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It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

There are two methods for mapping a shared folder to a network drive (using GUI and group policy). I am focusing on the latter method of using a group policy.

I assume you have already shared a folder with the right permissions. You can check my recent article on setting correct permissions for a shared folder.

Map a Shared Folder to Network Drive

Step 1: Open the group policy management console.

Step 2: Right-click on your domain or any specific user’s OU for which you want to map the network drive.

Step 3: Click “Create a GPO in this domain, and Link it here“.

Step 4: Give a meaningful name to the GPO.

Step 5: Right-click on the newly created GPO and choose Edit.

Step 6: Now, go to the following location:

User Configuration -> Preferences -> Windows Settings -> Drive Maps

Step 7: Right-click on Drive Maps and then click New -> Mapped Drive.

Step 8: On the General tab, choose ‘Create’ from the action drop down.

Step 9: Provide the shared folder location, check the Reconnect checkbox, and give a meaningful label as well as a drive letter.

Step 10: Go to the common tab, and choose Run in logged-on user’s security context option.

Step 11: Open the command prompt and execute the gpupdate command to update the group policies.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy Map drive with group policy

Group Policy is a hierarchical infrastructure that allows a network administrator in charge of Microsoft’s Active Directory to implement specific configurations for users and computers. Group Policy is primarily a security tool, and can be used to apply security settings to users and computers. Group Policy allows administrators to define security policies for users and for computers. These policies, which are collectively referred to as Group Policy Objects (GPOs), are based on a collection of individual Group Policy settings. Group Policy objects are administered from a central interface called the Group Policy Management Console. Group Policy can also be managed with command line interface tools such as gpresult and gpupdate.

Group Policy objects are applied in a hierarchical manner, and often multiple Group Policy objects are combined together to form the effective policy. Local Group Policy objects are applied first, followed by site level, domain level, and organizational unit level Group Policy objects.

The native collection of Group Policy settings pertain exclusively to the Windows operating system. An administrator might for instance use these native Group Policy settings to enforce a minimum password length, hide the Windows Control Panel from users, or force the installation of security patches. However, Group Policy is designed to be extensible through the use of administrative templates. These administrative templates allow various applications to be configured through Group Policy settings. One of the best known examples of this is the collection of administrative templates for Microsoft Office.

Administrative templates consist of two components. An ADMX file is the XML file containing all of the Group Policy settings that are associated with the template. A corresponding ADML file acts as a language file that allows the Group Policy settings to be displayed in the administrator’s language of choice.

Group Policy objects can be applied locally to a Windows computer through its own operating system, or Group Policy objects can be applied through Active Directory. Local group policies allow security settings to be applied to either standalone computers or computers managed by a domain controller, but these policy settings cannot be centrally managed. Conversely, Active Directory based Group Policy objects can be centrally managed, but they are only implemented if a user is logging in from a computer joined to the domain.

Many organizations use a combination of local and Active Directory Group Policy objects. The local policy settings provide security when the user is not logged into a domain, while Active Directory Group Policy objects apply once the user has logged in.

  • Microsoft Group Policy tutorial
  • Desktop restrictions with Group Policy Objects
  • Top five tips for optimizing Active Directory Group Policy performance
  • Group Policy resources from Microsoft
  • Managing Group Policy with VBScript

Related Terms

  • It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
Group Policy Object (GPO)

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

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Taylor Gibb is a professional software developer with nearly a decade of experience. He served as Microsoft Regional Director in South Africa for two years and has received multiple Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) awards. He currently works in R&D at Derivco International. Read more.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Mapping network drives is one of the most common jobs for a network administrator. In the past we used to use a script, but there is a group policy setting that can save us the scripting effort.

Note: this is part of our ongoing series teaching IT administration basics, and might not apply to everybody.

Mapping Network Drives Using Group Policy

Open the Group Policy Management Console by searching for it from the Start Menu.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

You’ll want to drill down into your domain until you reach the Machines object, where you can right-click and choose to Create a GPO.

