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04: How does PolicyPak support (and not support) Windows 11?

For the best compatibility, you should use PolicyPak CSE version 3068 and later when you use Windows 11.

Here’s the breakdown of some specific PolicyPak components which you might want to learn about with regard to Windows 11.

PolicyPak Browser Router (with Windows 11)

Internet Explorer is absent in Windows 11, but there is “IE Mode” within Windows 11 and Edge.

IE mode still generally supports the following constructs and ideas (which you may be using with PolicyPak):

  • Document Modes (which you can implement via PolicyPak Browser Router)
  • ActiveX Controls (which you can permit installation via PolicyPak Least Privilege Manager)
  • Java support (which you can implement using PolicyPak Java Rules Manager)
  • Browser Helper Objects (which you can implement using PolicyPak Application Settings Manager)
  • Most IE Group Policy Settings which affect zone settings and protected mode settings (which you can dictate via GPO, PolicyPak, and MDM or PolicyPak Cloud.)

Before CSE version 3068, PolicyPak Browser Router isn’t aware when Internet Explorer (the full application) is absent. After CSE version 3068, PolicyPak Browser Router is aware when Internet Explorer (the full application) is absent, and only “IE Mode within Edge” remains.

The updated behavior with Windows 11 and CSE version 3068 and later is that routes requested to go to IE should go to IE in Edge mode when possible.

The general rules are as follows:

Example 1: Explicit URL specifying Internet Explorer.

If you have an explicit route to a URL and specify Internet Explorer, PolicyPak Browser Router will attempt to invoke IE in Edge mode. An explicit route could be something like

An example can be seen below. Note it doesn’t matter if the pulldown is set for “Open in standalone IE” or “Open as IE in Edge tab” is set. Those settings only matter for Windows 10 and are ignored in Windows 11.

Example 2: Using Wildcards (or RegEx or Internet Security Zone) and attempting to set the browser to Internet Explorer

Since there is no IE 11 in Windows 11, existing routes set like what’s seen here cannot work as expected.

Starting with PolicyPak CSE 3068 on Windows 11, PolicyPak Browser Router will route these to the Default Browser.

How are Default Browser Policies handled (With Windows 11)?

Note there is a PolicyPak Browser Router policy to set Default Browser which you might have already set. Windows 11 and PolicyPak CSE version 3068 and later will see this and make a decision accordingly if you’ve set this to Internet Explorer.

Note: Windows 10 will honor the “Internet explorer” setting, but Windows 11 needs to have a plan.

  • If you use PolicyPak Browser Router to specify a Default Browser (Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Custom, or User Selectable) you will get what you expect.
  • If you have selected NOTHING (that is, you have no PolicyPak Browser Router Default Browser policy) then the default will be the User’s selected browser.
  • If you select Internet Explorer as your Default Browser, then CSE version 3068 and later on Windows 11 will choose Edge automatically.
  • If you select a Default Browser (like Firefox or Chrome) but the browser is absent on the machine, PolicyPak CSE version 3068 and later on Windows 11 will choose Edge automatically.

PolicyPak Start Screen & Taskbar Manager (with Windows 11)

First, to start, managing the Taskbar with PolicyPak for Windows 10 and 11 is exactly the same. And you can use PolicyPak Start Screen & Taskbar manager today to manage the Windows 11 Taskbar.

However, managing the Windows 11 Start Screen is another story. 

For Windows 11, there is not currently a good way to manage the Start Screen with PolicyPak.  While we could build something here, Windows 11 itself only supports the following very specific scenario:

  • We could enable you to craft the Windows 11 Start Menu.
  • That Start Menu could be delivered to the machine.
  • All users on the machine would pick up the exact same Start Menu.
  • ONLY users who have NO profile would pick up this new Start Menu. Users who have already logged on before would not be able to get any changes dictated by PolicyPak.

This is obviously in sharp contrast to the way Windows 10 Start Menu works and what PolicyPak can deliver with Windows 10. In Windows 10 PolicyPak can:

  • Enable you to craft the Windows 10 Start Menu
  • Start Menu can be delivered Per Machine or Per user
  • ANY user could have a different Start Menu
  • Users who have logged on before could get the Start Menu to be adjusted.

These differences are hardcoded into Windows 11 vs. Windows 10.

As such we don’t see a lot of value in creating a “PolicyPak for Windows 11 Start Screen Manager” because of the limitations. In short, if existing users’ Start Screens cannot be manipulated (again; hardcoded by Windows 11) it obviates the need for a Start Screen Manager. Again, and equally important, if all users on Windows 11 must get the same Start Screen (programmatic, built into Windows 11) then again, this would not be useful for customers.

So we would love to build this, if and when the internals of the Windows 11 Start Screen are changed to be programmatically manipulatable.

PolicyPak VPN Manager (with Windows 11)

PolicyPak VPN Manager with Windows 11 should work as expected; however, sometimes it does not.

This is not a PolicyPak VPN manager issue, but rather something systemic to Windows 11.

MVP Richard Hicks expresses a variety of challenges here:

When you use PolicyPak VPN manager with Windows 11, in our logs you can see something like this.

We are awaiting a fix to make this more reliable, but it is possible it simply works as expected for you.

PolicyPak Feature Manager (for Windows 11)

Windows 11 features are available to manage in PolicyPak CSE and MMC version 3068 and later.

PolicyPak Least Privilege Manager, PolicyPak Application Settings Manager, PolicyPak Device Manger & all others not listed (For Windows 11)

No particular Windows 11 changes or incompatibilities.

If you were to use an older CSE you shouldn’t see any incompatibilities or any differences.

That being said, we always recommend you use the latest CSE as fixes and updates occur regularly.

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  • 17-Jan-2023