If you’re working in an office with Active Directory and you have more than a couple of computers to install FileMaker Pro on it can be very convenient to use a Group Policy Object to deploy FileMaker to different computers on your domain. This prevents you from having to go to each machine and run the setup program. A GPO can also be used to install updates or uninstall FileMake Pro to different machines on your network. This guide will show you how to set up a GPO to deploy FileMaker Pro to your domain.
- Deploy FileMaker Pro to a group of computers using an Active Directory Group Policy Object (GPO)
- Bulk update FileMaker Pro to the latest version using a GPO
- Volume License of FileMaker Pro
- A Windows Active Directory server
- Familiarity with Active Directory
- A Windows target computer (this will not work for Macs)
- Administrator access to make changes to Active Directory
- Administrator access on a machine you can store and share installer files from using a windows share
Set up an Active Directory group for computers
GPOs can deploy software to either users or computers. I think it’s best for FileMaker to be deployed to a computer to make it easier to track how many machines you have it installed on. To do this, you will need to create a group in Active Directory and place each of the computers you wish to install FileMaker on inside this group.
Connect to your Active Directory server and open the Active Directory Users and Computers console. Create a new security group in the Groups folder for the computers you’ll be installing FMP on. In this example I’m going to name my group FileMaker Computers to indicate that computers in this group should have FileMaker installed.
Double-click on the new group you just created and add in the computers you wish to install FileMaker on by clicking the Add button in the Members tab. The window that opens will allow you to search for a computer to add, but computers may not be in the search results, and it may not find them normally. Click the Object Types button and check the Computers checkbox to make sure it’s also searching for computers in Active Directory.
Once the GPO is set up you’ll be able to add and remove computers from this group to install or uninstall FileMaker Pro as needed.
Share the installer files
For GPO to work properly the files for the application you wish to install must be available to the target computer through a network share. Pick a server on your network where you will be hosting the FileMaker Pro installer files. You’ll need to make sure this server is left on so that the target computers will be able to reach the share when they need to install FileMaker.
Download or copy the FileMaker Pro setup executable onto your server you’ll be using for sharing. Run the fmp_XX.X.X.X.exe setup file, but do not go through the setup and install FileMaker. Running this file will extract a folder named FileMaker Pro XX, which is the directory that we’ll need to share with our clients. Cancel the install process at the setup language dialog after the extraction is finished.
Create a folder on your server from where you’ll be sharing these files. I know I’ll have other installers to share and use with GPOs, so I’m going to make a folder called Installers on a storage drive on my server and will use this as the share.
Right-click on the folder (Installers, in my case), select properties, click on the sharing tab, and click the share button. Add in whichever group of computers is appropriate for the security at your office. You can use the FileMaker Computers group or another group on your domain, but it’s important that the computers that you want to install FileMaker Pro on will have read permission for this share. At my company I want to make this share available to all computers on my domain since I’ll be using this share for many different programs, so I’m going to add the Domain Computers group and give the group Read access to the share. Click ok and close down the windows to share the folder on your local network.
Download and copy the latest FileMaker Pro update from the FileMaker website and do the same thing to this as you did for FileMaker Pro.
I’ve made a folder for FileMaker 13 files on my server to keep things organized. The FileMaker Pro 13 and FileMaker Pro 13.0v3 Updater folders are the folders which were extracted from the .exe files which were downloaded from FileMaker’s website.
Configure the FileMaker Pro installer and updater for silent install
For the installer to be able to install FileMaker Pro automatically it needs to be able to run without user input. FileMaker provides two text files we can modify to allow this to happen.
Open the FileMaker Pro 13/Files/Assisted Install.txt file in a text editor. You’ll need to change the lines to the following:
Save and close the file when you are finished.
There are other configurations you can make to this file to change how the install works and how FileMaker behaves after the install. You can read about the values in the official documentation.
Next, we’ll need to configure the updater to also perform a silent install. Open the FileMaker Pro 13.0v3 Updater/Files/Setup.ini file in a text editor and change the following line:
Save and close the file when you are finished.
With these two files configured, our GPO will be able to tell the workstations to install and update FileMaker Pro without any user interaction.
Create the Group Policy Object
We’re now ready to create our Group Policy Object, which will tell our workstations to install FileMaker Pro. Open the Group Policy Management console on your Active Directory server. Right-click on your domain and select the “Create a GPO in this domain, and Link it here…” option. I’m going to name my new policy FileMaker Install. You should see the new GPO created in the Group Policy Object folder with a shortcut at the domain level linking back to it.
Select your new policy from the Group Policy Object folder and remove any items in the Security Filtering section. Add in the Group that we created earlier to show that this policy should apply to any computers in that group.
Right-click on the GPO object and select Edit. This will open the Group Policy Management Editor, which will allow us to configure what this GPO does.
GPOs can operate at the user level or at the computer level. We’re configuring this GPO to install on a particular piece of hardware, not just any computer that a user logs in to, so we’re going to be making our changes in the Computer Configuration section.
Expand Computer Configuration->Policies->Software Settings and right-click Software Installation and select New->Package…
This dialog allows you to select the .msi file that you want to use for the deployment. The path and file that you select here will be used by all of the workstations you want to install FileMaker on, so it is important that you select the network share path rather than a local path.
Select the computer you shared your files on from the Network option and navigate to the FileMaker Pro installer MSI. You can also type the server and share in the address bar at the top to get started using \\Server\Share notation. For me, this is \\ABCDATA\Installers\FileMaker 13\FileMaker Pro 13\Files\
Select “Assigned” In the dialog box that pops up. This tells the computers that they should install the software without asking the users. The Published option allows users to select if they want to install the software, but since we’re assigning this to a machine and not a user it is not an available option.
Do the same thing for the upgrade MSI, which is located at \\Server\ShareName\FileMaker 13\FileMaker Pro 13.0v3 Updater\Files, but this time select the “Advanced” option instead of “Assigned”. Rename the object to FileMaker Pro 13v3 just so we know which is which, and switch to the Upgrades tab. You should see “Upgrade FileMaker Pro 13” in the list on this tab. If you don’t, go back a few steps and make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Click OK to close the window. This GPO is all configured and should show an up arrow on the v3 update package to show that it is upgrading another package.
Close the Group Policy Management Editor and you’re all done! The GPO should take effect the next time your workstations check for updates to GPO settings, but you can force it to run immediately if you want to check and see if it worked. Go to one of the workstations and open the Command Prompt or Windows PowerShell and run gpupdate /force /boot /logoff to force a Group Policy refresh. You’ll need to restart the computer afterwards, and when you log back in you should see the FileMaker Pro icon on your desktop, with the application installed, updated, and ready to go!
UPDATE: I’ve noticed after writing this that adding the update to the GPO can cause the initial install of FileMaker Pro to fail. I’ve found that putting FMP in the GPO first, letting the computers install it, and then adding the update to the GPO after FMP is installed on the machines seems to work best.