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  • Restoring Internet Explorer favorites from an invalid UE-V package

    Posted on March 2nd, 2017 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    Those of you who know me know that I am somewhat stubborn and I never give up. This case could easily have gotten anyone to crack! This blog post shows a way to restore favorites from within a UE-V (User Experience Virtualization) package that UE-V cannot use to roam the favorites, as the package is considered invalid.

    Problem

    A user has created some 2346(!) favorites in Internet Explorer over the years. UE-V is used to roam favorites. After the user reinstalled the machine from Windows 7 to Windows 10, the favorites went missing.

    Investigation

    To start with, the package supposedly containing the favorites (MicrosoftInternetExplorer.common.pkgx) could still be found in the SettingsPackages folder and the size was 1,24MB and dated just a week ago. Those of you that have worked with UE-V know that a package that large signals that it contains a rather large amount data. Therefore, with that indication I assumed that the favorites is still lurking in there.

    First thing to try was to just force the read of the package using via the UE-V agent as is the case whenever IE is started or closed, however Event Viewer revealed that UE-V thinks there is some kind of problem with the package.

    The initial settings package for settings location template "MicrosoftInternetExplorer.common" is invalid. The initial settings package will be replaced with a new copy.

    Now it is time to analyze the package itself. Note: This took quite some time to process by the cmdlet and it seems that the UE-V agents takes the same amount of time to process this large amount of favorites (~30 seconds).

    Export-UevPackage c:\temp\MicrosoftInternetExplorer.common.pkgx | out-file C:\temp\ MicrosoftInternetExplorer.common.txt

    Reading the output text file revealed that the user had 2346 favorites, data in the following format:

    <SettingsDocument>
    <file>
    <Setting Type="VT_FILE" Name="file://{1777F761-68AD-4D8A-87BD-30B759FA33DD}\Folder1\Name of site 1.url" Action="Update">FEBB399A-8DF5-4B3D-B73D-A8167F61EB6B.pkgdat</Setting>
    <Setting Type="VT_FILE" Name="file://{1777F761-68AD-4D8A-87BD-30B759FA33DD}\Folder1\Name of site 2.url" Action="Update">9FA223F9-F065-4269-B02C-E467A6B26459.pkgdat</Setting>
    <Setting Type="VT_FILE" Name="file://{1777F761-68AD-4D8A-87BD-30B759FA33DD}\Folder2\Name of site 3.url" Action="Update">2393C0D8-AEDE-4D11-9CE3-E7E1E4B039CA.pkgdat</Setting>
    ...

    Next up, rename the MicrosoftInternetExplorer.common.pkgx to MicrosoftInternetExplorer.common.zip and open it up. Note that you probably also would want to unblock the ZIP file before extracting the contents, choosing Properties and Unblock. Opening the PKGX as a ZIP shows us all the PKGDAT files listed in the output from Export-UevPackage. Extract the PKGDAT files to a folder, in my example c:\Temp\PKGDAT.

    With these data sources, we have everything we need to recreate the URLs and their structure. Basically, what we need from the output from Export-UevPackage is the folder where the URL file is stored, the name of the URL file and the name of the PKGDAT filename.

    Solution

    With the aforementioned pieces of data, we can automate and match this to rebuild the Favorites entirely, using this PowerShell script:

    $urls = (Export-UevPackage c:\temp\MicrosoftInternetExplorer.common.pkgx).split(“`n”) | select-string VT_FILE

    foreach ($extracted in $urls)
    {

    $hash1 = $extracted -split ‘<Setting Type=|Name=|Action=|</Setting>’
    $folder = $hash1[2].split(“\”)[1]
    $urlname = $hash1[2].split(“\”)[-1].Replace(‘”‘,“”)
    $pkgdat= $hash1[3].Split(“>”)[1]

    New-Item c:\temp\RestoredURLs\$folder -type directory

    if ($folder -match ‘”‘)
    {
    Copy-Item c:\temp\PKGDAT\$pkgdat c:\temp\RestoredURLs\$urlname
    } else {
    Copy-Item c:\temp\PKGDAT\$pkgdat c:\temp\RestoredURLs\$folder\$urlname
    }
    }

    This recreated the favorites and in the same structure as it was! The user was indeed very happy!

    Thanks goes to my colleague Jimmy Benandex who helped in making the above PowerShell command. As he mentioned there are better ways of doing the matching but I consider what we produced as a good enough solution :)

  • Do you think moving to IE11 makes you well prepared for Windows 10? You better think again!

    Posted on May 8th, 2015 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    One of the things you can and should do before moving to Windows 10 is to deploy Internet Explorer 11 on your existing machines. But if you think that means you are safe in terms of then moving to Microsoft Edge and be running with all the latest and greatest of web standard, you’d better think again. Why?

