Windows 10

The Current State of Edgium

“Edgium” or ‘The next version of Microsoft Edge’ is Microsoft’s rebuild of the Microsoft Edge browser, built on the open-source Chromium platform. I recently decided to start using it and see the current state of Edgium (which I’ll call it that for the rest of this post for clarification’s sake).

Microsoft Edge was met with a lot of resistance when launched – and although there were reasonable claims about it being the fastest browser around, there were a lot of features lacking and sites that wouldn’t work with it.

Here’s why Microsoft decided to abandon Edge as it is. It’s interesting to note that on mobile devices, they were already using an open-source foundation from the start, and for the desktop version there’s a focus on making sure all web standards are adopted.

You can download Microsoft Edge Beta right now and install it in parallel with the old Edge – or you can install the build that replaces old Edge direct from Microsoft here (keep in mind you can’t uninstall from this). The Beta is good if you want to have a play around before committing.

The expirience I’ve had so far is rock solid. There are some ways where it loosk and feels like Chrome, and others where it’s more Edgey. The import options (for me at least) just worked – I could import everything from browser history, favorites and saved passwords and pick which Chrome profile I wanted to import it from.

At the Edgium end, I’ve then created multiple profiles and imported each relevant profile across to match the experience I was having on Chrome. Multiple profiles is great when you’re doing things in Microsoft 365 and have multiple accounts (user and admin) and different tenants to access.

Also, Edgium fully supports Chrome extensions. Old Edge did have extensions too, but very few. Edgium will prompt, asking if you want to allow 3rd party extensions, and then you add them just like you would in Chrome:

The settings area of Edgium in my opinion, is much better than Chrome:

Google Chrome Settings Page
Microsoft Edgium Settings Page

There’s also already Group Policy ADM/ADMX files ready to use which gives IT Administrators a lot of control over the browser, which is worth putting in place and going through before you even consider piloting Edgium.

For IT Admins, also check out the security baseline you should use, currently in draft form.

Edgium also has an Internet Explorer mode, so hopefully this can end up with Edgium replacing Chrome, Internet Explorer and Old Edge with a single browser – it might take a while of course, but for a company looking to control the user experience a bit more and not manage lots of browsers, it’s looking hopeful.

At the time of writing there’s no announced release date of Edgium, but it’s expected to completely replace Edge – so it’s worth getting used to it early. I’m sure there will be some changes between here and launch, but it should all be small changes.

Personally I’ve made the move from Chrome to Edge and haven’t hit an issue yet. Old Edge is on the way out, and overall this seems to be a positive decision for all involved. Let’s see how

You do not have permission to open the network connections folder

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:

Remote Network Connections from Start Menu

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!

How To Set Up Enterprise Mode for Microsoft Edge

AKA How to force certain websites when opened in Edge, to instead open in Internet Explorer.

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.

Step 1Enterprise Mode Site List Manager

Download Enterprise Mode Site List Manager (schema v.2) and install it. This is the program you’ll use to manage the sites you want to force to use IE rather than Edge:

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 Policy or 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:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\MicrosoftEdge\Main\EnterpriseMode 

or 

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\MicrosoftEdge\Main\EnterpriseMode

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:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MicrosoftEdge\Main\EnterpriseMode

CurrentVersion = 5

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.

How To Check What Files Are In Use On A Remote Windows Computer

This one had me stumped for a while, and I even asked on Twitter with a large amount of replies (thanks everyone who did!) but none that I could get to work, or that weren’t overly complicated requiring the compiling of code.

It’s easy locally to find out what files are open, and here’s a great article covering several free ways: https://www.winhelponline.com/blog/find-process-locked-file-openfiles-utility/

None of those worked remotely for me in a Windows 10 environment – but I thought Handle from the SysInternals Suite would be the best bet. Running locally, it did exactly what I wanted – a giant list of every file open, and say what process had it open (like WinWord.exe).

Using PSExec with Handle however, causes it to forever wait for something. On the remote PC, it definitely launches handle.exe and handle64.exe, but they have no activity. I thought it might be the EULA prompt getting stuck somewhere, but there’s a registry setting that will autoaccept that prompt, and putting that in place didn’t help (but I did check locally and it was skipping the EULA agree prompt. Thanks to this blog post explaining the reg key required https://peter.hahndorf.eu/blog/post/2010/03/07/WorkAroundSysinternalsLicensePopups which was:

reg.exe ADD HKCU\Software\Sysinternals /v EulaAccepted /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f

I added this to the remote machine under both the user logged on to the remote device, and the user I was connecting as, with no luck.

After a bunch of Googling and trying solutions, I ended up finding this thread on stackoverflow. One of the answers with 0 votes (which can be easily overlooked) was a PowerShell script, invoking the command remotely, from a user called A.D – thank you A.D!

