Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows

Group Policy Object is one of the critical elements for Windows domain environment. It is the job for administrator to manage the GPO carefully as the simplest mistake in GPO setting can potentially lead to a major service disruption. The best way to mitigate that risk is by backing up the GPO before doing any modification on the settings. Fortunately, the feature to backup and restore Group Policy Object in Windows Group Policy Management Console is already built-in. Administrator can leverage this feature and avoid the hassle of re-creating GPO from scratch.

How to Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows

Backing up GPO is fairly easy. It can be done for a single policy object or all policy objects in the domain. Follow the steps below to make GPO backup using Group Policy Management console in Windows:

Backup GPO

1. Find the policy or policies to be backed up
To back up a single policy, first expand the Group Policy Object container folder, find the policy name you want to create the backup, then right click on it and select Back Up. See figure below for example:

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 1

If you want to back up the whole policies instead of doing it on by one, simply right click on the Group Policy Objects container folder and select Back Up All

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 2

2. Select the backup folder location
After clicking “Back Up” on single policy object or “Back Up All” on the GPO folder, a pop-up window will appear. In the first field, fill in the folder location path where the backup will be stored, and also provide the definition as necessary. Example to do this is as shown in figure below:

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 3

Click the Back Up button to continue. Wait until the backup progress bar completely filled in and see the report at the bottom.

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 4

If all the targeted GPO has successfully backed up then we’re good to go.

3. Verify the output
Open the folder where GPO backup was stored (as specified in the previous step), the backup for policy objects will look like in below figure. Each folder represents a single policy object that has been backed up.

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 5

Now that the backup is done, it will be easy to restore the GPO using this backup when needed. Administrator can restore a modified GPO back to the state where it was backed up, or restore a deleted GPO as well. The steps to perform a restore is shown below:

Restore GPO

1. Opening the backup file
To open the backup file, right click on the Group Policy Object container and select Manage Backups

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 6

Now a pop-up window will appear. You may want to select the backup folder location by using the Browse button. When the backup folder has been selected correctly, it will list all the backed up GPOs in there. See figure below for example:

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 7

2. Verification steps
Before performing a restore, it is best to verify the settings in the backed up GPO. To do that, select the backup GPO name that wants to be restored and click on View Settings.

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 8

The GPO settings will be displayed in HTML format which is nice enough for review. Everything related to this GPO will be shown such as the backed up date, where it was linked, the delegation settings, and of course the users and computers policy settings.

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 9

3. Restoring the backed up GPO
Now when it is verified that the right backup has been selected, we can highlight it and click on Restore button to start the restore process.

Backup and Restore Group Policy Object in Windows - 10

When clicking on Restore button, a confirmation will appear. Click OK to continue.

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Wait until the restore progress bar is completed.

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Conclusion

This feature will always come in handy every time. Note that if a GPO with the same name has already exist, the restored GPO will overwrite the existing – this is nice when a rollback for any changes in a GPO is required. And one more thing, if there is no existing GPO with the same name, the restored GPO will create a new one – which is also nice in case to recover a deleted policy. Therefore, it is important for every administrator that works with GPO to understand how to backup and restore Group Policy Object in Windows.

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Arranda Saputra

Arranda Saputra

ITIL Certified, CCNA, CCDA, VCP6-DCV, MCSA Administering Windows Server 2012
I am IT practitioner in real life with specialization in network and server infrastructure. I have years of experience in design, analysis, operation, and optimization of infrastructure solutions for enterprise-scaled network. You can send me a message on LinkedIn or email to arranda.saputra@outlook.com for further inquiry regarding stuffs that I wrote or opportunity to collaborate in a project.
Arranda Saputra

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