After upgrading to Windows 10 2004, I noticed an alert in Windows Defender. It was alerting that something needed to be turned on, and I wondered what as I needed to do this in Group Policy for the entire organisation.
Clicking the area around the ‘turn on’ button takes you to the App & browser control – containing another ‘Turn on’.
Go into the ‘Reputation-based protection settings’ link and there’s more info:
Aha! an option that’s not on – Block downloads. This is actually a Microsoft Edge setting which you can toggle, and will at the same time tick ‘Block downloads’:
I couldn’t find where this was set in Group Policy, so used Procmon to work out what was changing with that toggle. I ended up working out it was in the registery: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Edge\SmartScreenPuaEnabled and setting the default value to 1:
Great, now I knew what was changing, I could work backwards. Using GPSearch I looked for “SmartScreenPuaEnabled” and came back with
Configure Microsoft Defender SmartScreen to block potentially unwanted apps – User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Microsoft Edge\SmartScreen settings\
I didn’t have this Group Policy setting, so checked I had the latest ADMX files loaded for Windows 10 2004 – which I did, and they include templates for the Chromium based Microsoft Edge.
What I then discovered (or remembered!) was that there were separate ADMX files to get for Microsoft Edge, updated with each release. Downloading and loading these into my central repository brought in the “Configure Microsoft Defender SmartScreen to block potentially unwanted apps” setting I wanted. Enabling that, running a gpupdate set the value to what I wanted, and cleared the Microsoft Defender alert.
Long story short – if you’re still using Group Policy like me, you may want to get into the habit of updating your ADMX files for Microsoft Edge more frequently than your Windows 10 builds – Microsoft releases major versions of Edge every 6 weeks.
The New Microsoft Edge browser is great and everyone should use it :) Especially if you’re still on Internet Explorer, you can make Edge use IE mode for the sites you have that still require IE, without having to actually use IE.
I had a scenario where I wanted Internet Explorer users to be changed to Microsoft Edge. Previously, we’d had business requirements to set IE as the default – but now that’s no longer required, I wanted to flip their default. At the same time, I didn’t want to change Google Chrome default browser users as they’d already made that choice, and didn’t want to shove a similar Chromium browser down their throats.
As per Microsoft’s doco https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployedge/edge-default-browser you can use an XML file with default associations, and use Group Policy to point to that XML. It doesn’t stop users from changing the associations, but it does reset the associations each time the user logs in – so not ideal if you want to set a default, but also allow flexibility.
I worked out how to do this based on current default browser and using GPO still, so here’s what I did:
As per the doco above, create an XML file that sets Microsoft Edge as the default application for certain protocols:
Note that .PDF is included, so if you’d rather not default .PDF files to Microsoft Edge, remove that line from the code.
The Group Policy in the doco to set this XML is called Set a default associations configuration file – and all it’s doing is populating a registry key. Instead of using the Group Policy setting, create a registry setting to apply a value to:
DefaultAssociationsConfiguration - REG_SZ - Path to XML e.g. \\dfs\share\defaultapplication.xml
The Group Policy registry setting will look like this:
We only want this registry setting to apply when the default browser is IE, and not apply any other time. We can use two options to do this – Remove this item when it is no longer applied, and Item-level targeting:
“Remove this item when it is no longer applied” will remove the registry setting when the item-level targeting condition is no longer true, which will stop the default browser applying again and again once the default browser isn’t IE.
“Item-level Targeting” is where we’ll check another registry value to see if IE is the default browser.
This is checking the registry key path Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Associations\UrlAssociations\http\UserChoice
and the Value name ProgId
and the Value Data IE.HTTP
Only when all this is true, will the XML reg key apply. Next time someone logs on, the default program associations file will be read and apply the new browser default. Then, next time Group Policy evaluates, the registry setting will be out of scope and removed, so the default program assocations file registry setting will be removed.
For reference, Chrome will be the value ChromeHTML and Edge will be MSEdgeHTM.
This method worked quite well and gave me what I was after – a one time change from Internet Explorer to Microsoft Edge, without bothering Chrome and Firefox users.
Note that this will also keep kicking in if the user changes their browser default back to Internet Explorer, which might be what you want – but if not, you’d need to add another Item-level target using a flag file or registry setting to mark that the default browser has already been applied once.
PC Folder Backup (which was previously known as Known Folder Redirect) is a rather useful feature that’s been added into OneDrive. It allows the redirection of users Desktop, Documents and Pictures folder for a user to live in a folder in OneDrive under the user’s profile (e.g. C:\Users\bgates\OneDrive – Contoso\Desktop ). This in turn causes OneDrive to automatically sync the data to the user’s OneDrive cloud based storage, and works a bit like having a roaming profile, without the many issues that plague actual roaming profiles.