Note: Although the OU in our example is called the Machines OU it also contains some users. The Group Policy Setting that allows you to map drives is a User setting and is therefore assigned at logon, this means that the OU that you tie the GPO to should contain Users rather than only computers.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

We have to give our new policy a name, we will name ours Mapped Drives (General).

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Now we can right click on the policy and choose edit.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

The policy that controls mapped drives is located at

User Configuration\Preferences\Drive Maps

We need to select the policy and right click in the white space and select new mapped drive.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Change the action to create, and type a location for your shared folder.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Now set the label, this is the name that will appear on the drive in my computer. You will also need to choose a drive letter, it is a best practice to choose a static letter across the board, the last thing you need to do is change the radio button at the bottom to Show this drive.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Now when the users logon the drives will be effortlessly mapped.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Mapping network drives is a common task for system administrators. One option is to create a batch script that runs every time the workstation starts. But there is a simpler and more convenient method: using Group Policy. Mapping network drives via Group Policy is faster and easier, so it is a much more scalable approach.

Here is a step-by-step guide for Group Policy drive mapping:

Step #1. On a Microsoft Windows Server with the Active Directory role installed, open the Group Policy Management

Step #2. Create a new GPO and give it a name. Then link it to an OU that contains user accounts because Group Policy drive mapping is a user configuration preference. You can also select an option – create a GPO in this domain and link it here, after that use item-level targeting option which will be described below.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Step #3. Right-click the new Group Policy object and go to User Configuration -> Preferences -> Windows Settings -> Drive Maps.

Step #4. Right-click Drive Maps, select New and then click the Mapped Drive

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Step #5. Then you need to configure the settings for the new mapped drive. Here are the options on the General tab:

    • Action — Select an action that will be performed on the shared drives:
      • Create — creates a new mapped drive for users.
      • Delete — deletes a mapped drive for users.
      • Replace — deletes and then creates mapped drives for users.
      • Update — modifies settings of an existing mapped drive for users. This action differs from Replace in that it only updates settings and don’t delete
    • Location — Specify the path to the shared folder or drive that you want to map.
    • Reconnect — Check this option if you want to save the mapped drive in the user’s settings and reconnect it each time they log on.
    • Label as — Specify a custom name for the shared drive. (You can leave this field blank.)
    • Drive Letter — Specify the letter you want the drive to be mapped to. Be careful, because if the workstation is already using the letter you choose here, the Group Policy drive mapping will fail.
    • Connect as — If this setting is blank, the drive will be mapped using the current user account credentials. You can choose to specify a different account here that will be used instead.
    • Hide/Show options — You can also choose to connect the new drive (or all drives) in a hidden state.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Step #6. Click the Common tab to configure these additional settings for all items:

    • Stop processing items in this extension if an error occurs
    • Run in the security context of the user who is currently logged on
    • Remove this item when it is no longer applied
    • Apply once and do not reapply
    • Item-level targeting (see step 7)

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Step #7. Item-level targeting allows you to apply drive mappings in a very flexible way. For example you could apply a drive mapping only to a certain OU and the users and computers in it, or only to a certain IP address range. If you enable item-level targeting, click the Targeting button to open the Targeting Editor. Click New Item and select the type of item that you want to apply the new shared drive mapping policy to. The screenshot below shows how to select Organizational Unit and then choose the specific users or computers in that OU. Click OK to close the Targeting Editor.

It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

Step #8. To apply the policy, either reboot the target computers or run gpupdate /force on them. Alternatively, you can go to Group Policy Management, right-click the target OU, and then click Group Policy Update.

Now, whenever a user logs on to any of the targeted computers, the new network drive will be shown in their file explorer.

Conclusion

As you can see, mapping a network drive via Group Policy is a very easy process and doesn’t require any PowerShell scripting experience. It is the best way to assign network drives to your users in a centralized manner, and makes troubleshooting easier — for example, you can simply use gpresult rather than writing logon scripts.

