Category: Windows 11

A modern Windows client platform connected to Azure AD and Intune only is the future – here is why you should start testing today!

By connecting your Windows devices solely to Azure AD and Intune you will improve the work lives of for your users and make it easier for you in IT to manage the platform during the device lifecycle.

Windows devices in the future are no longer connected to a traditional Active Directory, and they are not managed by Configuration Manager or other on-premises management tools, and not with Group Policies. The Windows devices of the future are independent of your datacenter which means IT can focus on improving availability of the resources the end users are dependent on in their daily work, which are applications, tools, and information.

End user experience and challenges today

Are you and your end users sick and tired of the fact that starting and logging into Windows takes several minutes? One common cause for this is a legacy of many years of GPOs and scripts that are executed at start and logon.

Do your end users still need to come into the office network to get all updates, configuration or changing password? This is something that becomes a non-issue in the cloud-only world. Even though these types of needs have decreased because of the pandemic I still see and hear about this too often.

Improving end user experience and simplifying are the keywords

The reasons of going cloud-only on your Windows devices are very much about significantly improving your end user experience, and at the same time making it easier to manage for you in IT. To continue doing what many organizations are doing today, i.e., managing Windows with existing on-premises AD and GPOs, running devices in Hybrid Azure AD Join state plus adding co-management and Intune just makes your life in IT more complex and harder, and give your end-users very few benefits to be honest. Everyone would gain from letting go of on-prem AD and traditional managing software such as Configuration Manager.

Microsoft recommends going cloud-only and not staying in hybrid mode

The fact is that Microsoft is recommending the hybrid scenario only as an interim solution for existing devices. For new devices Microsoft are very clear that they recommend cloud-only devices.

Keep in mind that while Microsoft fully supports hybrid Azure AD join, we designed this capability as an interim solution for existing endpoints. We strongly encourage customers to begin their planning and implementation of full Azure AD-joined systems as soon as possible.

Source(s): Success with remote Windows Autopilot and hybrid Azure Active Directory join – Microsoft Tech Community and Planning for cloud-native Windows endpoints and modern management – Microsoft Tech Community

The most common myth killed once and for all – access to on-premises resources

The fact is that most organizations still have, and will have for many years to come, user resources in their datacenter on-premises. How do users get access to file share, printers, and applications on-premises when the Windows device is only in the cloud? With Windows Hello for Business Cloud Trust or FIDO2 security keys, this has never been easier to setup and enable!

Pros for cloud-only Windows devices

  • Performance and user experience. Microsoft’s former corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, Brad Anderson, compared his iPhone to a cloud-only Windows device s few years ago. The Windows device started and became usable faster than an iPhone. That is a notable example that still is valid. Mobility, speed, and battery life is something the users really appreciate.
  • Reduced complexity. What I see is that customers that are running in the hybrid scenario has a complex day-to-day life in IT, in terms of managing and troubleshooting. You have two environments to take into consideration all the time which makes things sometimes twice as hard or take more time than it should to achieve the goal at hand.
  • More time for valuable work. How much time do IT spend on keeping the basic infrastructure working? By that I mean specially Configuration Manager which always have had problems with agents, driver packages becoming corrupt after working for years etc. I have through my years spent too much time on just keeping things at a working level, it is time to bury Configuration Manager and spend this time on more valuable work such as follow-up and proactiveness.
  • Get rid of your legacy. Most organizations have over the years migrated to a number of Windows client platforms, from Windows 2000, XP, Windows 7, to Windows 10 and soon Windows 11. What most organizations have in common is that the same GPOs and scripts are still being applied although first configured 15 years ago, even though some policies have been cleaned out through all migrations. Switching to cloud-only is the perfect fresh start of getting rid of all your legacy stuff and start building on something new!

Cons for cloud-only Windows devices

  • Not for everyone. Being able to utilize Microsoft cloud services is a pre-req of course. To be honest, there are more challenges that could block an organization from going cloud-only. Things such as 802.1x can be a challenge and specific requirements around security another. The point is, if you do not even try you will not know what to solve or what Microsoft will eventually deliver in their product and services to solve your blocker. Adding cloud-only Windows devices to your roadmap and work on dependencies is essential in making progress.

How to get started?

So how do you get started? In its simplest form, start with Autopiloting (Azure AD Join + Intune) the device and then perform all your day-to-day work on a cloud-only Windows PC. After that start solving the challenges that you face, creating a configuration baseline and deploying applications that you need. Some challenges will be harder to pass than others, and some might be blockers. The point is, without starting your journey toward a future cloud-only future Windows device you will not know what to fix and what to talk to for instance the network team about.

Microsoft has a good starting point at Get started with cloud native Windows endpoints – Microsoft Endpoint Manager | Microsoft Docs.

Summary

To summarize, the future is to have your Windows devices connected cloud-only Azure AD and Intune. That has great advantages for end-users as well as IT. The fact that Microsoft themselves are living by this already, and the fact that they point customers towards this direction and in combination with all benefits should make this decision easy.

