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On January 23, 2020 Microsoft announced on its Microsoft Office documentation page that it will begin automatically deploying an add-on for Google Chrome which will update the search engine for the browser from its current setting to Microsoft’s Bing search engine. This change happens automatically and will affect all new and existing Office365 ProPlus installations in the following countries:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • India

The rollout will occur in stages based upon your organization’s Release Channel selection, with the Monthly Channel (Targeted) starting to receive the update in February 2020.

Update Channel Version Release Date
Monthly Channel (Targeted) Version 2002 Middle of February 2020
Monthly Version 2002 Early March 2020
Semi-Annual (Targeted) TBD March 10, 2020
Semi-Annual TBD July 14, 2020

Just to reiterate – this is a change that is going to be deployed to all organization users unless specific action is taken to prevent it. Microsoft does provide guidance on how to prevent the update from occurring, but I’m sure many organizations won’t get the message in time and will be forced to answer some unhappy calls from their user base about why their search results look so different than what they were used to.

So. How do you prevent these changes from taking place? Let’s go through the steps you can implement. You have some options on how to block these changes from rolling out, including utilizing Group Policy, the Office Deployment Tool, Configuration Manager, and Intune.

Preventing the Update with Group Policy

1) Download and Deploy the Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) and Office Customization Tool for Office 365 ProPlus, Office 2019, and Office 2016

Starting with Version 4966.1000, released on January 21, 2020, Microsoft added in functionality to the Office Administrative Template Files governing the deployment of the Chrome add-on. The download can be found here.

2) Once the Administrative Template files have been deployed to Group Policy and all DCs have replicated, update your policy governing Microsoft Office or create a new one.

The Group Policy settings are located under Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Microsoft Office 2016 (Machine)\Updates.

You’ll want to enable the setting “Don’t install extension for Microsoft Search in Bing that makes Bing the default the search engine.

3) It’s possible to speed up the replication of the new policy settings as well as the Administrative Template files by running this command in an Administrative Command Prompt or Administrative PowerShell session on a Domain Controller:

repadmin /syncall /APed

Preventing the Update with Configuration Manager (current branch)

1) Open Office Configuration Manager and select the collections you wish to prevent this change from occurring on.

2) Navigate to the Features section and toggle “Set default search engine to Microsoft Search in Bing” to Off

Office Configuration Manager Settings

Office Configuration Manager Settings

 

A more comprehensive guide on utilizing the Microsoft Office Configuration Manager can be found here.

Preventing the Update with Microsoft Intune

As of the writing of this document, Microsoft has not added the toggle to Intune. Microsoft’s documentation indicates that the toggle will be available in the Configure App Suite pane and the toggle will be titled “Set default search engine to Microsoft Search in Bing.”

Windows Registry

According to Office365Reports.com, “You Must have the latest Office Deployment Tool and ADMX templates if you wish to disable installing the extension” with the Windows Registry.

Update the registry key below as shown:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\office\16.0\common\officeupdate]

"preventbinginstall"=dword:00000001

AdminDroid has created this PowerShell script to automate the deployment of these registry changes to your organization. As with any script you find on the internet, be sure to read and understand the changes the script will be making before utilizing it in your environment!

What’s the intent of these changes?

Microsoft is pushing the internal Microsoft Search functionality out to the browser in an integration with their Bing search engine. The end effect of this functionality push is to be able to serve internal documents and data next to public search results in a single pane of glass.

Users of the Bing search engine with this functionality enabled will be able to open up a browser and, directly in their search bar, enter a search for “Accounting Records” which will show them both internal documents and corporate shares that are relevant as well as public search results matching the search term.

Michael Maser

Michael Maser

co.Founder and CTO at UOTech.co

Michael Maser has over 18 years of experience in Information Technology Consulting and internal IT Leadership in the Distribution, Legal, and Healthcare verticals. He is the co.Founder and CTO of UOTech.co, an IT Consulting, Managed Services, and Information Security company based out of Plainview, NY.

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