Category: Windows Server

Simplify removing of distributed content with the help of Powershell

Begin

TLDR; Go to the Process block.

Ever since I first got introduced to Powershell, I have always tried to come up with ways to include, facilitate and apply it to my my everyday tasks. But for me, using Powershell in combination with SCCM has never been the ultimate combination, the built in cmdlets doesn’t always do it for me, and the gui is most of the times easier to understand.

So when I got a request to simplify removal of distributed content on all distribution points or all distribution point groups, it left me with two options. To create a script what did the desired job, or to create a function that would cover all the possible scenarios. So I thought; “Why don’t I take these matters in my own hands and create what I actually desire?” That is why I created a script that helped to find the content wanted for removal, and to have the distributed content removed from every Distribution Point or Distribution Point Group.

Lets say that you have 10 Distribution Points, and you have distributed content to 5 out of 10, and you have not been using a Distribution Point Group, the way to go would be to repeatedly proceed with the following steps:


And to do these steps for every distribution point would just take forever. Of course, using one Distribution Point Group would of course be more effective and the ideal way to go, but you might have distributed it to multiple Distribution Point Groups? That is something that already has been thought of, and that is why this script is created. Even if you have distributed it to some distribution points, and some distribution point groups, it will all be removed.

Process

But how does it work? In this demonstration, I will have two packages distributed with similar names. One of them will be sent to a Distribution Point Group, and the other one to 2 Distribution Points. And I would like to have both of them removed from whatever they have been distributed to. 
1. Start by launching Powershell, and import the script by running “. .\Remove-CMAllSiteContent.ps1”

2. Run the script with the required parameters. As shown in the picture below, I searched for ‘TestCM’, but it resulted in showing multiple results. The search is done with wildcard, so everything similar to the stated PackageName will be found. All the parameters have a more detailed description in the script below.

  • The search can either be done with the parameter -PackageName or -PackageID,
  • The parameter -PackageName is searching with wildcards both at the beginning and the end of the stated name. This should be used when you are not sure of the PackageID, or want to remove multiple packages, 
  • The parameter -PackageID is the unique ID for the specific package you want to remove from the distribution point(s) or group(s). This should be used when you are sure of what you would like to remove,
  • The parameter -CMSiteCode is mandatory and must be specified. 

3. In this case, I would like to remove both of the displaying packages, so I choose 0 for ‘All’, followed by a confirmation (Y / N is not case sensitive)

4. After it has been confirmed, the script will check the following:

  • If the content is distributed to Distribution Point Group(s) as an Application,
  • If not, check if it distributed to Distribution Point Group(s) as a Package,
  • If none of these is correct, the script will check if the content is distributed on each Distribution Point as an Application,
  • If not, it will check if the content is distributed to each Distribution Point as a Package.

At the beginning of the script, the content is validated as distributed. If not, it will not be shown. These four steps above covers all distributed scenarios.

5. When finished, we can see that the Distributed content successfully has been removed.

Please read the comment based help to get a better understanding of what is actually running in the background.

End

This can of course be modified with more choices in every step, but at the moment I did not see the need for it.

If anyone have any questions or just want to discuss their point of view regarding this post, I would be more than happy to have a dialogue. Please email me at johan.nilsson@xenit.se or comment below.



Easy way to disable items in Control Panel and Settings App in Windows 10 and Server 2019

In Windows 10 and Server 2019 there are both a Control Panel and a Settings App. This is somewhat confusing for the user. However, this is probably how it’s going to be until Microsoft have had enough time to migrate all settings from the Control Panel to the Settings App. Microsoft have provided great lists on canonical names for both the items in the Control Panel and Settings App. Although this is great posts, this may be overwhelming.

In Windows 10 and Server 2019 you may want to lockdown the settings the users may access. It is not appropriate that a user can start Windows Update on a Server 2019 that is used as a session host with several users logged in. To lockdown Control Panel and the Settings App, you may use the two policies below.

  1. “Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel” and configure “Settings Page Visibility”
  2. User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel” and configure “Show only Specified Control Panels items”

To find what to add into these policies you can use the two Microsoft articles provided above or you can use a sweet tool called Win10 Settings Blocker. With this tool you can add what settings you want to hide (or show) and then copy the registry data to the policy.

After you have successfully added the settings you want to hide you can go to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer” and copy the data from the registry key named “SettingsPageVisibility”.

Copy the data and paste it to the setting “Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel\Settings Page Visibility”.

You can do the same thing for the Control Panel. Just make sure to change to select “Control Panel Options” in the app instead.

When applying to hide any of the Control Panel options you can find the locked down Control Panel items under  “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer\RestrictCpl”.



“Outlook cannot perform your search” on Windows Server 2016 running Remote Desktop Services

INTRODUCTION

Speaking on behalf of all IT technicians, it is with no doubt that we all have had our hand in cases related to Outlook. Oftentimes I experience them to be quite understandable in order to be resolved. However, that was until I encountered a particularly obscure issue with Outlook’s search engine, nonetheless its very same obscure resolution.