I’ve barely modified it for my purposes, but if this helps you please go vote his post up on stackoverflow (I did but don’t have enough rep for it to show):

$computerName = 'computername'
 $stringtoCheck = 'test' # String you want to search for, can be blank by removing text between '' quotes
 $pathtoHandle = 'c:\temp\handle.exe' #location of handle.exe on the remote server.
 Invoke-command -ComputerName $computerName -Scriptblock {
     param(
     [string]$handles,
     [string]$stringToCheck
     )
      "$handles /accepteula $stringToCheck" | Invoke-Expression 
     } -ArgumentList $pathtoHandle,$stringtoCheck

The script requires handle.exe to be on the remote computer under C:\Temp, and that of course you have admin rights to the remote PC with the account this script is being run. Beyond that, it’ll show back all open files that match the variable set in $stringtocheck across any of the results – it could be the path, the process that has the file open etc.

Why would you want to do this remotely at all? You might be troubleshooting something to do with open files and not want to interrupt the user. You might have a reason to see what files the user has open, or maybe it’s a locked PC and the user left.

Hope this helps others as it was a much harder task to accomplish than I assumed.

Microsoft DOESN’T admit expiring-password rules are useless

Update 5th August 2019: Another great blog post from Alex Weinert at Microsoft on real world data from Azure AD, common password attacks and where passwords do and don’t matter: Your Pa$$word doesn’t matter

Update 6th June 2019: The final version of the Security Baseline has been released by Microsoft, and explains the password recommendations very clearly. Here’s one paragraph quoted, bold is my emphasis, but please go and read the whole article:

Periodic password expiration is an ancient and obsolete mitigation of very low value, and we don’t believe it’s worthwhile for our baseline to enforce any specific value. By removing it from our baseline rather than recommending a particular value or no expiration, organizations can choose whatever best suits their perceived needs without contradicting our guidance. At the same time, we must reiterate that we strongly recommend additional protections even though they cannot be expressed in our baselines.

Original blogpost:

CNET has an article titled “Microsoft admits expiring-password rules are useless” which I strongly disagree with, and thought it was worth explaining why.

Beyond the actual blog post from Aaron Margosis at Microsoft not actually containing the word ‘useless’, it’s an inaccurate summary of what is a well written and clear write-up from where I sit.

This all came out of publishing the draft of the Security Baseline recommendations for Windows 10 1903, which details out what settings Microsoft recommend and why. If you’re managing a Windows environment, these are a must read, and should be reviewed with each version of Windows 10 you plan to move to.

The general take of the CNET article was that password changes have been useless for years, suggests Microsoft should completely ‘yank’ the ability to force passwords to expire, and if your IT staff don’t remove password expiry immediately, they’re living in a ‘security Stone Age’. It’s rather insulting and coming from someone in my opinion, who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. They might say the same about me, of course :)

On the other hand, Microsoft’s blog post tells a different story. Yes, passwords are problematic and forcing them to change frequently causes other issues where people just change the number on the end by ‘1’, but they aren’t saying password changes are useless.

Microsoft used to recommend 90 day expiries, then to 60 days. The idea there was that if a credential is leaked somehow, the smaller window that the password is known by third parties, the better. But, if your password M0nkey34! is now M0nkey35!, that’s probably going to be the first thing a targeted attacker tries if the password they had for you didn’t work.

Although all this is true, it works on the assumption that someone is actively targeting you. It happens, but it’s much more common for attackers to just do spray attacks based on millions of credentials they have. Why are they going to pick your account and try a bunch of combinations of passwords, when they could just go through stupid amounts of records with no effort and find weaknesses there?

Say you are a target for some reason; it’s likely that the password leaked from somewhere isn’t new – it’s probably months or years old. If you’d never changed your password because your company never forced it to change, then the attacker now has a valid password for you.

It’s also much more likely your password was stolen from a 3rd party service, nothing to do with your corporate systems. You might have signed up with your work email address, but the password ‘should’ be unique to the service signed up for. We all know users don’t work that way, and use the same password all over the place. Having a password they know will change frequently, may mean that they use something at least unique, even if it does increment.

All of this is moot of course, if you have multi-factor authentication (MFA) in place, because the requirement of something else (a phone, bio-metrics etc) means a username and password by themselves are actually useless. However, most companies do have systems in place that have no options around MFA, so what do they do?

To re-iterate, I agree with everything said in Microsoft’s blog post. This is where one paragraph in the blog post sums it up nicely:

Periodic password expiration is an ancient and obsolete mitigation of very low value, and we don’t believe it’s worthwhile for our baseline to enforce any specific value. By removing it from our baseline rather than recommending a particular value or no expiration, organizations can choose whatever best suits their perceived needs without contradicting our guidance. At the same time, we must reiterate that we strongly recommend additional protections even though they cannot be expressed in our baselines.

Work out your risks, your userbase, what systems might be impacted, what extra protection you have in place and make an informed decision around what frequency works for you.

The focus shouldn’t be on password changes, but should be on implementing those other protections in all scenarios – but before that happens (which for many companies can easily take several years), you’ll need to work out what policy you do. There is no single best-fit recommendation on what that is when using pure passwords, because they’re inherently bad however you look at them.

Look at Conditional Access, Password Protection and Azure AD Identity Protection for starters on adding in these extra protections!

The answer isn’t a pure ‘password changes are useless’, and it’s irresponsible to say so.