Managing Windows 10 with VMware Dynamic Environment Manager
It’s been 3 years since I created the first version of this blog. A lot has changed since then, so I thought it would be good to create and updated version. For starters, the name of User Environment Manager changes to Dynamic Environment Manager, or DEM for short.
Also, Microsoft released about 6 new feature updates for Windows 10, introducing a lot of improvements for management of the Start Menu, File Type Associations, and so on.
This blog describes how to use VMware Dynamic Environment Manager to get a consistent user experience with your Windows 10 environments.
- Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (version 1709) or newer
- VMware Dynamic Environment Manager 9.10 or newer
Dynamic Environment Manager Config Files
This article uses the following Dynamic Environment Manager Config Files:
- Default Applications
- Internet Explorer Personal Settings
- Internet Explorer Passwords
- Internet Explorer WebCache
- Microsoft Edge
- Personal Certificates
- Windows 10 Start Menu
- Windows Explorer
As you can see, a lot of new Windows Common Settings have been added to Dynamic Environment Manager to improve management of Windows 10. These config files can be added using the Easy Start configuration and the Config File Creation Wizard.
With the release of Windows 10, the time it takes to log in for the 1st time on a device increased dramatically. Windows 8 introduced new Metro apps, which were later called Modern, Store, or Universal apps. These apps are installed in the user profile upon the first log on, and they have a negative impact on the login time.
The easiest way to improve the login time is to use the VMware Operating System (OS) Optimization Tool for the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) gold image. This tool removes many of the Universal apps, which are typically not used or missed in an enterprise environment. This tool also applies other optimizations which have a positive impact on the overall performance and speed.
For more details on how to build an optimized Windows 10 image, see Creating an Optimized Windows Image for a VMware Horizon Virtual Desktop on VMware Tech Zone.
During the last couple of years I ran into many customers having issues with Mandatory Profiles, and this is also the experience I have during my own testing. Recently the TechZone guide mentioned above has also been updated and the best practices around Mandatory Profiles have been removed.
My current recommendation is not to use Mandatory Profiles, but just stick with Local Profiles. The behavior is just too unpredictable and with every update of Windows your Mandatory Profile could break. Also, the login time with an optimized Local and Mandatory Profile is roughly the same.
With the release of Windows 10 Feature update 1703, management of the Start Menu has been made a lot easier, since the Start Menu is now stored in registry. Because of this change, it has become a lot easier to roam the users personalized Start Menu.
But let’s start with the first step. If you want to customize the Start Menu before first use, these steps explain how to create a Default Start Menu Layout for All Users.
Create a default Start Menu layout
The default Windows 10 Start Menu shows Tiles for many Universal apps that most users never use. After removing all the unwanted Universal apps from the VDI gold image using the VMware OS Optimization Tool, the default Start Menu shows many unnecessary Tiles. The best solution for most customers is defining a new default Start Menu for your users in the following way.
- Start a clean Windows 10 VM, log in with a test user, and make all layout changes to your Start Menu. This will become your default layout for all users.
- Export the Start Menu layout with this PowerShell command that requires elevated permissions:
Export-StartLayout -Path C:\StartLayout.xml
- Finally import the layout into the Default User account by using this PowerShell command:
Import-StartLayout –LayoutPath C:\StartLayout.xml –MountPath $env:SystemDrive\
All users logging on will receive this default Start Menu.
Roam Start Menu Customizations Made by Users
To make sure that any customization by users is captured and roams with the Dynamic Environment Manager profile, follow these three steps:
Step 1. Add Exclusion to Windows Explorer.INI
Add the following exclusion to the Dynamic Environment Manager configuration file called Windows Explorer. This exclusion prevents the Start Menu icons from appearing blank or disappearing.
Step 2. Create New Dynamic Environment Manager Config File to Roam the Start Menu
Create a new Dynamic Environment Manager config file called ‘Windows 10 Start Menu’. This will allow Dynamic Environment Manager to export and import the Start Menu layout at logoff and logon. Use the ‘Config File Creation Wizard’ to add this template:
Known limitations: Configuration settings for the Start menu itself, such as ‘Show most used apps’ and ‘Use Start full screen’, are not saved.
File Type Associations
The latest addition to DEM with the 9.10 release is support for File Type Associations and Protocols. The required configuration for managing FTA’s and protocols in DEM is straight forward. After the upgrade to DEM 9.10 just add the new ‘Default applications’ config file.
This will capture the personal FTA and protocol preferences from users and roam those settings between sessions.
There is a GPO available to stop the message ‘How do you want to open this file?’ from appearing. Enable the Group Policy setting ‘Do not show the ‘new application installed’ notification’. This Group Policy can be configured at Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer.
Dynamic Environment Manager now also supports the central management of FTA’s on Windows 10. Managing the file types and protocols works the same as previous versions. Within the DEM Management Console, go to the ‘User Environment’ tab and the ‘File Type Associations’ feature.
Ivan de Mes (vExpert) wrote an excellent blog post on this new feature with more in depth details. This blog can be found here:
Microsoft Edge Browser
For the Edge browser, a good Dynamic Environment Manager Configuration File has been included in the ‘Easy Start’ configuration and the ‘Config File Creation Wizard’.
Known limitations: The Open Microsoft Edge with setting and the default search provider are not saved. Also, Microsoft Edge settings cannot roam between systems with different bitness.
Internet Explorer 11 Browser
With the introduction of Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft decided to store all browsing information (cookies, history, etc.) in a central database in the user profile, the so called ‘WebCache’.
For the ‘Internet Explorer – WebCache’ a Dynamic Environment Manager Configuration File has been included in the ‘Easy Start’ configuration and the ‘Config File Creation Wizard’.
Dynamic Environment Manager uses compression, so the size of the database will be optimized. However, be aware that managing this WebCache still adds some time to log in and log off because of the large file size. The template for roaming the ‘Internet Explorer – WebCache’ is included in the ‘Easy Start’ configuration, but deactivated by default because of this reason.
This blog is about half the size of the previous one from three years ago. For all the issues described in the previous blog post, there are now built-in solutions available in VMware Dynamic Environment Manager. This makes the life of the IT admin a lot easier and shows that this smaller product within the VMware EUC portfolio still is expanding and keeps surprising me. I’m looking forward to what I can write about Dynamic Environment Manager three years from now. I’m sure it will not just be another name change.
VMware Dynamic Environment Manager Community:
Tech Zone guide: Creating an Optimized Windows Image for a VMware Horizon Virtual Desktop https://techzone.vmware.com/creating-optimized-windows-image-vmware-horizon-virtual-desktop
Blog from Ivan de Mes (vExpert): Managing FTA’s natively using DEM
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