Microsoft offers tools to block Chromium-Edge from silently downloading to Windows 10 PCs

When deployed and run, the Blocker Toolkit will leave the old version of Edge in place. Microsoft released similar toolkits for IE7, IE8, IE9, IE10 and IE11 before the public release of those browsers

Credit: Dreamstime

Microsoft has revived a practice from the heydays of Internet Explorer (IE), releasing tools to block the new all-Chromium Edge from automatically reaching Windows 10 PCs starting next month.

When deployed and run, the Blocker Toolkit will retain the original Edge, the one built with Microsoft's homegrown rendering and JavaScript engines and bundled with Windows 10 since its mid-2015 debut.

Its tools, like other such kits before it, included a very small executable to run locally, as well as an administrative template that IT admins can use to broadly block original-Edge through Group Policy settings.

Microsoft issued similar toolkits for IE7, IE8, IE9, IE10 and IE11 prior to the public release of those browsers, usually as a sop to business customers who don't want to disrupt workflows with a new application they has not yet tested.

The toolkits became progressively more important because Microsoft accelerated the IE development and release tempo and changed how it distributed the browser.

In late 2011, Microsoft announced it would silently upgrade IE to the newest version suitable for a user's version of Windows. Before then, Microsoft had asked for user permission before upgrading IE from one version to the next, even if Windows' Automatic Updates were enabled.

Microsoft will use the silent approach for Chromium-Edge as well, pushing the browser to customers without seeking approval beforehand. The process will begin January 15; absent problems, Microsoft will scale up the rollout from there.

Previously, Microsoft had promised it would honour the PC's default browser setting. However, Chromium-Edge will still be downloaded and installed on machines where a rival browser has been made the default.

Original-Edge will remain on the system after Chromium-Edge has been added to the device.

"When the new version of Microsoft Edge is installed, the old version (Microsoft Edge Legacy) will be hidden," Microsoft said in another support document. "All attempts to launch the old version will redirect the user to the newly installed version of Microsoft Edge."

Both Edge versions can be run simultaneously if an organization's IT staff sets the Allow Microsoft Edge Side by Side browser experience policy to "Enabled."

Alternately, users themselves can create a dual-browser setup by running the Blocker Toolkit's executable (which retains Original-Edge) and then downloading and installing the Beta build of Chromium Edge. This support document contains detailed instructions for both methods.

Although Microsoft usually set time limits on the use of past IE blockers - forcing everyone on unmanaged PCs to eventually succumb to the newer browser - the Redmond, Wash. company did not do that with the Edge toolkit. "The Blocker Toolkit will not expire," Microsoft pledged.

Microsoft also spelled out several caveats about the Blocker Toolkit, including:

  • The toolkit prevents PCs running Windows 10 1803 or later from pulling in Chromium-Edge through Automatic Updates
  • Users can still manually download and install Chromium Edge after the Blocker Toolkit has been deployed
  • Organisations managing machines using an update/patch manager, including WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) and SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) don't need the Blocker Toolkit as IT can use those tools to deploy or bar Chromium-Edge as desired

The Blocker Toolkit can be downloaded here. More information about the toolkit's script and policy templates can be found in this support document.

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