Those of you who employ Group Policy are, of course, familiar with using administrative templates to configure operating system and application settings. The ADM files included with Windows® and key software, such as Microsoft® Office, cover most common desktop configurations. However, sometimes you have to create your own ADM templates to incorporate custom settings. Designing ADMs from scratch can be a chore, as they have their own unique syntax and require that you build them using a text editor. But given time and experience, many Group Policy pros have become quite adept at fashioning their own ADM files.
With Windows Vista®, Microsoft has changed the format for Group Policy templates to an XML-based structure. This new format, called ADMX, offers several advantages over legacy ADM files, such as multi-language support and a central storage point where you can manage all your templates.
That's good news, but what if you want to create your own ADMX files and don't know XML? More importantly, what becomes of all those customized ADMs you spent years creating? Luckily, the ADMX Migrator utility comes to the rescue. This free tool, developed by FullArmor Corporation and licensed to Microsoft, offers two key benefits: it lets you create your own custom ADMX files, and it can convert your legacy ADM files into ADMX.
ADMX Migrator graphical interface (Click the image for a larger view)
To create templates in the new format, the ADMX Migrator provides the ADMX Editor, which sports a graphical user interface—no more text editor required. You build your templates using pulldown menus and dropdown lists within a clean and simple interface (see the figure). To start, choose the New Template command, name your template file, and enter a category by which to classify your file. Next you create the actual policy setting by entering the Registry key to which the policy will apply, the name of the Registry value, and the class that it will affect (User, Machine, or both). You can also describe what the policy does.
When you're done, save your new template in the ADMX format. It is stored as both an ADMX file and an ADML file. The ADMX file contains the actual policy settings, and the ADML file provides language-specific information for the policy. You can now copy both files to the appropriate directories on your domain and incorporate them into Group Policy.
You'll probably want to convert your ADM files into ADMX to take advantage of the new format. The ADMX Migrator provides two conversion methods—through the editor or through a command-line program. From the ADMX Editor, choose the option to Generate ADMX from ADM. Browse to your ADM file, and the tool quickly and automatically converts it. You then can open the converted file in the editor to examine its values and properties and modify it if you wish. The ADMX Migrator Command Window is a little more complicated; it requires you to type a lengthy command string at a prompt to perform the conversions. However, it includes some options and flexibility not available in the graphical editor.
Lance Whitney is an IT consultant, trainer, and technical writer. He has spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, Lance took a blind leap into the IT world 15 years ago.
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The ADMX Migrator is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in, so it requires MMC 3.0 as well as the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0. ADMX Migrator will run under Windows XP SP2, Windows Server®
2003 SP1, and Windows Vista. You can download the software at go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=77409