Using group policy is the ideal method of mapping network drives. Not only is it easier to understand for people who aren’t into scripting, it’s also easier to keep track of and audit.

This guide will walk you through each step of pushing out a mapped drive as well as taking advantage of item level targeting to make sure that drive only goes to who and what you want it to.

Mapping Drives with Group Policy vs Logon Scripts

As mentioned earlier, group policy tends to be much easier for most admins to understand than scripting.

Using group policy over scripting is also more efficient. It can decrease logon times since scripts have to run every time the user logs in.

The ability to use item level targeting is also huge for the group policy method. This lets you control exactly who and what gets your policy to push out your drive.

Since group policy is tightly integrated with your Active Directory, it’s very scalable.

Let’s take a look at the most common use for mapping network drives with group policy, departmental network shares.

How to Map a Drive for Departmental Use with Group Policy

Here we are going to a create a group policy using item level targeting to push out a mapped network drive for Accounting based on a user’s membership to the Accounting security group.

You could just as easily use item level targeting to push out drives by OU or a number of other things, which we’ll get into during the tutorial.

Part 1. Create a New Group Policy Object

  1. Open Group Policy Management with a privileged account.
  2. Right click the OU that you want to link the new GPO to and click on “Create a GPO in this domain, and Link it here….” This will be a user GPO so you’ll want to link it to the OU that contains your user accounts.
    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
  3. Enter a name for your new GPO

Part 2. Edit Your GPOs Settings

  1. Right click your GPO and click on Edit
    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
  2. Expand User Configuration -> Preferences-> Windows Settings -> Drive Mappings
    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
  3. Right click on Drive Mappings and then click on New -> Mapped Drive
    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
  4. In the box that opens, choose Update for the Action (since we want to push a new drive rather than replace an existing drive).
    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
  5. Enter the location of the shared folder you are wanting to push to your users. In my case, I have created an Accounting folder on the file server FileServer1 and shared it with the Accounting Dept security group read/write access to it.

Pro Tip: You can also use this method to create individual user folders by creating shared folders for each user in your domain named after their username and using the %LogonUser% variable in your share path to point the mapped drive to their matching folder.

You can press F3 to see all of available variables for use.

  • Give your share a label if you want the drive that shows up on the computer to have a different name from the folder you created.
  • Choose a drive letter to use.
  • Click on the Common tab at the top of the box.
    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
  • Check Run in logged-on user’s security context, unless you have a good reason not to.
  • Check Item-level targeting
  • Click on the New Item dropdown in the upper left corner, choose security group, then click the elipse box (…) and browse for the security group you want the members to be a part of in order to receive this drive mapping.
    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
  • Click Ok to close the Item Level Targeting properties and then OK again to close the New Drive Properties.
  • Part 3. Update Group Policy on Your Computers

    We need to update Group Policy in order for the drive to show up. The simplest way to do this is to reboot the computer.

    1. Have your user restart their computer.
    2. Have the user log in.
    3. Verify the new drive has appeared. It should be listed under Network Locations.
      It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    4. If the drive has not appeared, perform a gpupdate /force and reboot the computer again or have the user log off and then back on again.

    From this point forward, any user that you create within the OU that you linked this GPO to that is also added to the accounting group will receive this mapped drive.

    Like I said earlier, you could also choose to use item level targeting to push out drives based on what GPO a user is in and many other factors. You can even change the condition to “not” and push the drive to everyone that is not a member of a particular group. The options are endless.

    NOTE: I do have one caution to mention, if the computer is not connected to your network when the user logs in (in the case of laptops and tablets) the drive may not map. This can cause issues if your user logs in and then launches a VPN client.

    To resolve this, you’ll need to edit your GPO and choose the Reconnect option on the General Tab.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Wrapping Up

    Pushing out mapped drives with group policy is a quick and painless process. It’s incredibly flexible and keeps everything simple. All of this leads to less trouble down the road and a better experience for you users.Hopefully you found this guide useful. Let us know if you have any troubles in the comments below!