Profile management overview in Windows – how to get back to a working state after a reinstall or reset (or renewal of device)

This is a high-level summary of the specific needs, business impact and listing of current profile management options for your physical and virtual Windows 10 and 11 devices. The focus is how to get back to a state which can make you productive as soon as possible after a device reinstall or reset. This scenario of course also covers when you get a new device that replaces an older one.

Business impact

Most organizations have a policy that “we will troubleshoot a problem on a Windows device for X number of minutes, if we can’t solve it, let’s do a reinstall or reset”.

This might seem like a great policy that saves time for the service desk. But the numbers the management do not see is how much time have service desk have to spend on helping the user get back on track after the reinstall or reset? The same goes when user needs help transferring from one device to another as part of regular renewal of device. The potential time-saver here is enormous. If the user can get to a state that has everything the user needs available instantly, the user can become productive much quicker.

A consequence of having everything brought back quickly is that not only can the user be productive quicker, but the user will much more likely agree to a reinstall or reset when knowing the user can start working without hazzle again. It might also mean that you can reduce troubleshooting time from say 60 minutes down to 15 before you do a reinstall or reset. Overall a real time-saver and money-saver!

Needs and goals

High-level goals:

  • Getting back to a state where a user can start working as soon as possible after re-install or reset of the device, or even when switching device as part of hardware renewal.
  • “Everything back as it was” (more details on this below). I.e., the time the user needs to spend on getting back to a state that just works as before needs to be minimized.

Expanded description of goals:

  • All files and documents back as they were and accessible by user.
  • All required applications back as they were. (This is out of scope for this blog post as most organizations use ConfigMgr, Intune or a third-party software to deploy applications).
  • All relevant settings back:
    • Specific settings for line of business applications.
    • Outlook signatures and calendar settings etc.
    • Printers and printer settings.
    • Browser related settings, favorites, and history, including saved passwords.
    • Mapped SharePoint sites (Teams files) in File Explorer.
    • Settings for apps.

Solutions

Let’s have a look at what Microsoft technologies are available to solve the needs.

Personal files and documents

  • OneDrive for Business with Known Folder Move.
    If you have the possibility to use OneDrive for Business this is the best solution out there. Make sure to set the GPO or MDM setting to silently configure OneDrive to automatically have your OneDrive folder available after re-install or reset. Also set the policy setting “Enable Known Folder Move” to make sure that Desktop, Documents and Pictures folders are redirected to your OneDrive Folder. Reality check, do you know anyone who do NOT save stuff they need on the desktop? :)
  • Work Folders (which I typically call the internal OneDrive).
    Setting up Work Folders is easy, the role has existed in Windows Server since 2012 R2, thus requires a Windows File Server to setup and enable. Once you’ve setup Work Folders, use good old redirection of Documents and Desktop folders (and maybe Pictures as well) pointing to the local Work Folders directory just like it is done with Known Folder Move for OneDrive for Business.
  • Folder Redirection + offline files.
    Only two words: Stay away! (And migrate as soon as possible to OneDrive for Business or Work Folders if you are already using it). For some organizations I have worked with I have made it opt-in to use offline files, clearly stating the potential risks when opting in. Offline files cause user problems and have very high risk of user data loss.

Common or shared files and documents

  • SharePoint Sites (Teams files directories).
    Many users prefer to work with SharePoint sites and Teams files by syncing them to work with the files in File Explorer. There is no official way of having these remapped automatically after a reinstall or reset of a Windows device.

Settings

  • User Experience Virtualization (UE-V).
    I have many times referred to UE-V as the best thing since sliced bread. It is a technology that was released for about 10 years ago, with the intent to provide roaming of settings for Windows and applications (both Microsoft and any third party), using on-premises file shares. It also roams printers if you are not deploying those through other means.

    Since Windows 10 version 1607 UE-V is integrated in the operating system. I’ve used UE-V quite a lot and this is a really good technology to get many settings back after a reinstall. In one case I could do a F12 reinstall of a Windows 10 device before going to lunch and after lunch I logged in and started working instantly, with all settings back. Those were the days!

    Over time as applications are moving to the app’s world, UE-V has basically become less effective in its job. Also, after adding UE-V to Windows version 1607, UE-V has not gotten much love from Microsoft and as no development has been made for almost six years this is still something that most will benefit from, but sad to see that Microsoft do not care for this.
  • Enterprise State Roaming.
    About the same time that UE-V was integrated into Windows 10 we also saw the introduction of Enterprise State Roaming. This is a technology that use the cloud (a private protected and untouchable area) in Azure to store profile settings that roams with the user. For instance, background image, Windows theme settings and some other stuff is being roamed when enabling this through Azure AD. Sad to say, this feature is facing the same destiny as UE-V, with no new features or changes for the last six years or so.