    Well ever since Internet Explorer 8 the setting “Display intranet sites in Compatibility View” has been enabled. Really what that means is that although you have moved to IE11 the chances are very likely that all your LOB web apps and all intranet based sites have been running in IE7 mode the last 10 years or so, at least after moving to IE8. That’s not very good to be honest.

    The solution to really be future-safe is to make sure to unset that setting to actually run all your sites in IE11 mode. This can of course be done using Group Policies by setting the policy “Turn on the Internet Explorer 7 Standard Mode” policy. However when doing that expect things to break so I strongly advise you do some thorough testing Before deploying that setting to your entire organization.

  • Resources from my TechDays Sweden 2014 session on preparing for Windows 10

    Posted on November 20th, 2014 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    Many thanks to all of you who attended my session yesterday. So here is a summary of the key takeaways from my session “Preparing for Windows 10” at TechDays Sweden 2014 November 19th. Consider this an action list in what you can do today to prepare yourself form Windows 10.

    Cleaning up

    Yeah, it is so boooooring, but still a golden opportunity to make your client environment more standardized and less complex. Make sure to remove GPOs and GPO settings that are not necessary, remove or replace scripts, applications or components that are not needed. Also, if you have a Premier support agreement with Microsoft, do use the RAP as a Service for Windows Desktop to let Microsoft do an analysis of your environment and suggesting remediation.

    Application compatibility

    App compat when moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 or 10 is practically 99%+ success in terms of regular Win32 based applications. Still actual testing of applications needs to be done for business critical applications.

    New way of doing inventory in Windows 10

    There are new WMI classes in Windows 10 that can be used to collect software inventory. The information can be displayed using PowerShell. Also, there is a feature that inventories what framework or runtime an application is dependent on, for instance which version of .NET Framework or Visual C++ Runtime and it can even see if there are dependencies for OpenSSL. Imagine having these feature in place when the HeartBleed bug appeared earlier this year.

    Display all installed applications on a Windows 10 machine:

    Get-WMIObject Win32_InstalledProgram | select Name,  Version, ProgramID | out-GridView

    Display all apps and dependent frameworks on a Windows 10 machine for a specific application (replace the ProgramID in the filter section with another one from the above example):

    Get-WMIObject Win32_InstalledProgramFramework -Filter "ProgramID = '00000b9c648fd31856f33503b3647b005e740000ffff'" | select ProgramID, FrameworkName, FrameworkVersion | out-GridView

    or to bake them together to get both the application name and associated frameworks:

    $Programs = Get-WMIObject Win32_InstalledProgram | select Name, ProgramID
    $result = foreach ($Program in $Programs) {
    $ProgramID = $program.programID
    $Name = $program.Name
    $FMapp = Get-WMIObject Win32_InstalledProgramFramework -Filter "ProgramID = '$programID'"
    foreach ($FM in $FMapp) {
    $out = new-object psobject
    $out | add-member noteproperty Name $name
    $out | add-member noteproperty ProgramID $ProgramID
    $out | add-member noteproperty FrameworkPublisher $FM.FrameworkPublisher
    $out | add-member noteproperty FrameworkName $FM.FrameworkName
    $out | add-member noteproperty FrameworkVersion $FM.FrameworkVersion
    $out
    }
    }
    $result | out-gridView

    What I forgot to mention in yesterday’s session was that these feature are being back ported to previous Windows versions, as that is where you’d typically want to run the inventory, but much of the feature regarding this new way of doing inventory is still work in progress.

    Applications in a mobile world

    With Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 and the new types of devices that make users more mobile gives other challenges. It is one thing that the OS and devices are great at supporting a mobile work scenario, but without apps that also adhere to this environment you will have challenges. Make sure that the technology to deliver the user experience is evaluated, upgrade the user interfaces where necessary or port them (or parts of them) to modern apps.

    Internet Explorer

    In terms of moving to Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 you will face the most application compatibility challenges with IE11 and web apps. After the summer Microsoft announced that from January 2016 only the latest version of IE will be supported on the currently supported OS’s.

    Are you running your intranet sites in IE7 mode?

    Regardless if you run IE8, IE9, IE10 or IE11 you are very likely to (without knowing it) running all or many your internal web apps in IE7 mode, due to this nasty little settings still being default in Windows 10 and IE in Windows 10.

    That is the setting that you will find by going go Tools menu and then Compatibility View settings. The setting which I strongly recommend to uncheck (set it via Group Policies) is called “Display intranet sites in Compatibility View”. I have seen this setting causing problems with web apps because modern web apps and systems stop supporting IE7 and thereby not working in IE11.

    The Display intranet sites in Compatibility View should be turned off / unchecked!

    The Display intranet sites in Compatibility View should be turned off / unchecked!

