GPUpdate Force: An In-depth Overview of This Command Line Utility

When it comes to network management in large organizations, many utilize the popular Group Policy feature of Windows and with it, the GPUpdate /Force command. Group Policy is an Active Directory service that allows network administrators to manage configurations for users and computers through a specific set of settings and preferences. In this article, we are going to provide an overview of what the gpupdate command line utility is, what the gpupdate /force command is used for, what the command does, and how to use it correctly.

What is the GPUpdate command line utility on Windows?

The GPUpdate command line utility is a Microsoft Windows utility program that comes included with all versions of the Windows operating system. This utility allows you to control the application of group policy objects or GPOs on computers that are a part of an Active Directory. When a network administrator assigns a group policy object to a computer or user, that computer will automatically check with the domain controller and apply all settings defined in the group policy object. However, there are times when an administrator will need to force a computer to check for new group policy objects, which is when they would use the gpupdate /force command. 

GPUpdate command line utility

Prerequisites: What do you need to run the gpupdate force command?

To run the gpupdate command line utility and, subsequently, the gpupdate /force command, you will need access to a few things:

  • You will need access to a Windows computer that is joined to an Active Directory domain. 
  • You will need to have at least 1 GPO assigned to the computer you are working on. Otherwise, the command will not execute. 

What does the gpupdate /force command do?

When used with the gpupdate command line utility, the “/force” switch instructs the utility to override all user preferences and apply all policy settings regardless of whether they have been previously cached on the client machine. This can be useful when you need to enforce changes made to group policies immediately or when there are known issues with specific policies that prevent them from being automatically applied (such as certain security updates).

GPUpdate Force command

When should you not use gpupdate /force?

The gpupdate force command should not be used when a computer is experiencing technical difficulties that prevent it from processing the group policy settings. For example, if you have just changed your Active Directory password and are still waiting for it to replicate across all domain controllers in your environment, then attempting to use the Group Policy update will result in an error until replication has been completed. In this case, you would want to run gpupdate without the “force” switch so that it can process later once replication finishes successfully. 

Another situation in which you should not use gpupdate /force is if there are issues where specific policies fail or cause errors, and you’re working on troubleshooting them. If you were to use gpupdate /force during this process, the switch could potentially make things worse. It is best to use the “/debug” switch in these cases instead. This will help identify where and why a policy failed on a client machine so that you can troubleshoot and fix the issue. 

To recap, the gpupdate force command should ONLY be used as a last resort when trying to immediately enforce changes made to group policies after all other troubleshooting methods have been exhausted.

How to run gpupdate /force via the Command Prompt

The Group Policy update tool is only accessible from an elevated Command Prompt with administrator privileges. To start using the command line directly (to force a policy update), follow these steps: 

  1. In your computer’s start menu, type in “CMD” (or Command Prompt).
GPUpdate Force can be run from the Command Prompt
  1. Right-click on the Command Prompt and choose to Run as administrator.
  2. At the prompt, type “gpupdate /force” and hit Enter.
  3. Wait while the changes are made. This process can take some time, depending on how many policies need updating.

When it’s done, you should see the text “The command completed successfully.” 

How to force a gpupdate via PowerShell

Alternatively, you can use the gpupdate /force command from PowerShell. The steps are similar to running it from Command Prompt, but with a few small differences:

Run Windows PowerShell as administrator to use the GPUpdate Force command
  1. In your computer’s start menu, type in “PowerShell” (or Windows PowerShell).
  2. Right-click on the Windows PowerShell icon and choose to Run as administrator.
  3. If you accidentally open it without Running as admin, then press Ctrl+Shift+Enter on your keyboard simultaneously to open a new elevated window.
  4. At the prompt, type “Invoke-GPUpdate/Force” and hit Enter. 
  5. Wait while the changes are made. Again, this process can take some time, depending on how many policies need updating.

Similarly to Command Prompt, when the task has finished, you should see the text “The command completed successfully.” 

Other syntax you can use in conjunction with gpupdate /force

There are a few other things that you can do with the gpupdate /force command line when you combine it with other GPUpdate syntax, namely: boot and wait. 

Creating a timeout with the /wait parameter 

Group Policy can take some time to run, but problems with an unresponsive DC or Group Policy client service may cause the process to hang. If you’re using GPUpdate in a script that needs other actions to be completed after executing it, consider creating a timeout. 

/wait parameter

By using the /wait parameter, you may suspend policy processing and return control to the command window after a specific amount of time. The following are the permissible values for the /wait parameter:

  • 0 = immediately returns control of the console.
  • -1 = waits indefinitely for GPUpdate to finish.
  • 1+ = waits a specific number of seconds provided by you.
  • 600 = default amount of time. 

So, for example, if you are updating a group policy that is taking too long, you may set a time limit on the upgrade’s completion. The command line for this would be something like “gpupdate /force /wait:180” – this tells the computer that after 180 seconds, a timeout will occur. 

Using the boot parameter to force a reboot/restart

If at any point in the troubleshooting and testing process, you want to force a reboot or restart of your Group Policy clients, you can do so by combining the GPUpdate /force command with the /boot parameter. 

For example, “gpupdate /force /boot” will make all computers configured for group policy update their policies (if they are not currently doing so) and immediately initiate a computer reboot and restart. Using a combination of GPUpdate /force and the /boot parameters is an effective way to push out policy changes after hours without disturbing users. 

/boot parameter

Using gpupdate /force and the /target parameter to update specific individuals

The GPUpdate /force command, when used in conjunction with the /target parameter, allows you to specify a certain individual computer, user, or group of computers to receive the latest policy update (as opposed to every machine on your network). This targeting is helpful for many reasons: 

  • Individual machines may have different applications installed on them than others in the network, so forcing a single update may be more advantageous as this won’t cause problems for other devices on the network. 
  • You want to push out new policies but don’t want them enforced immediately because there might be adverse effects depending on what the policy is. As such, you only send out the policy update to those who specifically need it right away. 

To use the /target parameter, you’ll need to know either the name or IP address of the machine(s) that you want to target for updates. 

For example, using “gpupdate /force /target: computer01 will only update computer01 with the latest group policies, whereas “gpupdate /force /target:,gpupdate /force /target:” will update both computer01 and computer02 simultaneously. You can do this with the username as well, by: “gpupdate /force /target: user jsmith76.

Additional parameters of gpupdate /force

There are a few parameters that we haven’t mentioned in this article as they aren’t commonly used in conjunction with the GPUpdate /Force command, but they are still good to know if you plan to use GPUpdate. 

GPUpdate /help lists all parameters

These are as follows:

  • /Logoff: the GPUpdate/logoff parameter instructs the computer to log off after the GPO settings have been updated. This is necessary for client-side extensions that do not execute policy on a background refresh cycle but instead execute policy when a user logs on. Examples of this include user-targeted software installation and folder redirection. This command has no effect if there are no extensions that require a logoff. 
  • /Sync: the next foreground policy application is executed synchronously during computer startup or user logon. You can specify this for the user, computer, or both using the /target parameter. The /force and /wait parameters will be ignored if the /sync parameter is specified.

If you need further explanation of the possible commands in your CMD, simply run: “gpupdate /help to get more information. 

Wrapping It Up

In this article, we’ve walked through the different ways that you can run gpupdate force to manage and troubleshoot your Group Policy. We’ve looked at how to run a policy update on specific machines or groups of machines, as well as how to specify when the update should take place (either immediately or after a set time limit). Finally, we took a look at some of the other less-commonly used parameters for GPUpdate. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to reach out in the comments below.

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