    Actually with Windows 11 the number of settings that roam using Enterprise State Roaming have decreased, now only roaming passwords, some Windows settings, and language preferences.
  • FSLogix profiles.
    Microsoft bought FSLogix and with that obtained their profile technology. This is a container-based profile solution used primarily in remote Windows solutions, such as Azure Virtual Desktop. Although the technology should be possible to use on physical machines as well, I haven’t many details regarding this and haven’t tried it our myself. One reason for this is that FSLogix profiles requires an Active Directory and is not yet (per January 2022) supported for Azure Active Directory, although this is announced in the future.
  • Edge profile sync.
    The new and lovely Edge has profile sync with roaming built-in which is very much appreciated. Sign in with your school or work account and off you go! You’ll also find some additional information on Configure Microsoft Edge enterprise sync | Microsoft Docs.
  • Outlook settings roaming.
    Finally you can roam your email signature and a bunch of other settings to the cloud – without doing anything other than making sure this option is enabled. Take a look at Outlook roaming options to get more information about this one.

Note 1: Roaming profiles take care of both files and settings but like with folder redirection and offline files: Stay away from roaming profiles to make your life happier.

Note 2: As apps in Windows always store their configuration and user specific data in a standardized location. That is C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Packages\%AppName%\ which means Microsoft should be able to provide a supported way of roaming these settings.

What settings can you use?

Depending on how your Windows devices are managed you can use some or all these technologies. This is applicable for Windows 10, Windows 11, Windows 365 as well as Azure Virtual Desktop. Note: All technologies below are not necessarily supported for all physical and virtual use cases.

Active Directory JoinedHybrid Azure AD JoinedAzure AD Joined
User Experience Virtualization (UE-V)Yes, pointing to file shareYes, pointing to file shareYes, pointing to OneDrive
for Business local folder*
Enterprise State RoamingNoYesYes
FSLogix profilesYesYesNo (not supported yet)
Edge profile syncYesYesYes
Outlook settings roamingYesYesYes
Summary of what profile technologies are available for various Windows device join types.

* For configuration, this is a great start: Manage User Experience Virtualization on the Modern Desktop | Aaron Parker (stealthpuppy.com)

Support matrix

Windows 10/11 – PhysicalWindows 10/11 – VDIWindows 365Azure Virtual Desktop
User Experience Virtualization (UE-V)YesYes**
Enterprise State RoamingYesYesYesNot supported**
FSLogix profilesNot supportedYesNot supportedYes***
Edge profile syncYesYesYesYes
Outlook settings roamingYesYesYesYes
Summary of what profile technologies are supported officially by Microsoft.

* Technically it will work, but likely not supported by Microsoft for Windows 365 nor Azure Virtual Desktop.
** Supported only for personal pools – not multi-session Windows 10 or 11, nor Windows Server.
*** For Azure Virtual Desktop, currently there is no support for Azure AD Joined devices.

Summary

With the existing Microsoft tools and technologies, you can reach a state where most of the stuff you want back actually is configured and brought back automatically. Getting the files and documents back is easy. Edge profile sync and Outlook settings roaming are a no-brainer and should be used by everyone.

UE-V and Enterprise State Roaming are not developed anymore but they still fill a purpose and can be very useful to save time, starting today, as they are very easy to get started with and has a very low implementation cost. FSLogix profiles are primarily intended for datacenter hosted solutions.

With those facts, there is a strong need for Microsoft to strengthen profile management to make it the true time-saver it can be. IT management would very much appreciate it I can assure. But the ones that would appreciate this the most are the end users!

Problem with “New User” being the only account on the sign-in screen after reboot

This is one of the most mysterious problems I’ve encountered and anyone who can provide input is more than welcome to ping me on Twitter or Teams.

Problem

You restart your Windows 10 or Windows 11 device (Azure AD Joined + MEM/Intune enrolled) and after the restart, instead of displaying the last logged on user, the only account on the sign-in screen is an account named “New User”.

This happens extremely rarely, but I’ve seen it a few times. The “New User” comes from nowhere and if you click Switch user it just returns to the same view as below.

I have seen the problem a few times for multiple Windows 10 versions back to at least Windows 10 v1909, and on multiple devices from multiple vendors. Unfortunately I’ve seen it once on a Windows 11 device as well. The other day this problem hit a colleague of mine as well so it’s not just me :) .

Workaround

Two potential workarounds, which are are far 100% reliable:

  1. Do a Shutdown of the computer. This is often the most successful and quickest recovery.
  2. Restarting multiple times will eventually get you to a point where you can click Switch user and it will give you “Other user” where you can manually enter the UPN of your regular user account together with password, which is the only way of getting in. After that everything works as it usually does!

Thoughts and ideas

I have no idea where to start. A local user account with display name “New User” and username “defaultuser100000” do exist in the affected Windows 10 devices.

Why does it approximately one time out of 100 or even 1000 “lose” the last user and offer no options to login as you typically do, only displaying “New User”? Is it a localization issue? Intermittent problem and very rare to say the least.

Once again, if you have any input you are more than welcome to ping me on Twitter or Teams.