Setting the Computer Description During Windows Autopilot

I’ve been getting to grips with Windows Autopilot recently and, having a long history working with SCCM, I’ve found it hard not to compare it with the power of traditional OSD using a task sequence. In fact, one of my goals was to basically try to reproduce what I’m doing in OSD with Autopilot in order to end up with the same result – and it’s been a challenge.

I like the general concept of Autopilot and don’t get me wrong – it’s getting better all the time – but it still has its shortcomings that require a bit of creativity to work around. One of the things I do during OSD is to set the computer description in AD. That’s fairly easy to do in a task sequence; you can just script it and run the step using credentials that have the permission to make that change.

In Autopilot however (hybrid AAD join scenario), although you can run Powershell scripts too, they will only run in SYSTEM context during the Autopilot process. That means you either need to give computer accounts the permission to change their own properties in AD, or you have to find a way to run that code using alternate credentials. You can run scripts in the context of the logged-on user, but I don’t want to do that – in fact I disable the user ESP – I want to use a specific account that has those permissions.

You could use SCCM to do it post-deployment if you are co-managing the device, but ideally I want everything to be native to Autopilot where possible, and move away from the hybrid mentality of do what you can with Intune, and use SCCM for the rest.

It is possible to execute code in another user context from SYSTEM context, but when making changes in AD the DirectoryEntry operation kept erroring with “An operations error occurred”. After researching, I realized it is due to AD not accepting the authentication token as it’s being passed a second time and not directly. I tried creating a separate powershell process, a background job, a runspace with specific credentials – nothing would play ball. Anyway, I found a way to get around that by using the AccountManagement .Net class, which allows you to create a context using specific credentials.

In this example, I’m setting the computer description based on the model and serial number of the device. You need to provide the username and password for the account you will perform the AD operation with. I’ve put the password in clear text in this example, but in the real world we store the credentials in an Azure Keyvault and load them in dynamically at runtime with some POSH code to avoid storing them in the script. I hope in the future we will be able to run Powershell scripts with Intune in a specific user context, as you can with steps in an SCCM task sequence.

# Set credentials
$ADAccount = "mydomain\myADaccount"
$ADPassword = "Pa$$w0rd"

# Set initial description
$Model = Get-WMIObject -Class Win32_ComputerSystem -Property Model -ErrorAction Stop| Select -ExpandProperty Model
$SerialNumber = Get-WMIObject -Class Win32_BIOS -Property SerialNumber -ErrorAction Stop | Select -ExpandProperty SerialNumber
$Description = "$Model - $SerialNumber"

# Set some type accelerators
Add-Type -AssemblyName System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement -ErrorAction Stop
$Accelerators = [PowerShell].Assembly.GetType("System.Management.Automation.TypeAccelerators")

# Connect to AD and set the computer description
$Domain = [System.DirectoryServices.ActiveDirectory.Domain]::GetCurrentDomain()
$PrincipalContext = [PrincipalContext]::new([ContextType]::Domain,$Domain,$ADAccount,$ADPassword)
$Account = [Principal]::FindByIdentity($PrincipalContext,[IdentityType]::Name,$env:COMPUTERNAME)
$LDAPObject = $Account.GetUnderlyingObject()
If ($LDAPObject.Properties["description"][0])
    $LDAPObject.Properties["description"][0] = $Description