The Enterprise (MSI) version of Google Chrome includes a comprehensive Group Policy template, allowing many settings to be centrally controlled. One of these settings is “Managed Bookmarks,” which allows the administrator to push out a fixed set of bookmarks to all users.
As shown here, there are three methods to create managed bookmarks:
- JSON strings in the GPO editor
- JSON strings in the registry editor
- Expanded JSON in the registry
Reviewing those options, I initially looked to method #3, as dealing directly with the registry seemed the easiest of the methods. I tested the registry entries that needed to be made, confirmed everything was OK, and proceeded to configure Group Policy to import the registry keys. And it didn’t work. To be specific, the registry keys would not import.
After spending way too much time troubleshooting, I found the problem: Chrome’s Managed Bookmarks are stored at “HKCU\Software\Policies\Google\Chrome\ManagedBookmarks” – this is in the current user’s registry hive so it should be writable. Except it isn’t. If you check permissions on “HCKU\Software\Policies”, you’ll find the current user only has READ permissions to this particular branch of the registry. You need administrator privileges to write to the “Policies” key.
The obvious question is why? The “Policies” key contains group policy settings, as set by administrative templates. If a standard user could change settings in this key, it would give them the ability to override group policy.
The difficulty this creates for the way Chrome handles Managed Bookmarks is that neither of the registry options are viable for non-admin users. I suppose they could be useful if you wanted to preload bookmarks in your default profile, but otherwise there’s no viable way to use the registry to control the bookmarks. You’re left with the first option, directly entering JSON into the Group Policy editor.
I wrote a utility that will take a folder of url shortcuts (like how IE handles favorites) and create the appropriate JSON code. It’s too rough to share here but if anyone has interest in it, please post below and perhaps I’ll clean it up.