Thank you Microsoft for changing fundamental things about your operating system, with little or no regard to those of us running in an RDS/XenApp type environment. Check out this technet article. In this article it states how changes have been made.
“In Pre-Win 8, apps could set the default handler for a file type/protocol by manipulating the registry, this means you could easily have a script or a group policy manipulating the registry. For example for Mailto protocol you just needed to change the “default” value under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\mailto\shell\open\command”
More importantly, you were able to use Group Policy Preferences (GPP) to set these values inside a GPO. You could also Item Level Target (ITL) them by using the GPP. This means you could easily have users run Acrobat Pro for .pdfs on SecurityGroupA and Adobe Reader for .pdfs on SecurityGroupB. However, the technet article goes on to say that in post Windows 8,
“the registry changes are verified by a hash (unique per user and app) “
A little more digging tells us that the new hashing mechanism is also on a per-machine basis. This means that a hash would be different for each user, per app, per XenApp server. Very inconvenient and annoying. This also means that we can not use the built in GPP functions in Active Directory to set these file type associations. Also very inconvenient and annoying.
James Rankin did a great blogpost on this subject as well. You can read that here. He did a great job overviewing this issue and provided a solution with using AppSense. This blog will show you how to do this with good old batch scripting and group policy. To be honest, I’m quite annoyed that I had to put together this “hack” to get around something that worked PERFECTLY FINE in 2008R2 with GPPs. If anyone has a more elegant solution, I’d love to see it. I’m not the best scripter in the world, but I’m very pragmatic. “It works”
The first thing we want to do is create a logoff script to delete HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.pdf. However, because of that pesky Deny in the UserChoice key, we are unable to simply do this. So, I have made a simple “regini” command to overwrite the permissions on that key so that we can delete. In my environment, I have created FTA_PDF.txt in the NETLOGON directory. Inside this file is simply a registry value and some codes, which allow SYSTEM, Administrators, Interactive User, etc, FULL CONTROL of the key.
Next, I create a FTA_Delete.bat file in NETLOGON. This runs the “regini” command to change the permissions, then a “reg delete” command to delete the key.
Then we need to create the script for the logon process. I’ve busted out good old “ifmember” for this one. It’s a simple executable that will check AD group membership. My script is pretty simple. It checks to see if a user is a member of the Acrobat group. If so, run the “reg add” to add the association to Acrobat. If not, it falls back to the default .pdf reader in this environment. In this case, it’s Adobe Reader. Keep in mind that you can add multiple programs and associations using this method. You can add Foxit here if you would like.
So, the sad fact of the matter is when I tried to set this as an actual “Logon Script” the functionality didn’t work. I had to set this in a User GPO: Administrative Templates\System\Logon\Run these programs at user logon. I’m also the type of person that hates to see a CMD window flash up on the screen right after I login. So, I wrote ANOTHER script called FTA_Starter.bat to call this script to run in a minimized window.
This is the script I added to the GPO.
So, I fought with this for a long time and it wasn’t working. I had to re-read James’s blog and found this little blub at the bottom.
“Update – I built a third XenApp server, just to be sure, and this time the solution wouldn’t work until I removed the Registry key HKLM\Software\Classes\.pdf.”
This DID NOT WORK until the HKLM key was deleted from the servers. Do not forget this step.
I hope this helps you work through this issue in less time that it took me to do it.