Stephen Rose wrote a great post on how it all works with screenshots, check that out if you’re still looking at testing this solution.
An issue that I’ve come across while rolling out, was the duplication of desktop shortcuts. The problem is that OneDrive won’t match files that are ‘identical’ unless they’re Office documents; a local file called test.lnk on your desktop, and another file in OneDrive in the Desktop folder called test.lnk from a previous sync on a different computer will result in the new one being called test – Copy.lnk, and the older one synced back – you now have a test.lnk and test – Copy.lnk file on your desktop.
This wouldn’t normally happen when you log onto a computer for the first time, but many companies deploy shortcuts (usually through Group Policy). What happens is, you log onto a PC for the first time, Group Policy deploys the shortcuts to the desktop you need, then OneDrive kicks in and starts its PC Folder Backup process. I had 4 copies of each shortcut we were deploying before I noticed the mess that my desktop had become!
I’m definitely not alone in this problem. People on answers.microsoft.com were complaining about it, and there’s a user voice idea with 212 votes at the time of posting on this same problem.
I asked around and was determined to work out a reasonable solution:
You can’t just block .lnk files from OneDrive without causing end user errors for everyone trying to automatically sync those.
You can run a script at startup to delete any “* – Copy*.lnk” file on the user’s desktop after logon, but that’s really a hack solution and an absolute last resort.
You can use Group Policy Preferences to delete any “* – Copy*.lnk” from the user’s desktop which is slightly better than a script, but it won’t run at the right time – the user will see duplicates for ~90 minutes after logging in before they get cleaned up, each time they log onto a new PC (which shouldn’t happen THAT often).
You can’t deploy shortcuts once through Group Policy, because the setting to ‘Run once and don’t reapply’ is a per user/per PC setting (unless you have roaming profiles, but you can’t do roaming profiles and PC Folder Backup at the same time unless the folders are excluded from one or the other) – so each time a user logs onto a PC for the first time, it’ll still trigger the shortcut deploys.
The best solution I came up with (and by that, I mean I asked in the Windows Admins Discord and someone said ‘just do it this way’), was to use the Public desktop rather than the user’s desktop.
The Public desktop (located by default in C:\Users\Public\Desktop) are files that everyone who logs onto a PC gets, and because they’re not part of the actual user’s desktop, they’re untouched by PC Folder Backup.
Because I had live shortcuts to clean up too, I first created and tested deleting copies as mentioned above through Group Policy Preferences. I then:
Replaced any global shortcut a user needed to %CommonDesktopDir%\file.lnk – not in logged-on user’s context
Deleted any existing shortcut deployed from %DesktopDir%\file.lnk in the logged-on user’s context
Replaced any shortcut a specific user group needed to %CommonDesktopDir%\file.lnk – not in logged-on user’s context, with item level targeting
Deleted any shortcut that was only being deployed to a specific user group, but out of the scope of the above item level targeting from %CommonDesktopDir%\file.lnk
This slightly messy but workable method means the shortcuts will get juggled around if only certain users should see them, and they’ll all live in the Public folder.
I’ll update this if things change with PC Folder Backup, but for the time being this lets the project continue, and users won’t be impacted with shortcut duplicates.
While testing Always On VPN in Windows 10, I discovered an issue where users couldn’t access the Network Connections settings to see what the VPN profile was up to.
Network Connections is accessible in a few ways, including via Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Network Connections, or ‘Change Adapter Options’ under Settings > Network and Internet > Ethernet. It was locked down, but I wasn’t sure why.
If I changed a user to be a local administrator, I could then access Network Connections. I couldn’t find any reason why it could be locked down, until I stumbled across this old Group Policy Setting:
Based on it’s name, it should be just doing exactly what it says. Plus, the newsest desktop OS listed for support is Windows Vista.
However, as the help explicitly says:
Network Connections still appears in Control Panel and in File Explorer, but if users try to start it, a message appears explaining that a setting prevents the action.
And that’s exactly what it was doing. After removing the setting from being configured and running ‘gpupdate’, I could immediately access Network Connections again.
Another reason to make sure your Group Policy settings are cleaned up – this setting was set over 10 years ago, and took this long to discover and remove!
AKA How to force certain websites when opened in Edge, to instead open in Internet Explorer.
Update 17th January 2020: The New Edge is out, and there’s 1 extra Group Policy to do: Enable ‘Configure Internet Explorer integration’ and set it to ‘Internet Explorer Mode’ to open inside Edge as IE, or ‘Internet Explorer 11’ to open sites seperately in IE11 . The rest of this article still applies and is needed to make this work. Official documentation on docs.microsoft.com
Microsoft Edge is undergoing a big change with the underlying platform being migrated to Chromium – things will change with that (along with a new Internet Explorer mode) but that doesn’t help right now.
