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.

Autopilot Failure

A few weeks ago, Autopilot stopped working. Autopilot is the service that builds a Windows desktop from scratch when it first boots up, a bit like MDT. If the device hardware ID is registered in the Autopilot service then, when it starts up, it contacts Autopilot and runs the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) according to the settings in the profile.

On 14 Feb 2022, routine setup of new devices stopped working. We did not at first know why, so we spent a couple of days testing and trying different things. Then we raised a ticket with Microsoft Premier Support. The symptoms were that Store Apps were failing to install (they said “blocked by AppLocker”) and Win32 apps were failing with random errors.

Microsoft Premier Support clearly failed to understand the basics of the problem. They ran through known issues, and asked us to check basic things, and to exclude things that were failing. But Autopilot was working before 14 Feb. Why would applications that were working before 14 Feb start not working?

We spent two weeks in pointless dialog. Then on 25 Feb Autopilot started working again. We made no changes. It just started to work, as it had before 14 Feb. Premier Support offered no analysis and no explanation.

If you were in the middle of a rollout, that could be hundreds or thousands of devices that would fail. How is it even possible that Microsoft had no clue that the service had failed, no clue about why, and no clue about how to fix it?

Some time later, from a different source, we received an explanation. The issue was caused by an error in the code, where devices would sometimes randomly hit a web exception when trying to fetch the content or content info of some Win32 apps from the service. Microsoft created a hotfix and, as a result, error 0x81036502 no longer occurs.

But Premier Support did not know about the fault, did not know about the hotfix, and did not even connect our problem with the fault. This is a failure on a grand scale.

Fault with Company Portal

This is a story about the complete failure of Microsoft Premier Support to diagnose and resolve a fault in the Company Portal.

It is difficult to put into words how complete the failure is. But it includes a failure to define the problem; a failure to capture it or reproduce it; and a failure to provide any diagnosis of the cause.

The Company Portal is the Modern App, or Store App, that enables a user to install applications that have been published and made available to them from Intune. It is an essential part of the Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform. Without the Company Portal, a user can only have the applications that are “Required”. So, after Autopilot, Company Portal will often be the first place a user goes, to obtain the rest of the applications that they need to work with. An example is specialist finance applications. These might be made available to a community of finance users, but each person with install the ones they need individually.

The problem we have had for several months is that the Company Portal will suddenly disappear from a user’s desktop. It is gone. The user can search for “Company Portal” and it is not there. Where has it gone? No idea. How do you get it back? Well, you obviously can’t use the Company Portal to get it!

The facts of the problem are simple and clear, though you would not believe it from the number of times we have been asked to explain and provide logs:

  • After Autopilot completes, Company Portal is present and working.
  • Some short time later, it has disappeared from the user’s Start menu.
  • If you run Get-AppXPackage as the user, the Company Portal is not listed. However, if you log on as an admin, and run Get-AppXPackage –AllUsers, then the portal is shown as installed and available but only for the admin user.
  • The AppX event log does not show any obvious relevant events.
  • It seems to happen in episodes. And it seems to happen sometimes and not others.

We have been asked repeatedly to provide logs: Autopilot logs and One Data Collector logs. But, obviously, if you gather logs before it has disappeared, then there is nothing to see. If you gather logs after it has disappeared, then there is also nothing to see.

After a while, we asked Microsoft Premier Support to try to reproduce the fault themselves instead of continuously asking us for logs. Amazingly, they are unable to do this. Microsoft Premier Support does not have access to virtual machine, or physical machines, that can be used to reproduce faults in Intune and Autopilot. Just let that sink in. Premier Support is unable to attempt to reproduce a fault in Autopilot. It depends on the customer to reproduce it.

We had a long discussion with Premier Support about Offline versus Online apps. The Microsoft documentation for Autopilot recommends in several places that you should use the Offline version of Company Portal. This is counter-intuitive. Offline apps are designed, intended, to be used offline. The scenario given in Microsoft documentation is a kiosk or shared device that is not connected to the internet. The Offline app is installed by DISM in a task sequence, and is used offline. Company Portal, by definition, is of no use offline. It is used to install applications from Intune. If the device were offline, it would not connect to Intune. So why install the Offline version?

We eventually established, at least we think, that an Offline app is in some way cached by Intune; whereas an Online app is obtained directly from a Microsoft Store repository. This seems relevant to the case of the disappearing portal, but we never discovered more about the true difference.

In an early occurrence, we found an AppX event to say that the Company Portal was not installed because of a missing dependency. The missing dependency was the Microsoft Services Store Engagement app. This is the app that enables users to provide feedback. But this app is (apparently) an embedded part of Windows 10 and cannot be missing. We heard no more about this.

The Company Portal stopped disappearing for a while, and we deduced that the fault was in some way related to version updates. It occurred frequently when the version changed from to It has started to occur frequently again now the version is Of course, we have no idea how it is related to the update. We don’t even really know how an update of an Offline app happens.

Finally Microsoft Premier Support has asked us to gather a SysInternals Procmon log, together with a UXTrace log. I have done a lot of troubleshooting with Procmon. It generates huge log files, of every file and registry operation, as well as some TCP operations. To use Procmon effectively, you need a way to stop it when the fault occurs. Microsoft Premier Support simply asked us to run it and stop it when the fault occurred. There are several problems with this. The first is that the user needs to run UXTrace and Procmon with elevated rights. In our environment (as in almost any production environment) the user does not have admin rights and cannot elevate. The second is that Procmon creates huge logs. You can’t just run it for an unspecified length of time, then stop it and save the log. Microsoft Premier Support were clearly unable to understand the problem of gathering the logs, let alone provide a solution. This is dismal. I would expect a competent second-line engineer to have the skills to work out a strategy for collecting logs. It is part of the basic skill of troubleshooting.

So, three months on, Microsoft Premier Support has no clue, and no practical problem-solving approach.

The thing we have found is that Premier Support seems to have no access to the people who develop and run Intune, Autopilot and Company Portal. They are just as much in the dark as you or I.