Group Policy Troubleshooting – Internet Explorer

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Any IT professional will tell you, technology changes almost daily. Some things seem like they will never change then bam, it changes. For example the dependency on IE. In the 90s and most of the 20s it was IE. Firefox and Chrome started back then but didn’t really gain traction. Now here it is 2021, Google search no longer supports IE. Microsoft no longer supports IE. IE is a bad word in the security world. So it’s time to move away from IE. Most companies have done just that. Thousands of security-minded websites no longer develop for IE and purposely broken their sites on IE. The immortal IE was a problem this week.

Scenario – Always IE

A user called in and stated “Every time I go to ADP I get a message saying ‘Your browser isn’t supported.'” The browser was IE. ADP was a URL link on the desktop. URL links go to the default browser. The user stated that they changed the default browser to Google Chrome more than once, but it changes back after they restart the computer.

Who, What, Where, When, How

  • Who: The user was a standard user and located in the User OU in AD.
  • What: URL link is opening IE instead of google chrome.
  • Where: End user’s laptop.
  • When: Every time they reboot.
  • How: When they double click a url icon.

With this info gathered, I started troubleshooting. I changed the default browser to Google chrome. The user stated after a reboot it changes back. I rebooted the machine to see this behavior. Sure enough, the default app changed from Google Chrome to IE. The most common thing that changes the default apps around is Group Policy. I ran gpresult /r on the computer and saw a default app policy.

Hum…

I logged into the server and loaded the group policy. Sure enough, there was a default app policy. This policy lived at the top level of the domain as well. Default app policy lives under Computer > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer > Default Associations Configuration File. They use an XML file on a share that can be read by everyone in the company. I looked into this file and saw .htm, .HTML, HTTP, and https were set to internet explorer.

At this point, I knew this was going to be a change request. I informed the client that this is a change request. Then I contacted the client’s leadership and acquired permission from the leadership via email. They responded with, YES PLEASE! This is my CYA that I needed. My assets were covered. Time to kick it into high gear.

Inside the default app XML file, I changed the .htm, .HTML, HTTP, and HTTPS progId to ChromeHTML and the ApplicationName to Google Chrome. This is what it looked like.

  <Association Identifier=".htm" ProgId="ChromeHTML" ApplicationName="Google Chrome" />
  <Association Identifier=".html" ProgId="ChromeHTML" ApplicationName="Google Chrome" />
  <Association Identifier="http" ProgId="ChromeHTML" ApplicationName="Google Chrome" />
  <Association Identifier="https" ProgId="ChromeHTML" ApplicationName="Google Chrome" />

I asked the user to reboot their computer and test if the URLs opened in google chrome. The user reported that it did. I called few other users in the org and tested with them. Normally I would create a new OU and test with a test box, but this client did not have a test box. So, why not test in production! Please don’t test in production unless you have to.

In the end, the problem was a Default App Policy. Fixing that fixed more than just this single user’s issue. The leadership was happy with the change and they enjoyed using their drag and drop URL icons.

As always, if you have questions, feel free to ask.

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