The irony of having to block the EU browser choice screen – and how to do it

i·ro·ny n. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.

Example: championing the freedom to choose, then forcing people to make a choice even if they don’t want to. Specifically, this.

It’s annoying. If you’re in the EU and you’re a home user, a small business, or even a medium or large business that isn’t using Windows Server Update Services, it’s difficult to escape your computers (and those you manage on behalf of your users) from presenting this stupid box. The worst part is that Microsoft have made it intrusive intentionally, even though they almost certainly never wanted to do it in the first place. The EU’s army of legal drones clearly lack the self-awareness to realise the hypocrisy of what they’ve done. It’s one thing to force Microsoft to offer a choice. To force users to take that offer, without so much as a ‘Cancel’ button as an escape route, is missing the point somewhat, and has annoyed far more people than will ever be pleased by it.

According to Rob Wier, who knows more about randomisation algorithms than I do, it’s also flawed and does not present the choices in a random order as it is supposed to.

OK, rant over. Here’s how to block the blighter.

It’s important to note that you may not need to worry; if you have WSUS, you can decline the update when it’s published. Also, if your users do not have admin rights on the computer, the browser choice screen will not run for them even if it installs. If they do have admin rights, but you don’t want them changing things… well, now’s the perfect opportunity to reconsider why on earth you gave them admin rights if you didn’t want them changing things. After that, you’ll be wanting to read on.

Via Group Policy Preferences (or a startup script if you’re not using GPP).

There are two registry methods you can use depending on yours circumstances. Both registry methods are (in my view) easiest to implement using Group Policy Preferences. I ranted about them on Monday, but this is exactly the sort of thing they’re awesome for.

If your machines are Volume Licence installs, you can follow KB2019411.

If not, create a Computer preference to delete HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce, value name KB976002-v5

This should prevent the bowser choice from being triggered.

Via Software Restriction Policies.

The joy of this one is you can use it even if you don’t have Group Policy: just find the Local Security Policy shortcut under Administrative Tools on the Control Panel. For the benefit of those who haven’t touched Group Policy before, here’s the step-by-step:

After opening Local Security Policy, right click on the Software Restriction Policies item and select New Software Restriction Policies.

Right-click Additional Rules and select New Path Rule.

Fill in as below so to create a rule to Disallow
C:\Windows\System32\browserchoice.exe

Click OK, and you’re done.

WSUS

Update: The Broswer Choice update was finally published to WSUS in late April, and appears in its own category in the WSUS products list:

If you don’t check it, the update won’t sync to WSUS at all. If it does, just decline it form the management console.

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About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

5 responses to “The irony of having to block the EU browser choice screen – and how to do it”

  1. Mr M says :

    Nice.

    This post scores very highly on the rant-o-meter, as well as being very useful indeed.

    Here’s my two cent’s worth, if you’ve not seen it already:

    http://hazymat.co.uk/index.php/browser-choice/

  2. Tom Bennett says :

    Yep – nice to finally have a page that pulls all of the various ways to block the update.

    As you said, it’s well meaning but poorly executed and a pain for network admins. Thankfully we can just decline the update when it’s pushed out.

  3. tmcd35 says :

    This whole browser thing is barking mad! I mean what percentage of IE’s user base is corperate IT? I’m betting the figure is over 70%. What does corporate IT want from a web browser? (other than to work) – answer to be able to lock it down with GPO’s so end users can’t mess up settings.

    Since none of the other browsers are managable via GPO – alright Firefox is if you like cryptic settings – just about every corporate IT manager through out the land is going to disable this in an heartbeat.

    So what does the EU forcing MS to force corporate IT users to make a choice they are not going to change do to IE’s overall market share? Answer zip.

    A handful of home users may switch browser through this and that will be it. IE will still have majority market share because quiet frankly there is no alternative that I can control in quiet the same way through GPO’s. ’nuff said!

  4. certificate18 says :

    Thanks, Angry Technician. I was able to use your GP note in Script Logic (our logon script provider), and although the update is still installed, its pointless popup doesn’t run. I haven’t tested it on a PC used by a non-admin level user yet, but going by your notes they may not have seen the popup anyway.

    In terms of browser choice, I’ve always advised employees that they can use other browsers if they wish. We have a handful of Firefox users and a couple of Chrome users (including myself), but the majority here all use Internet Explorer and are unlikely to change, whether out of sheer laziness or fear of the unknown I don’t know….

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  1. EU Browser choice · Arricc - 13th March, 2010

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