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    • Published: January 15, 2018 9:44 PM Updated: September 11, 2020 8:37 PM
    • Author Arranda Saputra

    Mapping network drive is convenient way to access shared folder on a network. You can manually map a network drive in a PC. But if you want shared folder that’s shared from File Server to be accessible by group of users or a department then it makes more sense to setup network drive mapping using Group Policy from Active Directory server. You can also map network drive for users using logon script. This article shows steps to map network drive using Group Policy. In order to use Group Policy you need to have Domain Controller server in a network.

    How to Map Network Drive using Group Policy Preference

    In this scenario, Domain Controller is installed on Windows Server 2012 R2 named asaputra-dc1, and a client running Windows 10 is joined to domain asaputra.com. A folder in DC is shared to the network with UNC path \\asaputra-dc1\GlobalShared. This example shows how you can map this shared folder to the domain joined machine.

    Step 1. Create GPO object
    Open Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) in a domain controller to create a new GPO. Here, I have named it “Global OS” as shown below.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Step 2. Modify GPO Settings
    Right click on the policy object and select Edit. The policy that we’re looking for is under User Configuration > Preferences > Windows Settings > Drive Maps, see picture below for reference.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Right click on Drive Maps and select New > Mapped Drive as shown in below:

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Step 3. Configure Drive Properties
    The prompt window to create drive mapping will appear

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    On the Action drop down menu, there are four types of action:

    • Create: This action will create a new mapped drive for user
    • Replace: This action will delete the specified mapped drive, if it exist, and then re-create a new mapped drive. If the mapped drive is not exist, this action will create a new mapped drive for user.
    • Update: This action will modify the configuration of the specified mapped drive, if it exist. If the mapped drive is not exist, this action will create a new mapped drive for user.
    • Delete: This action will delete a specified mapped drive for user

    Other settings are available here are explained below:

    • Location:Specify the location of the network drive in UNC path format
    • Reconnect: If you tick the box, the drive will be persistent. Otherwise, it will be removed on user logoff.
    • Label as: Specify the name of the mapped drive. If you don’t, it will use the folder name by default.
    • Drive letter: Assign the drive letter to be used. There are two options here, you can choose either to automatically assign the first available letter or directly assign a letter to the mapped drive.
    • Connect as: Specify the credential to be used here if the mapped drives requires different username than the current logged on user
    • Hide/show this drive: Decide if you want to make this mapped drive shown or hidden in Windows Explorer
    • Hide/show all drives: Decide if you want to make all physical and mapped drives to be shown or hidden in Windows Explorer.

    Following the scenario explained above, our configuration looks like this, location is the UNC path of the shared folder, label is the drive name or shared folder name that end user will see once its mapped and drive letter can be first available or you can manually assign one.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    We leave all other settings as default. Click OK to save the settings.

    4. Apply to the user OU
    Since this is a user setting, the GPO must be applied to OU where user accounts resides. But in this example we will just going to link it to the domain root because we want it to be applied globally to all user OUs.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    When the policy is applied successfully, the mapped network drive will appear on the client drive list

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Troubleshooting tips

    Mapped network drive will show up almost instantly when the policy has been refreshed. The command gpupdate /force can always be used to force the Group Policy update and expedite the network drive mapping. If mapped drive fails to appear, first thing to do make sure the policy has been applied correctly to the user account. You can check policy being applied to the user by issuing gpresult /r on Command Prompt.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    In our example, drive maps setting is configured in a policy object named “Global OS” and we can see that it has been applied correctly. If policy has been applied but network drive is still not mapped, then the next thing to do is to make sure the assigned drive letter is not already in use for manual mapping.

    Note that drive maps actions are all based on the drive letter. Action “Create” and “Update” will not work if the drive letter already in use. In this case, the action “Delete” or “Replace” might be helpful. And that’s how to map network drive using Group Policy preferences.

