Basic Flaws in Intune Package for Microsoft 365 Apps

Intune (or Microsoft Endpoint Manager) has a built in package for Microsoft 365 Apps. This is the obvious package to use to deploy Office 365. But there are several fatal flaws.

Intune deploys the Microsoft 365 Apps as a policy. This sounds strange, but it is deployed by the Office CSP. What happens is that this policy installs two small Click to Run MSI’s, which then pull down the Microsoft 365 Apps like Word, Excel, Outlook etc.

Sometime back in about 2018 Microsoft chained the Teams installation to Office 365. Consequently, you can select Teams as one of the suite of apps to install. What happens is that sometime after the other apps have been installed, the Teams MSI runs to install the Teams Installer. The Teams Installer is the component that detects a user logon and installs Teams itself for the user, in the user’s %AppData% folder. Teams is not actually installed as part of the Office Click to Run. It is a separate MSI chained to the Office setup.

Because the Microsoft 365 Apps are installed by a policy, the installation is performed by the OMA-DM policy agent, and not by the Intune Management Extension (IME). The IME is the agent that is used to install all Win32 apps. Policies are applied as soon as the Device Setup starts, so before even the IME agent (itself an MSI) has been installed, and before the Win32 apps to be installed have been evaluated. Because the Office Click to Run MSI’s are small, they are installed before other app processing has started.

Microsoft warns that you should not mix Win32 apps and Line of Business (LOB) apps in an Autopilot deployment. The wording in Microsoft docs is particularly poor, because “LOB” can mean different things. I have spoken to several Premier Support engineers who clearly don’t know what it is supposed to mean. In this case it refers to the single MSI packages that were used before Microsoft introduced the IME agent. Before the IME agent, you could install applications but only if they used a single MSI file (no folders, no transform). This installation of a LOB MSI is performed by the OMA-DM agent.

As an example of poor documentation, this page Add a Windows line-of-business app to Microsoft Intune says the following: ”When deploying Win32 apps using an installation file with the .msi extension (packaged in an .intunewin file using the Content Prep Tool), consider using Intune Management Extension. If you mix the installation of Win32 apps and line-of-business apps during AutoPilot enrollment, the app installation may fail.” But it fails to say what is meant by a “line-of-business” app (and it is Autopilot, not AutoPilot).

In contrast, this page Set up the Enrollment Status Page says the following: “It’s preferable to deploy the offline-licensed Microsoft Store for Business apps. Don’t mix LOB and Win32 apps. Both LOB (MSI) and Win32 installers use TrustedInstaller, which doesn’t allow simultaneous installations. If the OMA DM agent starts an MSI installation, the Intune Management Extension plugin starts a Win32 app installation by using the same TrustedInstaller. In this situation, Win32 app installation fails and returns an ‘Another installation is in progress, please try again later’ error message. In this situation, ESP fails. Therefore, don’t mix LOB and Win32 apps in any type of Autopilot enrollment.”

The reason not to mix LOB and Win32 apps is obvious. Any MSI is actually executed by msiexec.exe, which calls the Windows Installer service. If you have ever tried to run an MSI when one is already running, you will have seen a warning that another installation is in progress, please wait.

If you have two different agents running msiexec and calling Windows Installer, they will conflict. This is exactly what happens with the Teams MSI in the Microsoft 365 Apps package. In other words, the Microsoft 365 Apps package is guilty of exactly the fault that Microsoft warns you to avoid.

In the verbose Microsoft 365 Apps log, you will see this error:

01/01/2021 01:01:01.010        OFFICECL (0x2264)        0xdc4                Click-To-Run Non Task Error        co7l2        Monitorable        C2R::TeamsAddon::Install {“MachineId”: “a3b97b64ce6fff4980eaef7d16bed3bd”, “SessionID”: “a7e42957-b65a-45f2-93d7-fdb88842597a”, “GeoID”: 242, “Ver”: “16.0.14430.20342”, “C2RClientVer”: “16.0.14430.20314”, “ContextData”: “{\”message\”:\”InstallTeams: MsiInstallProduct failed due to install already in progress.\”,\”Status\”:\”1618\”}”}

You get the verbose log by breaking into Autopilot and setting this registry key: HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\ClickToRun\OverRide: LogLevel = DWORD 3.

Amazingly, the Microsoft 365 Apps setup process does not detect that the Teams installation has failed. It carries on and exits with a success code. So it will never try again. In practice, what happens is that sometimes Teams wins the race for Windows Installer, and gets installed, and sometimes it doesn’t. If it wins, then the standard retry in the IME will ensure that whichever app lost to Teams will try again and get installed. So the result is that, apparently randomly, some devices will complete Autopilot without Teams, and with no way to get it back.

But there is more. The Intune package for Microsoft 365 Apps automatically includes OneDrive. You can’t select or unselect it. OneDrive is already natively installed on Windows, but as a per-user application in the user’s %AppData% folder. The Microsoft 365 Apps package installs the 32-bit per-device version of OneDrive, and removes the per-user version. But Microsoft recommends using the 64-bit version of OneDrive on standard Windows devices. So, if you create a package to install the 64-bit version, Intune will first install the 32-bit version, then (hopefully) uninstall it and install the 64-bit version.

And there is more. Visio and Project are both available in the Microsoft 365 Apps package. But, if you select (say) Visio without the other apps (Word, Excel, Outlook etc), then all those other apps will be uninstalled. One Microsoft 365 Apps packages entirely replaces, rather than adds to, another. If you select Visio with the other apps, then the existing installation of Office will be removed, and replaced with the new one. Obviously, there are different combinations: with Visio but not Project; with Project but not Visio; with Visio and Project. It is completely unworkable. In addition, the installation of Visio or Project will force-close other Office apps, which is not nice.

And there’s more! Microsoft Surface devices come pre-installed with Microsoft 365 Apps in 13 languages. If you run the built-in Intune package, it will not uninstall the pre-installed languages. You might say this doesn’t matter. But, if you do a Fresh Start on a device, then it will not have the 13 languages, and so you will have different devices with different configurations.

Taking all this into account, we decided to build our own packages for all Office apps. Once you have a basic script to run the setup, and after you generate the required XML, it is fairly easy to adapt to the different packages you need for Office 365, Teams, OneDrive, Visio and Project. The good thing is that you are still using exactly the same core method: setup.exe with an XML file. You can do some of this by using the XML option instead of the Configuration Designer option in the Intune package, but we needed to do more, including making the Visio and Project installations interactive, so we chose to go entirely custom.

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