Microsoft bars more enterprise devices from seeing Windows 10 upgrade 'nag' campaign

Blocks on-screen notifications and ads from appearing on managed mobile devices

Microsoft last week modified an update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs so that fewer business devices will see a campaign hawking the Windows 10 upgrade with on-screen ads.

In a May 14 update, Microsoft re-issued KB3035583 to Windows 7 and 8.1 machines. The company had first delivered the update last fall, but in March of this year added functionality that defined several milestones -- none of which have yet been triggered -- that will display messages in tray icons, tiles and banners notifying customers that they're eligible for the free Windows 10 upgrade, let them "reserve" a copy, and then download and install the new OS.

Last week's version of KB3035583 was also designated as "Recommended," meaning that it will be automatically downloaded and installed on PCs where Windows Update has been left with its default settings intact. Previously, the update had officially been tagged "Optional," although many users -- including Computerworld staffers -- had seen it listed as Recommended two months ago.

One of the files deposited by KB3035583 in the folder "GWX" -- some have interpreted that as "Get Windows 10" -- is "config.xml," which includes a long list of instructions on how the ad-based notification system will work.

There were few changes in the latest config.xml from the original March version. Two, however, appear to prevent notifications from reaching additional enterprise devices.

One new line states (EnableMdmManaged)false(/EnableMdmManaged), indicating that the upgrade pitch will not be seen on devices covered by MDM, or "mobile device management" tools. The XML file did not define which MDM packages, but would almost certainly include Microsoft's own Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), which is used by large organizations to wrangle everything from security and policies to app availability on mobile devices that connect to the company's network.

Another new line in the XML file reads, (EnableMLCheck)false(/EnableMLCheck), which may refer to another check for a "mobile license" (the "ML" part of the line).

The additions were atop the previous (EnableEnterpriseSku)false(/EnableEnterpriseSku) and (EnableDomainJoined)false(/EnableDomainJoined), that blocked the ad campaign from Windows Enterprise, the corporate edition available only through volume licensing deals, and barred it from Windows devices that connect to a network domain. The latter would rule out the notifications' appearance on devices running the Pro edition, such as Windows 7 Pro, when they're joined to a corporate domain.

The Windows Enterprise exclusion is consistent with what Microsoft has said previously, that that SKU will not be eligible for the free upgrade. By refusing to show the alerts and ads to Windows Enterprise users, all devices joined to a domain, and managed mobile devices -- largely tablets running the consumer-grade Windows 8.1 -- Microsoft avoids irritating IT administrators, who will not want their users to see an upgrade offer before their company is ready to migrate to Windows 10.

Microsoft has said nothing about when the config.xml file will swing into action, but it will certainly start its work before Microsoft officially launches Windows 10 this summer.

The KB3035583 update

The KB3035583 update was again delivered to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices, with changes that barred the ad- and notification-driven Windows 10 upgrade campaign from managed mobile devices.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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