Fun with WMI Filters in Group Policy

Fun with WMI Filters in Group Policy

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Hi, Ned here again. You may remember Mike Stephens writing about importing and exporting WMI filters back in May. A common follow up question we got from that blog post was: “Hey cool. So, uh, what are WMI filters again?”

Group Policy WMI filters were introduced with Windows XP, and are supported in Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008. They are not supported in Windows 2000, so if you have an all-2000 environment you’re out of luck (10 years is a long time to go without upgrading :-P).

For those still with us…

You can use WMI filters to add a decision on when to apply a given group policy. This can be very useful when users or computers are located in a relatively flat structure instead of specific OU’s, for example. Filters can also help when you need to apply certain policies based on server roles, operating system version, network configuration, or other criteria. Windows evaluates these filters in the following order of overall Group Policy Processing:

  1. Policies in hierarchy are located.
  2. WMI Filters are checked.
  3. Security settings are checked.
  4. Finally, once everything has ‘passed’, a policy is applied.

So we find all the policies that exist in the user/computer’s Local, Site, Domain, and OU hierarchy. Then we determine if the WMI filter evaluates as TRUE. Then we verify that the user/computer has Read and Apply Group permissions for the GPO. This means that WMI filters are still less efficient than hierarchical linking, but can definitely use filters to make decisions in a non-hierarchical Active Directory design.

You configure WMI filters using the WMI Filters node in GPMC.MSC.


Figure 1 – GPMC WMI Filters Node

Then you can create, delete or edit a filter.


Figure 2 – WMI Filter Editor

Then you can link the WMI filter to any GPO you like (or more than one GPO), like below:


Figure 3 – GPMC Filter Dropdown

So in this case, I created a filter (you will see more on this below) that allows a GPO to apply to operating systems earlier than Windows Vista. I linked the WMI filter to a GPO that is applied to Windows Server 2008 computers – so the GPO shouldn’t apply. If I force Group Policy processing using GPUPDATE /FORCE then run GPRESULT /R, I see:


Figure 4 – GPRESULT output


WMI filters use a language called WQL, which will be very familiar to anyone that has ever written a SQL query. The nice thing about learning WMI queries is that it forces you to learn more about the extremely powerful WMI system as a whole and its massive repository of data within it. WMI works within a construct of Namespaces and Classes. 99% of every WQL query will operate in the CIMV2 namespace, like all of the examples below.

So let’s look at some syntax examples:

Only for certain operating systems

It is common to want Group Policy objects to apply to a computer using a specific operating system or service pack installed. Here are some examples that cover a few bases:

SELECT Version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version < "6"

The above WQL query returns true for any operating systems older than Vista (so Windows XP and Windows Server 2003).

SELECT Version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version LIKE "6.0%"

The above WQL query returns true for only Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 operating systems.

SELECT Version FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version = "5.1.2600"

The above WQL query returns true only if the operating system is Windows XP Service Pack 2.

SELECT * FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE Version LIKE “6.0.%” AND ProductType <> “1”

The above WQL query returns true only if the computer is running Windows Server 2008 regardless of service pack. Why so complex, you ask? Remember that Windows Server2008 and Vista SP1 share the same codebase, so they actually have the same exact version. Choosing a product type not equal to 1 (which is Workstation) returns only servers or domain controllers running Windows Server 2008.

Only on Windows Server 2008 Core servers

What if you have a GPO that you want to apply only to servers running Windows Server 2008 Core installations? Here is a sample query (wrapped for readability, this should be done as a single line in the filter dialog):

SELECT OperatingSystemSKU FROM Win32_OperatingSystem WHERE OperatingSystemSKU = 12 OR OperatingSystemSKU = 39 OR OperatingSystemSKU= 14 OR OperatingSystemSKU = 41 OR OperatingSystemSKU = 13 OR OperatingSystemSKU = 40 OR OperatingSystemSKU = 29

These values map back to HEX values, which map back to:

Value Meaning



Server Datacenter Edition (core installation)




Server Datacenter Edition without Hyper-V (core installation)




Server Enterprise Edition (core installation)




Server Enterprise Edition without Hyper-V (core installation)




Server Standard Edition (core installation)




Server Standard Edition without Hyper-V (core installation)




Web Server Edition (core installation)


If you want GPOs to apply only to computers NOT running Windows Server 2008 Core (and you can probably think of some reasons to do that), then you would change all the equal signs (=) in the above query to signs above to angled brackets (<>).
(See for details and the
non-CORE values.)