    You can use Group Policies to flexibly map shared network folders from your SMB file servers as separate Windows network drives. Traditionally, .bat logon scripts containing the net use M: \\ro-fs01\sharename command were used to map network drives in Windows. However, Group Policies are more flexible, faster and may be updated in the background (you don’t need to reboot a computer or log off to map network drives via GPO).

    In this article we’ll show you how to use GPO to map network drives in Windows.

    Lets’ look on how to automatically map a department shared network folder based on AD security groups and users’ personal network drives. Create a new security group for a Marketing department in Active Directory and add the employee accounts to it. You can create and fill the group using the graphic ADUC console ( dsa.msc ) or use the PowerShell cmdlets to manage AD groups (included in the AD for PowerShell module):

    New-ADGroup “IT-Marketing” -path ‘OU=Groups,OU=Rome,OU=IT,dc=woshub,DC=com’ -GroupScope Global -PassThru –Verbose
    Add-AdGroupMember -Identity IT-Marketing -Members b.bianchi, k.rossi, a.russo, m.baffi

    Suppose, you have a file server where shared folders of different departments are stored. The UNC path to the shared folder that your marketing team is using and which should be mapped to all employees in the department is \\ro-fs01\share\marketing .

    Then create a GPO to map the shared folder as a network drive.

    1. Open the Group Policy Management Console ( gpmc.msc ) to manage the domain GPO;
    2. Create a new GPO and link it to the user account OU, then select Edit; It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    3. Go to User Configuration ->Preferences ->Windows Settings ->Drive Maps. Create a new policy setting: New ->Mapped Drive;It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    4. In the General tab, specify the connection settings for your network drive:
      1. Action: Update (this mode is used the most often);
      2. Location: a UNC path to the shared folder you want to connect;
      3. Label as: a drive label;
      4. Reconnect: makes a network drive permanent (it will be reconnected every time you log in, even if you remove the policy. There is a /persistent analog option in net use );
      5. Drive Letter: assign a drive letter for shared folder;
      6. Connect as: this option is not available now since Microsoft currently doesn’t allow storing passwords in Group Policy settings.It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    5. Go to the Common tab, check the Run in logged on users’s security context and Item-level Targeting options. Then click Targeting;
    6. Here we will specify that this policy must be applied only to the members of the AD security group created earlier. Select New Item ->Security Group -> your group name;It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    7. Save the changes;
    8. The mapped network drive will be available in File Explorer and other programs appears in the user session after the GPO is updated. It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Create another policy rule to map personal network folders of the users as network drives. Suppose, you have a file server where personal user folders are stored (each folder has individual NTFS permissions so that users cannot access anybody else’s data). You want these folders to be automatically mounted as network drives in user sessions during logon.

    Create a separate folder for each user matching their AD names (sAMAccountName) and assign the corresponding NTFS permissions.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Create another drive mapping rule in the same GPO.

    Specify the path to the shared folder with user personal folders as \\ro-fs01\shared\home\%LogonUser% . I have set %LogonUser% – Personal as a drive label.

    Save the changes and update the group policy settings on user computers using this command:

    Then users will see their personal folders from a file server mapped as network drives. Users will be able to store their personal data on them. The network drive will be mapped on any computer a user is logged on to.

    Thus, you can create a lot of separate items with different conditions of mapping network drives to users in a single GPO.

    To select different computer or user criteria when connecting network drives, GPP targeting features are used (they are based on WMI filters).

    You can use Group Policies to flexibly map shared network folders from your SMB file servers as separate Windows network drives. Traditionally, .bat logon scripts containing the net use M: \\ro-fs01\sharename command were used to map network drives in Windows. However, Group Policies are more flexible, faster and may be updated in the background (you don’t need to reboot a computer or log off to map network drives via GPO).

    In this article we’ll show you how to use GPO to map network drives in Windows.