    Deploy Internet Explorer 11 today!

    Well, deploy IE11 today and start working with compatibility testing your web apps!

    IE11 Enterprise Mode

    Enterprise Mode in IE11 is a compatibility mode that runs web apps in IE8 mode to make them work on IE11. With the November 2014 CU update for IE11 you will be able to not only set web apps to run in IE8 mode but also any document mode such as IE10, IE9, IE7 or even IE5.

    More on IE11 Enterprise Mode and Enterprise Mode Site List Manager.

    For those of you already running IE11 – inventory tool!

    Not long ago Microsoft released a little tool that will inventory all the web sites a user visits to provide means to get a grip on web app compatibility. The inventory is activated on specific clients (or all if that is OK in terms of integrity etc) and is collected via WMI to for instance System Center Configuration Manager. There are pre-made reports that can be used. More on Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit for Internet Explorer 11.

    IESITEDIS

    You get detailed information on which IE document mode or compatibility mode is used on sites and specific pages. You will also see which pages are causing IE11 to hang or crash!

    Taming the user interface for Windows 8.1 enterprise users

    A good thing to prepare for Windows 10 is to deploy Windows 8.1. Some time ago I wrote a blog post on how to customize the user interface in Windows 8.1 to make it work as expected and make it easier for the end users. Read the blog post Taming the user interface for Windows 8.1 enterprise users.

    Install Windows 10 Technical Preview

    Of course you can and should install Windows 10 Technical Preview for a number of reasons. Test applications, test in-place upgrade and last but not least, provide Microsoft with feedback either using the built in Windows Feedback app or via UserVoice. This is a unique opportunity to still influence how and what Windows 10 will be!

    UEFI

    Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 have a security feature that is dependent on that a machine is installed in UEFI mode, that is Secure Boot. UEFI replaces the 30 year old BIOS that has “always” been around. Note that Microsoft talks very much about in-place-upgrades from previous versions to Windows 10. However, as switching to UEFI demands that you reinstall your OS you will not be able to get the full benefit of Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 if you are running your machines in legacy boot mode.

    Figure out if your machines are running in UEFI and if not, make sure that you have an infrastructure that supports it and that you switch to UEFI mode in your client machines BIOSs’.

    The easiest way to determine if you are running in UEFI mode is to run msinfo32.exe (only in Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10). There is a new line that clearly displays that.

    Using msinfo32 in Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 will give you straight info on if you are running in UEFI or Legacy (BIOS) mode.

    Using msinfo32 in Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 will give you straight info on if you are running in UEFI or Legacy (BIOS) mode.

    If running Windows 7 (or later) you can determine if running in UEFI mode by starting diskmgmt.msc and note if you have an EFI system partition. If you do, you are running in UEFI mode.

    In Disk Management you can determine if running in UEFI mode or Legacy (BIOS) mode. If you do NOT have an EFI System partition you are running in Legacy/BIOS mode.

    In Disk Management you can determine if running in UEFI mode or Legacy (BIOS) mode. If you do NOT have an EFI System partition you are running in Legacy/BIOS mode.

    If you have Configuration Manager you can look at the pre-made report Hardware – Disk > Disk information for a specific computer – Partitions to see if you have machines that either are running in Legacy/BIOS mode which will have partitions named “Installable File System” or UEFI machines that will have GPT partitions and in particular a GPT System partition.

    In Configuration Manager reports you can determine if running UEFI machines by looking at the inventory of partitions. GPT System disk means that the machine is a UEFI machine.

    In Configuration Manager reports you can determine if running UEFI machines by looking at the inventory of partitions. GPT System disk means that the machine is a UEFI machine.

    Cloud connections

    If you haven’t already done so look into Azure AD and what is has to offer. The cloud connections in Windows 10 will be significant!

    Summary

    There are quite a few things you can do to prepare yourself for Windows 10 so that you are ready when Windows 10 is released sometime next year. Happy Windows 10’ing!

  • MAP 5.5 (beta) gives you total control over IE migration

    Posted on November 14th, 2010 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    This week has been really intensive with a 5 day course on depoying Windows 7, including the MAP (Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit). As always there were a lot of interesting discussions related to Internet Explorer, which many times casues problems when migrating to a later operating system. One of the major problems with IE migrations are that we have little control and historically had problems assessing the current IE, web apps or web browser status. The answer came a couple of nights ago, in the latest beta MAP.

    MAP 5.5 beta brings the possibility to inventory for which IE and third party browsers that are used in your organization, which default browsers are set but you will also see all activex controls and browser helper objects are being used, including a count number ith how many times for instance a particular activex control has been used. This is some really great information that will for sure help us in the migrating process when deploying Windows 7.

    Get your hands on the beta from Microsoft Connect.