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general gpo questions & outlook 2003 freebusy gpo

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  • general gpo questions & outlook 2003 freebusy gpo

    Forgive the question if it sounds dumb, just started working as a systems admin and I'm testing out a gpo that I will eventually be applying to all domain users.

    It's an outlook 2003 freebusy change gpo, we're changing the default freebusy info from 2months to 4months. Creating the gpo is simple enough, as I'm finding out though, testing & verifying gpo's is another animal altogether

    Also we don't want to apply the gpo at the domain level, apparently we want to link this to the OU's, that way if for whatever reason one of the OU's didn't require or want this change, we could delete the link from that OU without affecting the rest of the site. Apparently applying gpo's this way is a better way of managing future changes with them.

    Another systems admin who assigned the project to me asked the question, is this a user policy or a computer policy? I didn't know how to respond to him.
    The literature included with this gpo was sketchy at best. I came to the conclusion that it was a user policy but he seemed to be under the impression that it's a computer policy. We don't just want to apply this gpo to the OU itself either, (our different office locations are the OU's and we have groups within those OU's, ex. USERS, COMPUTERS, etc.) we want to apply it to either the USERS or COMPUTERS group within the OU depending on our determination of the type of gpo it is: user or computer policy.

    Loading up the outlook adm template when creating this gpo (downloaded from microsoft, ork.exe), the outlook settings template gets placed in User Configuration vs Computer Configuration. Does this mean that the outlook freebusy gpo that I'm creating is a user policy then? (if that's a dumb question, say so, I need a dose of the truth every now & then). If not, can anyone elaborate on what is the criteria that determines whether a gpo will be a computer or user policy? Still very new to the lingo.

    I've been testing the gpo I created against one specific OU.
    I applied it to the USERS group within that OU.
    The literature for this gpo asked to apply it from the cmd prompt using the following command: gpupdate /target:user /force (again even the command is telling maybe that this is a user policy)

    I could have just ran gpupdate which would have applied any user or computer settings in the gpo I guess.

    The gpo is applied quickly enough and no errors are reported. I've run gpresult remotely from a few different computers and based on the results it's telling me that is has been applied:

    CN=Uncle Rob,OU=Users,OU=Chicago,DC=Domainname, DC=com
    Last time Group Policy was applied: 11/2/07
    Group Policy was applied from: DCServer
    Group Policy slow link threshold: 500kbps

    Applied Group Policy Objects
    Default Domain Policy

    if you're interested, the ms article for this specific gpo is located at

    I'm also noticing that some of the users are receiving the gpo because I can go into outlook and create a meeting or appointment and see the freebusy info for a few users has been extended to 4months as per the gpo value that we set which is a good thing. But for some reason, not all users in this specific ou/users group that the gpo was applied against rec'd the change. I'm sure most if not all of the user's pc's were rebooted from last night to today and users logged into the domain afterwards which should have allowed the gpo setting to be applied.
    I would hope that I don't have to get each user to start outlook with the /cleanfreebusy switch just to have the gpo applied - that isn't very efficient.

    Any ideas on where to start looking to troubleshoot this gpo?
    The nice thing about this gpo is that it isn't destructive, all we're doing is increasing the free/busy time shown to 4months from 2months so I can fart around with this without causing any users to scream out in anger (LOL).
    Has anyone done something similar or implemented this specific GPO.

    I'm asking alot of questions aren't I?
    I'm a noob in systems admin land, hoping to gain alot of experience & education along the way. These forums are packed with alot of great info & users so I thought it would be a great place to start asking some questions.

    Thanks in advance for any help/responses.

  • #2
    Re: general gpo questions & outlook 2003 freebusy gpo

    just following up on this,
    I have read some documentation that says that if free/busy info shows up for the specific user as hash marks (diagonal lines), this may possibly be caused by corrupt free/busy info in the user's mailbox and to correct this, you need to close outlook and restart it with the outlook /cleanfreebusy switch

    - I have tested this out on a few user machines and it did work

    - however this kind of sucks, in a domain with several hundred users, this isn't a great solution, nobody is going to want to start outlook that way, even for 1 time, I suppose I could put it in their login script for 1 day so that when they login to their machine outlook starts automatically with this switch

    - I see a few people have read this post thus far, thank you to those who have.

    Still looking for a response on what determines whether a gpo is a computer or user policy - is this defined by user or computer setting in the gpo itself, if it's a user setting, then it's user policy, if it's a computer setting then a computer policy, etc. And are there times when this rule doesn't apply?

    Further testing of my gpo on my test (guinea pig) ou, has revealed that the gpo did apply successfully against a handful of users and it didn't require starting outlook with the /cleanfreebusy switch which is a good thing, but the other half of users who still don't show the day I'm assuming will require outlook to be run with this switch to get it update the freebusy info.

    Funny thing is, those users who have the gpo applied against them but dont shown the freebusy info, if you go into outlook options (tools, options, calendar options, freebusy options) show the new value set by the gpo at 4 months (the default was 2). So the gpo is being applied to these users because the setting has been updated, the free/busy info is just not cooperating thus requiring the special switch to reset the freebusy info.

    ... on a side note, am I verbose or what?!


    • #3
      Re: general gpo questions & outlook 2003 freebusy gpo

      Originally posted by unclerob View Post
      Still looking for a response on what determines whether a gpo is a computer or user policy - is this defined by user or computer setting in the gpo itself, if it's a user setting, then it's user policy, if it's a computer setting then a computer policy, etc. And are there times when this rule doesn't apply?
      It is defined at the time the policy setting is created, i.e. which branch of the tree in the lefthand pane of GPMC the creator clicks on when he is specifying which setting to enable or whatever. But of course, one policy can have many settings, some in the User part of things and others in the Computer part of things. So I suppose you can say that a policy is neither one nor the other, it is the setting that is either a User or a Computer setting. Hope that makes sense. Some people have lots of settings in one monolithic policy, while others have lots of GPOs with one or two settings in each.

      I am sorry I can't help with the freebusy stuff, but I do think you are also right to suggest launching Outlook /cleanfreebusy in a logon script to help folks just the once. And hey, if it works, roll it out!

      Verbose, yes, but interestingly so! And better then being terse, IMHO
      Best wishes,
      MCP:Server 2003; MCITP:Server 2008; MCTS: SBS2008


      • #4
        Re: general gpo questions & outlook 2003 freebusy gpo

        thanks for the reply back Paul, I appreciate the clarification on the user/computer policy question.