Only on a certain day of the week

Yes this is possible! Yes, customers have asked how to do this! No, I have no idea why! Ok, kidding about that last one, but it sure seems like an odd request at first. It turns out that some companies like to do things like set a specific message of the day for their legal notice. Or have a separate screensaver running every day of the week for their users. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

To do this, your WQL queries (one filter per GPO that you wanted to set, remember) would be:

Select DayOfWeek from Win32_LocalTime where DayOfWeek = 1

Select DayOfWeek from Win32_LocalTime where DayOfWeek = 2

Select DayOfWeek from Win32_LocalTime where DayOfWeek = 3

You get the idea. One is Monday, two is Tuesday, etc.

Wrapping it up

Hopefully you’ve found some new things to think about regarding WMI filters and Group Policy. A closing note: not all WMI filters are created equal. Not everything in WMI is as optimized as we’d like it to be, and some WMI queries are not as performant as we’d like. Avoid loose wildcard queries when possible as they will run slower (for example, Select * from Win32_LocalTime where DayOfWeek = 5 will run slightly slower than the samples provided above). And above all, always test before deploying to production, using the slowest hardware you can find so that you get a good idea about baseline performance.

Got a filter question or a good sample to share? Hit the comments section below.

- Ned Pyle

  • It's always interesting to read your articles. I wish I could write as good as you!

  • :) Thanks Sally, that made my day. Have a nice weekend.

    - Ned

  • I must add - for various reasons, you may want to restrict certain a-type configuration processes to a subset of your virtual environment. This is true in many ways and it's good to keep it in mind.

  • I need a WMI Query (Filter) for IIS 6 or above, any Idea what class I should use?

  • Hi Yoels,

    Interesting problem. Here's one way to do it, you can explore the theme here. Make sure you test on Win2003 and later, as I only tested on Win2008. Also, make sure you use the double backslashes like I did below:

    SELECT Version FROM CIM_DataFile WHERE Name = "c:\\windows\\system32\\inetsrv\\iisres.dll" AND Version >= "6"

    This will see if the IISRES.DLL that IIS uses is installed and if it's version is equal to or greater than 6.

    Let me know if that works for you. I must point out that IIS 5.0 only exists on Win2000 though, and since you cannot use WMI filters on Win2000, the version is rather moot. This would be more useful to see if it was IIS 7 or higher, for example.

  • Hi Ned, great post.

    I have a query about WMI Processing on the client.

    I have been reviewing the userenv.log file and it seems that for each policy which has a WMI Filter on it the client evaluates the WMI query each time when it's being processed on the client (even though it has already processed the same WMI query in a previous policy).

    For example, we have 10 policies (applied to XP clients) which have the same WMI query placed upon them. When each policy is evaluated on the client, is each WMI query evaulated even though the WMI filter is the same?

    Is there any difference in this processing method between XP, Vista or Win7?

  • Yes, this is expected behavior - it's just how GP linking of WMI filters works; independently in each policy object. The behavior doesn't change in any later OS.

    If you can't already tell, WMI filtering was never really designed for extensive use, and WMI queries are not always super scalable.

    - Ned

  • Hi Ned,

    Thanks for the fast response! Yes, this confirms what I thought.

    Whilst I appreciate WMI's weren't designed for extensive use I wouldn't be suprised at how widespread they are. It would be more efficient to record the WMI query result and then any subsequent policy which uses the same WMI query can refer to the result. Obviously only for each GP sync, i.e. it would have to always run the WMI query at least once during every application of GPO ... but that's just me wishing ;)

    Thanks again. John.

  • This works when the systemroot is installed on SELECT Version FROM CIM_DataFile WHERE Name = "c:\\windows\\system32\\inetsrv\\iisres.dll" AND Version >= "6"

    But in our environment we also have servers with the sýstemroot installed on D:. We have 2000 IIS with the systemroot installed on C: or D:.

  • Check out my blog post that includes Windows 7 and server 2008 R2: