Creating a New Outlook Profile without User Involvement

Problem

During Exchange migrations my colleagues and I encounter various challenges. One of the most common  issues (at least for us) is that after a mail migration users need a new Outlook profile, but not a new Windows profile. In this article I would like to describe a simple solution how to create a new Outlook profile remotely without the user having to do anything manually.

Solution Description

The solution is relatively simple, the only requirement is that the user is a domain user and the user is receptive for group policies.
To explain all steps in a comprehensible way, let’s first have a look at the initial situation.

If we look at the registry on the client computer we find our Outlook settings under the following path:
Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook

Our goal is to have these entries deleted and re-entered via autodiscover.
To do this, we create a new Group Policy Object (GPO) on one of our domain controllers. In this example this GPO is called “Outlook_Profile_Reset”.

In this GPO we have to create two registry entries.
First we browse in the GPO settings under “User ConfigurationPreferencesWindows Settings to the element Registry.
Here we create a new entry with the following values:
Action: Delete
Hive: HKEY_CURRENT_USER
Key Path: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook

After that, select the tab “Common” and check the box “Apply once and do not reapply“.
This step is very important, because we want to delete our profile only once.

Then we create another registry key in the same place. This time we want Outlook to start the autodiscover directly.
Therefore we need the following settings:
Action: Update
Hive: HKEY_CURRENT_USER
Key Path: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook\AutoDiscover
Value Name: ZeroConfigExchangeOnce
Value type: REG_DWORD
Value: 1

Now that the required GPO has been created, it must be linked to the corresponding Organizational Unit.
NOTE: Because it is a user- and not a system-based GPO, the created GPO must be linked to a user OU.

Using and Testing the New GPO

The GPO is now applied in the regular update process or when the user logs on to the client computer. In this example we want to check to see if this GPO really works. The following steps are required for this.

On the client computer, the command prompt must be started in the user account. The command gpupdate /force must be executed.

If this command has been executed successfully, the command gpresult /r can be used to check if the newly created GPO has been applied:

As shown in this figure, the newly created GPO has been successfully applied.
In the next step, we can see in the registry on the client computer that all Outlook entries have been removed.

The last step for testing is to open the Mail tab in the Control Panel. There should be no Outlook profile left:

When the user opens his Outlook for the first time, his Outlook profile will be created. The great thing about this method is that it doesn’t require clicking through a wizard that the user might find confusing.

Finally, the registry can be checked again and the new entries after the first Outlook start are immediately visible.

Conclusion

I hope this tutorial helps you plan future deployments. More articles about Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Intune can be found here on Techgenix or on my personal blog.

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