How to handle pinned start menu apps in Windows 10

As I have been working with customizing Windows 10 for a while now, it has never worked against me this much. However, sometimes Windows do have its ways of working against you. With challenges like these you get the opportunity to spend a lot of time coming up with a solution. So this blog post is about my battle with the start menu of Windows 10 Professional. If you are here for the quick solution, skip to the bottom and the TL;DR section.

The Problem:

I have been able to customize the start menu of Windows 10 with ease since version 1511 with the Export / Import-StartLayout cmdlet. But this time I got a request to remove all the pinned apps on the right side of the start menu. A colleague discussed this and he told me he had done a similar solution inside a Citrix Virtual Desktop, and he spent quite the amount of time with this, I thought this would be much easier than it turned out to be. So the requested start menu should at the end look something like this upcoming picture, with the following demands:

  • No pinned apps on the right box or the start menu
  • In the task bar, have Chrome & Explorer pinned. 

This was the requested layout

To begin with, I created an XML file with just Chrome & Explorer pinned in the task bar, and having set the <DefaultLayoutOverride LayoutCustomizationRestrictionType=”OnlySpecifiedGroups”> . My thought was that this would give me a clean start menu, but this was my first failed attempt. The colleague of mine who preciously had a similar issue in a Citrix environment had during his research time come across this post containing a script called “Pin-Apps“. This script contained a Unpin function which turned out to be very helpful. So I started adapting my work after this script. But this is where I came across my second setback. First, I was not able to have this script and the Import-StartLayout-script in the same logon script, nor having one script on startup, and one on login, so I had to think of a way configure this in my isolated lab environment.

Luckily, I’ve been working a lot with OS-deployment, so I created a Task Sequence containing the Import-StartLayout-script, which managed to run successfully together with my login-script containing the Pin-Apps script. But here I came across my third setback, which by far had the most impact and was the one I spent the most time struggling with. For some reason I was not able to remove bloatware, such as Candy Crush, Minecraft etc. The script ran successfully, but every time, the outcome looked like this

Some applications would not be removed

I could not understand why these applications would not be removed. I have had to deal with bloat ware before, but then it was just to remove them with Appx-cmdlets. I checked Get-AppxPackage & Get-AppxProvisionedPackage, and ran Remove-AppxPackage and Remove-AppxProvisionedPackage several times, but these apps were not removable and did not show up until I manually selected them, and they started downloading (as shown on the application in the top right corner on the picture). So apparently they were either links or shortcuts to the Windows Store. This is works if you are using Windows 10 Enterprise. 

This is where I started going deep. The apps were all published in the Windows AppStore, so I started looking for any kind of possibilities, with help from Powershell, to by force download all apps in the Windows Store. I spent a lot of time with this, but without any success. So I had to rethink my plan. There was no way to have the bloat ware-applications to be downloaded by force, there was no way to remove them by removing them with Appx-cmdlets, and there was no way to have a clean start menu with a XML-file. This gave me the idea. If you can’t beat them, join them. There was no way to actively remove all the applications from the start menu of a Windows 10 Professional, but replacing them worked.

The solution:

As I have yet to find any other way of removing the superfluous applications, creating a new XML replacing the start menu with some random default applications was the only successful way for me. To list these applications, go to Shell:AppsFolder or shell:::{4234d49b-0245-)4df3-b780-3893943456e1} in file explorer.

Applications can be found here

I just chose to pin some of the applications which were default on my start menu, that I knew was very much removable, exported these to a new XML which turned out to it look like this:

From here I had to modify the Pin-Apps script to make it more suitable for a Swedish operating system, and added a register key so it would not run more than once on each user. If you want to lock down the right side of the start menu, you just set or create the LockedStartLayout registry key, located under both HKEY_Local_Machine & HKEY_Current_User\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer, to 1

If you are running another OS language than Swedish or English, to find the verb for unpin, simply save an application name to the variable $appname (as an example I will use Windows Powershell) and run the following part: 

This will give you all the verbs which are applied to this application. In this case “Unpin from Start” is present.

After modifying the necessary bits I added it to a PowerShell logon script GPO with the parameter -UnpinAll, with the .ps1 file located inside the GPO repository, making sure it’s accessible for everyone.

 

TL;DR: 

If you are running Windows 10 Professional, you need to replace applications in the start menu before removing them, as a suggestion running in a Task Sequence of some kind setting the default start menu layout and then have a GPO to run the PowerShell script stated above.

If you are running Windows 10 Enterprise, just use the Logon script GPO and you will be fine. If you still have some unwanted applications, run a script removing built-in apps (for example this Invoke-RemoveBuiltinApps )

If you have any questions or thoughts about this post, feel free to email me at johan.nilsson@xenit.se



Mapped network printers unavailable due to SMB1 being obsolete

INTRODUCTION

As we all might be familiar with, printers are one of those little peculiar matters within IT. Implementing these in an IT-environment is self-explanatory oftentimes, but when they do not cooperate the issue itself can stem from one single obscure root cause, if not a string of these having to be checked upon.

