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How to edit group policy objects to give a user local admin rights

Giving a user local admin rights to his or her computer alone can be a tricky prospect. In this expert answer, Mike Chapple explains what Group Policy objects can and can't do to make this happen.

I want to be able to give a user rights (power user or admin) to his or her local computer and only his or her local computer. Can this be accomplished through Group Policy objects? If so, would it require a policy for each computer?

I've wanted to accomplish exactly the same thing in several organizations I've worked with, and, unfortunately, there isn't a good solution. You're left with several options, each of which isn't wholly satisfying:

  • Add all users to the administrators group on every machine in your domain. This obviously raises security concerns as every user now has admin control over every computer.
  • Create separate policies for each user in the organization. This is not a scalable solution!
  • Use a middle-ground solution that divides computers into Active Directory Organizational Units (OUs) and assigns rights based upon OU membership. You'll still have the same security concerns as the first option, but it's a little more workable, as an individual's admin rights are limited to systems in the OU.

Let's all hope that Microsoft does something to address this in a future version of Group Policy!

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This was last published in July 2009

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