click the program, point to All Tasks, and then click Redeploy application. You will receive the following message:
    Redeploying this application will reinstall the application everywhere it is already installed. Do you want to continue?
  7. Click Yes.
  8. Quit the Group Policy snap-in, click OK, and then close the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in.

Remove a package

To remove a published or assigned package, follow these steps: 
  1. Start the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in. To do this, click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Active Directory Users and Computers.
  2. In the console tree, right-click your domain, and then click Properties.
  3. Click the Group Policy tab, click the Group Policy Object that you used to deploy the package, and then click Edit.
  4. Expand the Software Settings container that contains the software installation item that you used to deploy the package.
  5. Click the software installation container that contains the package.
  6. In the right-pane of the Group Policy window, right-click the program, point to All Tasks, and then click Remove.
  7. Do one of the following:
    • Click Immediately uninstall the software from users and computers, and then click OK.
    • Click Allow users to continue to use the software but prevent new installations, and then click OK.
  8. Close the Group Policy snap-in, click OK, and then closet the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in.

Troubleshoot

Published Packages Are Displayed on a Client Computer After You Use a Group Policy to Remove Them

This situation can occur when a user has installed the program but has not used it. When the user first starts the published program, the installation is finished. Group Policy then removes the program.

References
For more information about how to use a Group Policy to deploy software, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
304953 How to deploy Office XP over a network
302430 How to assign software to a specific group by using Group Policy
Additional Resources
Properties

Article ID: 816102 - Last Review: 07/12/2013 07:47:00 - Revision: 10.1

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard
  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter
  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition (32-bit x86)
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition (32-bit x86)
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition (32-bit x86)
  • kbmgmtservices kbhowtomaster KB816102
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