Working on presentations frequently makes me revisit past stuff. And in this case, that “past stuff” predates my involvement with Windows Autopilot (I started working on it in 2018). Let’s go back to 2017, when Windows Autopilot was first being built (technically, it was probably 2016 since it released in 2017). There wasn’t yet any support in Intune, that was still a work-in-progress (and a sure sign of the silos that existed within Microsoft, with Autopilot being done by the Windows team). So, for a system that requires pre-registering and configuring settings on devices, what are you going to do? Pretty much anything you can. The result: multiple ways created by (and maintained by) multiple teams.
Most people started off initially using the Microsoft Store for Business. It lets you (quickly) import devices, created Autopilot profiles, and directly apply those profiles to computers (select a list of computers, choose the profile to apply to them, done in a fraction of a second). What’s not to like about that? Simple: The capabilities in the Microsoft Store for Business (run by yet another team within Microsoft) are frozen in time, supporting only the capabilities that existed in 2017, nothing new after that.
With the Microsoft Store for Business being retired in the first quarter of 2023, this one will be going away, so if you are still using it (for some reason), you need to start making the switch.
There’s also Partner Center, a system that is used by Microsoft partners of all types: resellers, distributors, service providers, etc. When you ask for a reseller to register devices on your behalf, this is what they use, and it works great for that. But like the Microsoft Store for Business, it too is frozen in time, not adding support for any new features released after 2017 (again, maintained by another team within Microsoft). So, it can’t take advantage of those new features. And weirdly enough, it can’t assign profiles that weren’t created in Partner Center, so even for those 2017 capabilities you would have needed to ask the partner to create and manage the profile for you.
It’s great for resellers and distributors to add devices to Autopilot for you via Partner Center, but you should manage the profile creation and assignment yourself. (Note that OEMs typically don’t use Partner Center, they use an OEM-specific API for registering devices. There’s no portal for that, just an API that the OEMs can call from their own systems.)
The portal that I always forget about (and apparently so does everyone else — never did find anyone who actually used it) is the Microsoft 365 Admin Center (https://admin.microsoft.com). It is structured pretty much like the Microsoft Store for Business: you can import devices, create profiles, and directly assign profiles to devices.
And yes, it too is stuck in 2017 (no new Autopilot profile options added since 2017, and yes, another Microsoft team — not that anyone would claim it). It apparently was created for a Microsoft 365 Business Premium and is fully documented, but that doesn’t mean I ever found any customers that used it.
So, at the end of the day Intune is the only portal that has been kept up to date, and as such it’s where you should be defining your devices and profiles. But it’s still useful to look at a more “direct” view — if you used the Microsoft Store for Business in the past (e.g. to manually delete a stubborn machine, to see if a profile has indeed been applied, etc.), you will probably want to shift over to the Microsoft 365 Admin Center as it can do the same stuff. Be careful if you assign profiles through a portal other than Intune though as that will likely flag the Autopilot device as “externally configured” so that Intune doesn’t accidentally overwrite its configuration. (At least that’s the way it was designed to work, not sure that I ever verified that it does indeed work that way.)
Categories: Windows Autopilot