Microsoft to auto upgrade some business and education PCs to Chromium Edge in August

Coming soon to a Windows 10 PC near you: the new Chromium-based version of Microsoft's Edge browser.

Microsoft's Chromium Edge browser
Microsoft / Google / Vijay Kumar / Getty Images

Microsoft this week warned enterprise and education customers running Windows 10 that it will start replacing the old, original Edge browser on their PCs with the newer Chromium-based version on or after July 30.

First to get the forced swap will be machines in educational settings, Microsoft said, citing back-to-school scheduling for the prioritization. (Many K-12 schools, along with colleges and universities, are saying, "We will share a business timeline at a later date," wrote Elliot Kirk, senior program manager with the Edge team, in a July 30 post to a company blog.)

According to Kirk, PCs serviced by Windows Update will be automatically upgraded to the Chromium Edge. "This update will not impact devices in education and business updated by Windows Update for Business (WUfB) or by Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)," he asserted.

Microsoft first broached the auto-swap idea in mid-January, alongside the public release of the first Stable channel build of Chromium Edge. Then, it set firm guidelines for which PCs would forcibly replace the legacy Edge with the new edition. In short, Windows 10 Enterprise, Education and Workstation Pro would be untouched, as would Windows 10 Pro systems joined to an Active Directory (AD) or Azure Active Directory (AAD) domain; those updated using WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) or WUfB (Windows Update for Business); and those controlled using tools such as Intune and SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager).

Although many assumed Microsoft would quickly begin the new-Edge-for-old-Edge exchange after its January missive, the company didn't do so until early June. Then, when Microsoft announced the swap start, it made clear that its original plans had not changed.

A careful parsing of Kirk's post – as well as some recently-revised support documents – points to a slightly different go/no-go on the Edge swap. Kirk made clear that any device serviced by Windows Update would be eligible, thus including those running, say, Windows 10 Education or even Windows 10 Enterprise, which under earlier rules had been immune by virtue of their SKU (stock-keeping unit).

Organizations that want to stymie this effort can use the Blocker Toolkit for Edge-to-Edge released in December 2019. The kit, which can be downloaded directly from here in .exe format, blocks Windows Update delivery of the new Edge. It does not prevent students or workers from manually obtaining the Chromium-based Edge. This support document, last revised June 30, covers the Toolkit.

Microsoft's Kirk confirmed that most other elements of the swap are still in place. Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) will remain untouched, he said, as will the in-place choice of default browser on the PC. (In other words, the new Edge will not suddenly be declared the default over, say, the already-set Chrome or Firefox.) And the legacy Edge will not be physically deleted from the system, but instead hidden, with any attempts calling it up launching Chromium Edge.

After Windows Update pushes the new Edge onto a PC, the service will shortly refresh the browser to the "latest version currently in-market," Kirk said. Microsoft updates Edge on the same schedule as Google does Chrome – approximately every six-to-eight weeks – with security updates issued as needed between each version.

By the time Microsoft begins this new Edge swap, it will likely start with Edge 84, slated to release around July 21.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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