How to use the GPUpdate /Force Command

Paul Hill

January 5, 2024 • 7 min read

    One of the tasks that System Administrators have is ensuring that policy settings are consistently applied across their computer network. The GPUpdate command is used to quickly apply new or changed Group Policies and is often used while testing the creation or modification of Group Policy Objects.

    When immediate policy application is needed, the gpupdate /Force command comes into play. It’s particularly useful for urgent situations, such as deploying critical security updates or adjusting network settings. Unlike the standard GPUpdate, this command forces a reevaluation of all policies, ensuring that any changes are applied immediately and comprehensively.

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    The gpupdate command can be executed in either PowerShell or Windows Command Prompt (cmd) by running the command below:

    gpupdate /force

    How to use the gpupdate /force command

    1. Press Windows key + R
      This will cause the Run popup to appear
      image 5
    2. Type cmd or powershell depending on preference
      You can complete the following steps in either PowerShell or Command Prompt. If you don’t have a preference use powershell.
    3. Type gpupdate /force, and press enter
      This will initiate the group policy update
      image 4
    4. Wait for the update to finish
      Depending on the Group Policy Objects that have been configured, this could take several minutes or just a few seconds. Wait until you see both the Computer Policy and User Policy update successfully:
      image 6
    5. Optionally reboot your computer
      Sometimes the gpupdate /force will require a reboot. If this is the case a message will be displayed that states the update was successful, but some policies will only apply at a reboot. If you see this, reboot the computer to finish applying the policies.

    Remember, while the GPUpdate /Force command is powerful, it should be used judiciously. Overusing it can cause unnecessary network traffic and load on your domain controllers.

    GPUpdate vs. GPUpdate /Force: Understanding the Differences

    It’s important to understand the distinction between the standard GPUpdate and the GPUpdate /Force command, as their applications are quite different.

    • GPUpdate: The default GPUpdate command refreshes Group Policies that have been changed. It respects the policy refresh interval, meaning it won’t reapply settings that haven’t been modified since the last refresh. This command is less intrusive and is typically used during the regular maintenance of Group Policies.
    • GPUpdate /Force: Disregards the regular refresh interval and forcefully reapplies every policy, new and old. This is especially useful when you need to ensure that every policy setting is applied immediately, such as after making significant changes or troubleshooting policy issues.

    Here is a table explaining the differences between gpupdate and gpupdate /force:

    FeatureGPUpdateGPUpdate /Force
    PurposeRefreshes changed Group PoliciesForcefully reapplies all policies, both new and old
    Refresh IntervalRespects the policy refresh intervalIgnores the regular refresh interval
    ApplicationLess intrusive, used during regular maintenanceUsed when immediate application of all policies is needed
    Use CasesRoutine updates, less significant changesSignificant changes, troubleshooting policy issues
    Network ImpactMinimal, as it only updates changed policiesHigher, as it reevaluates and reapplies all policies
    Domain Controller LoadLower, due to selective policy applicationHigher, due to comprehensive policy reapplication
    Recommended UseMore efficient for regular updatesRecommended only when necessary for immediate effectiveness

    The key takeaway is to use GPUpdate /Force only when necessary, as it generates more network traffic and puts additional load on the domain controllers. For routine updates, sticking to the standard GPUpdate command is more efficient and just as effective.

    There are specific scenarios where using GPUpdate /Force is not just beneficial, but essential. Understanding these situations will help you use this command effectively:

    1. After Significant Policy Changes: When you make major changes to Group Policy Objects (GPOs), it’s important to ensure these changes are applied immediately across the network. GPUpdate /Force ensures that all settings, not just the modified ones, are reapplied, providing a clean slate for the new policies.
    2. Troubleshooting Group Policy Issues: If you’re experiencing problems with Group Policy application, GPUpdate /Force can be a valuable tool. It helps in ensuring that all policies are reevaluated, which can often resolve inconsistencies or application errors.
    3. Security Updates: In cases where security policies have been updated, especially in response to a vulnerability or security incident, you need to enforce these changes right away. GPUpdate /Force ensures that these critical updates are applied across the network without delay.
    4. Network Configuration Changes: For changes in network settings that are distributed via Group Policy, such as updates to VPN configurations or proxy settings, using GPUpdate /Force ensures that these settings are applied consistently and immediately to all affected systems.
    5. New Software Deployment: When deploying new software or software updates via Group Policy, GPUpdate /Force can be used to ensure that the deployment occurs as soon as possible, especially in environments where timely software updates are critical.

    If you’re only running gpupdate /force on a single test machine, then you’re probably fine to do so. But if you’re attempting to update policy remotely on dozens or hundreds of computers, then you’d want to be a lot more selective on which option you choose.

    Updating Specific Group Policies: User or Computer

    Sometimes, you may need to update only user or computer-specific policies. The GPUpdate command allows you to target these specific policy settings:

    1. Updating User Policies: To refresh only the user policies, you can use the command gpupdate /target:user. This command focuses solely on policies that apply to user settings, leaving computer settings untouched. It’s useful when changes are made to policies like user account settings, desktop environments, or software settings specific to user profiles.
    2. Updating Computer Policies: If you need to update only computer policies, use gpupdate /target:computer. This targets policies related to the computer configuration, such as security settings, network configurations, and computer startup scripts. It’s a great way to apply changes that are specific to the machine, irrespective of who logs in.

    Understanding when and why to use these targeted update commands can significantly enhance your efficiency in managing a network. It allows for a more tailored approach, ensuring that updates are not only applied accurately but also minimally disruptive.

    Remote GPUpdate Execution

    Executing GPUpdate commands remotely can be a crucial capability in large or distributed network environments. There are two primary methods for doing this: using the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) and leveraging PowerShell.

    1. Using Group Policy Management Console (GPMC): GPMC is a versatile tool for managing Group Policies across multiple computers. It allows administrators to remotely trigger a GPUpdate, ensuring that policies are refreshed on selected computers or organizational units (OUs). This method is particularly effective when you need to apply policies to specific sections of your network, like in a departmental update or a segmented network area.
    2. Leveraging PowerShell for Remote Execution: PowerShell extends the capability of remote execution with scripts that can trigger GPUpdate on multiple computers simultaneously. This approach is invaluable in scenarios where you need to apply policies immediately across a wide range of machines, such as in response to a critical security update or major policy overhaul.

    Both methods offer robust solutions for ensuring that your Group Policies are consistently and efficiently applied, regardless of the physical location of the machines. This capability is particularly important in maintaining policy compliance and swiftly responding to changes or threats in a diverse network environment.


    Hopefully this article provided a clearer understanding of the gpupdate /force command and the differences between using and not using /force.

    Your experiences, challenges, and insights are invaluable, and we’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below sharing your thoughts or tips about using GPUpdate /Force. Your contributions enrich the discussion and help everyone learn more.

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