Recently, I encountered a particular printer issue which I found interesting enough to share. The root cause here, in summary, was due to the network protocol SMB1 (Server Message Block) being obsolete in recent Windows releases.



Monitoring vDisk Rebalance Enabled

In a recent use-case that I stumbled across, I wanted to monitor a few different things in a Citrix-environment with Provisioning Services technology.

In this specific blog-post I’ll show you how I configured monitoring for whether Rebalance Enabled is configured for active vDisk, with Provisioning Services (PVS) Powershell SnapIn.



Monitoring vDisk Replication

In a recent use-case that I stumbled across, I wanted to monitor a few different things in a Citrix-environment with Provisioning Services technology.

In this specific blog-post I’ll show you how I configured monitoring of vDisk Replication with Provisioning Services (PVS) Powershell SnapIn.



HTML5 Web Client for Remote Desktop Services 2016

Microsoft recently announced that the new HTML5 client for Remote Desktop Services has reached general availability. The new web client lets users access the Remote Desktop infrastructure using a modern browser that supports HTML5.

Requirements & Installation

Microsoft have a great article explaining the requirements and how to get started with the new client in the following link. It’s important to note that if you run any previous versions of the client and want to update to the latest release, it first has to be uninstalled from the Web Access servers.
The client can be installed and run simultaneously as your old RDWeb-page, they just use different URLs to be accessed. To access the new client, the URL https://<FQDN>/RDWeb/webclient/ is used.

Using the new client

The new client that was released previously this year, has now reached version 1.0.0 and with it, a new sign in experience and SSO to the applications. Below is how the now much improved login-screen looks like:

Web Client login screen

After logging in the apps are presented, and right away you can see the much improved design comparing to the old and very outdated default RDWeb page:

New updated application menu

The great thing about the HTML5 client is that it doesn’t require any software to run, just a browser that supports HTML5, which most browsers does these days. So this is good news for tablet and thin-client users.
The applications are contained within the browser window. You can only have one browser window open at a time, and opening multiple applications at the same time creates tabs within the browser window:

 

Applications running

Printing and copy/paste is available from within the session. Using print will download the job as a PDF file to your local computer.

Some features are still missing for making it a complete replacement for the old one, but Microsoft will be releasing updates in the future and adding more features as time goes by, so keep an eye out.



SCCM 1806 – News and features

Once more it was time to upgrade our SCCM environment to the newest release that is 1806. As it was not released for everyone yet, I had to run the Fast-Ring script to allow the update to present itself. I found this update very interesting as it comes with some exciting new features, and there are alot. These are the ones that I am most excited about.

  • Ability to PXE boot without WDS
  • CMTrace installed as default on clients
  • Ability to exclude Active Directory containers from discovery
  • High availability on Site Server
  • CMPivot
  • Boundary group for peer downloads
  • Enhanced HTTP site system
  • Improvements to OS deployment
  • Software Updates for third-party

…and much more. You can read about all the new features here on Microsoft docs.

Since there are a lot of news, I have chosen to cover the two that I am most excited about in this new release.

CMPivot

Configuration Manager is a very helpful tool when gathering information, CMPivot now allows you to take it to the next step by real-time querying clients. This allows you to gather a lot of information instantly. This feature uses Azure Analytics Language, .

CMPivot is located under Asset and Compliance > Overview > Device Collection, you can find this new feature in the top ribbon bar.

Location of CMPivot

An example is to find BIOS-information about the Dell computers that are currently online. From this output you easily create a collection (the members of the collection will be added as Direct Members) or export to both CSV and Clipboard.

 

PXE Without WDS

It is exciting to have a new way of deploying over PXE. Since Windows Deployment Services has been available for a long time, it feel suitable to have an updated way of deploying clients. By replacing WDS, the distribution point will create the service ConfigMgr PXE Responder. If you have plans of using Multi-Cast, you are for now stuck with WDS.

This setting can be found under Administration > Overview > Distribution Point, right click on the distribution point you would like to modify with the setting shown below.

After applying this setting, Windows Deployment Services will automatically be disabled. Be advised that if you are monitoring this service, it will be report as stopped. SCCM PXE Without WDS

If you have questions, thoughts or anything you would like discuss? Send an email to Johan.Nilsson@xenit.se and I will be more than glad to talk about these topics.



Automate tasks with use of XenServer Powershell Module

Working with backups of your virtual machines is obviously essential. Working with exports in XenServer can some times be time consuming, particularly with bigger virtual disks attached to your virtual machine. In this scenario I will show you an alternative to manually export via XenCenter, by doing it with Powershell to an remote server using XenServer Powershell module.