    Lets’ look on how to automatically map a department shared network folder based on AD security groups and users’ personal network drives. Create a new security group for a Marketing department in Active Directory and add the employee accounts to it. You can create and fill the group using the graphic ADUC console ( dsa.msc ) or use the PowerShell cmdlets to manage AD groups (included in the AD for PowerShell module):

    New-ADGroup “IT-Marketing” -path ‘OU=Groups,OU=Rome,OU=IT,dc=woshub,DC=com’ -GroupScope Global -PassThru –Verbose
    Add-AdGroupMember -Identity IT-Marketing -Members b.bianchi, k.rossi, a.russo, m.baffi

    Suppose, you have a file server where shared folders of different departments are stored. The UNC path to the shared folder that your marketing team is using and which should be mapped to all employees in the department is \\ro-fs01\share\marketing .

    Then create a GPO to map the shared folder as a network drive.

    1. Open the Group Policy Management Console ( gpmc.msc ) to manage the domain GPO;
    2. Create a new GPO and link it to the user account OU, then select Edit; It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    3. Go to User Configuration ->Preferences ->Windows Settings ->Drive Maps. Create a new policy setting: New ->Mapped Drive;It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    4. In the General tab, specify the connection settings for your network drive:
      1. Action: Update (this mode is used the most often);
      2. Location: a UNC path to the shared folder you want to connect;
      3. Label as: a drive label;
      4. Reconnect: makes a network drive permanent (it will be reconnected every time you log in, even if you remove the policy. There is a /persistent analog option in net use );
      5. Drive Letter: assign a drive letter for shared folder;
      6. Connect as: this option is not available now since Microsoft currently doesn’t allow storing passwords in Group Policy settings.It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    5. Go to the Common tab, check the Run in logged on users’s security context and Item-level Targeting options. Then click Targeting;
    6. Here we will specify that this policy must be applied only to the members of the AD security group created earlier. Select New Item ->Security Group -> your group name;It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy
    7. Save the changes;
    8. The mapped network drive will be available in File Explorer and other programs appears in the user session after the GPO is updated. It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Create another policy rule to map personal network folders of the users as network drives. Suppose, you have a file server where personal user folders are stored (each folder has individual NTFS permissions so that users cannot access anybody else’s data). You want these folders to be automatically mounted as network drives in user sessions during logon.

    Create a separate folder for each user matching their AD names (sAMAccountName) and assign the corresponding NTFS permissions.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy

    Create another drive mapping rule in the same GPO.

    Specify the path to the shared folder with user personal folders as \\ro-fs01\shared\home\%LogonUser% . I have set %LogonUser% – Personal as a drive label.

    Save the changes and update the group policy settings on user computers using this command:

    Then users will see their personal folders from a file server mapped as network drives. Users will be able to store their personal data on them. The network drive will be mapped on any computer a user is logged on to.

    Thus, you can create a lot of separate items with different conditions of mapping network drives to users in a single GPO.

    To select different computer or user criteria when connecting network drives, GPP targeting features are used (they are based on WMI filters).

    There are two methods for mapping a shared folder to a network drive (using GUI and group policy). I am focusing on the latter method of using a group policy.

    I assume you have already shared a folder with the right permissions. You can check my recent article on setting correct permissions for a shared folder.

    Map a Shared Folder to Network Drive

    Step 1: Open the group policy management console.

    Step 2: Right-click on your domain or any specific user’s OU for which you want to map the network drive.

    Step 3: Click “Create a GPO in this domain, and Link it here“.

    Step 4: Give a meaningful name to the GPO.

    Step 5: Right-click on the newly created GPO and choose Edit.

    Step 6: Now, go to the following location:

    User Configuration -> Preferences -> Windows Settings -> Drive Maps

    Step 7: Right-click on Drive Maps and then click New -> Mapped Drive.

    Step 8: On the General tab, choose ‘Create’ from the action drop down.

    Step 9: Provide the shared folder location, check the Reconnect checkbox, and give a meaningful label as well as a drive letter.

    Step 10: Go to the common tab, and choose Run in logged-on user’s security context option.

    Step 11: Open the command prompt and execute the gpupdate command to update the group policies.

    It how to map network drives on windows clients via group policy Map drive with group policy