Many companies have certain websites they need to use that either require Internet Explorer, or work best in Internet Explorer. This isn’t about what browser is ‘best’, but some solutions were designed with only Internet Explorer in use.
Getting users to use the right website in the right scenario can be a pain, and every user seems to have their own opinion on what browser they prefer to use. Microsoft Edge has a great solution for this – Enterprise Mode. There was also an Enterprise Mode in Internet Explorer that worked in a similar way too, where you could force certain sites to run as a certain version of IE for compatibility reasons.
This is quite easy to set up, but I’ve found the existing documentation rather confusing to follow and doesn’t give an end to end explanation – or documentation is rather outdated and was written when the feature first came out, with a lot of options changing since then.
Enterprise Mode Site List Manager will start off blank. Click the ‘Add’ button on the bottom, type in the URL of the site you want to use (don’t worry about http or https if you want to catch both). You then tell it what to do with that URL – Open in IE, Edge, or do nothing. Since we’re opening everything in Edge except what we want in this list, open in IE11 is the option we want, and leave it at the default IE8 Enterprise Mode (or change this if you need a different compatibility mode).
There’s two parts to maintaining a list – Exporting/Importing lists, and Saving as XML:
Once you have a record to test, go to File > Export. This will save your details into an .emie2 file, and put that somewhere central and safe. The idea is that you’ll need to import that file list to make a change, then export again. If you don’t do this, you won’t have a way for others to get the list of sites and make changes by importing that file at a later date. It has in-built version control (this is important, more later), in the screenshot above you can see it’s version 5.
Then, you can save your URL to an XML file. This is what Edge will read when it launches. Either save this file centrally where everyone can read it (no write access required, just read), or copy it to everyone’s computer locally via GPO. Personally I’ve just put it in a central location.
Step 2 – Configure Group Policyor Intune
I’m using Group Policy, but the Microsoft Documentation mentions Intune is supported too – we’re only changing registry settings, so that makes sense.
Turning on Enterprise Mode can be done at either the Computer or User level, and is under > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Microsoft Edge > Configure the Enterprise Mode Site List.
Enable this setting, and in the options enter the path of where your XML is – e.g. \\server\sharename\edge.xml – or C:\Data\edgesettings.xml. Although the Group Policy says URL, it’ll accept UNC paths or drives.
If you’ve used a Computer Configuration setting, gpupdate then reboot (or reboot twice). To tell if the setting has applied, check the value of the registry setting:
SiteList = The path you entered in the Group Policy setting.
If you’re see that, great! Group Policy is working. One caveat if you have System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) – it can potentially use this setting also as per this technet thread which is exactly what I had. I was testing a user policy, but this was configured at both the user and computer levels so my user setting was being ignored. I’m not sure if this is still used, but worth being aware of.
Version control is also recorded in the registry. It lives under:
regardless of the SiteList being under Computer or User. There’s a few catches with this – first, it’ll only show up after Edge is launched, and you wait ~65 seconds. It’ll show the same version as what’s contained in the XML, which was the version we saw in Enterprise Mode Site List Manager.
If you have the ConfigMgr setting, or have ever had Enterprise Mode for Edge enabled in your environment, then the version might already exist and be higher than what you’ve tried to deploy. On my PC, I saw version 28000 something – that’s a lot of versions.
You’ll need to either delete that value for everyone to start back at 0, then after Edge is launched per user, it’ll update to whatever your XML file contains, or update the version in Enterprise Mode Site List Manager to a higher number than whatever’s out there in your environment.
To change the version in Enterprise Mode Site List Manager, on the computer with it installed navigate to
C:\Users\your username\AppData\Roaming\EMIESiteListManager\ – in that path should be a file called SiteList.xml.
That file should have the first line as <site-list version=”5″> or whatever the current version is, and you can just change that ‘5’ to whatever number you want. Open Enterprise Mode Site List Manager and you’ll see that updated version number, which will then get written +1 to the XML file next time you save it out.
That’s really it – it’s simple, but there are a few catches I ran into when testing. Once this is in place, if a user goes to a site that you’ve listed in the XML, a new window opens in IE and goes to that site instead. It’ll also support subsites, so you don’t need to sent traffic for an entire domain like adamfowlerit.com there, it could be adamfowlerit.com/news and only hits to that subdomain will be triggered.
There’s a few other Group Policy settings around this such as forcing all intranet sites to go to IE, you’ll need to work out what’s best for your environment.