2026 WSE Connector Retirement

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I’m intrigued by the WSEE idea, but I see a possible chink in the armor—the Client Connector installation experience.

When Microsoft officially retires WSE 2016 in three years from now, they presumably will also remove the download URL and file(s) that Connector uses when it does its installation magic.

I’ve tried a couple of different ways of making it a local-only installation (archiving the .MSI and its accompanying files during installation, etc.), but none seem to work reliably for later installs. I always end up having to go back to the sanctioned black-box setup method—the one that downloads from an (unknown) ‘official’ source.

Given this conundrum, how can we hope to see WSEE Connector installations working fully and properly after 2026?

 

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Actually, the Windows Server Essentials Connector software is sourced and delivered directly from the Essentials server itself and so there’s nothing for Microsoft to remove from their servers that would cause it to stop working. Basically, when you browse to http://YourServerName/connect and click on the download link, the client connector’s MSI file is sourced from your local server and delivered to the client over the HTTP(S) connection. Microsoft definitely designed that part of Essentials really well. Kudos to them!

That being said… Once Windows Server 2016 Essentials reaches end of life (on 1/12/2027) you’d probably be better off moving on to something different at that time (seeing as Microsoft will no longer be supporting any of the Essentials bits after that). While the Essentials bits will probably continue to run as expected long after that, they’ll definitely be getting long in the tooth by then (and I’ll most likely stop making the WSEE Installer available after that date).

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It is indeed downloading an additional install file from the cloud however there’s a workaround if for some reason the download fails. I found this out while trouble-shooting a client connector install fail.

According to the install log file at %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows Server\Logs\Computerconnector.log

it was trying to download a file linked to by http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=789477 but failing (for unknown reasons.) However using a browser session the link works and it successfully downloads WSEClient-x64.msi

If you now copy this file into the temp installation folder C:\Windows\Temp\ClientDeploymentTempFiles\ and repeat the installation, then the connector installation then completes. Presumably the download still fails however it then finds that the file it needs is strangely already where it should be and carries on with the install.

(Whether that install in my case was successful is another matter. From the dashboard it shows that Backup is “Not Supported” however I suspect that’s because I’ve added in a server running Windows Server 2022 as a client which I suspect isn’t supported. In any case my point is that there is a potential workaround here.)

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“…the Windows Server Essentials Connector software is sourced and delivered directly from the Essentials server itself…”

 

Hm, interesting to hear you say that. My experience has been otherwise.

Yes, the initial connection to and download from occurs with the local server, but during Setup the installer goes out and downloads some bits from the Dark Side.

I’ve been able to confirm this behavior (repeatedly) by noting the steady and prolonged network activity in Task Manager, activity that exactly equates to my bandwidth speed cap, and that persists for roughly 30-60 seconds.

If the installer were downloading those bits from the local server, the download would be nearly instant and I’d have seen a mere blip on the 1Gbps radar.

I’ve also tried running the installer with the Internet gateway turned off, and with my previously-archived bits in place, and Setup has failed (message something like “couldn’t access necessary components” or some such thing).

Again, this is in my experience.

 

“…Microsoft will no longer be supporting any of the Essentials bits after that.”

 

Actually, according to Mariette Knap over at http://www.Server-Essentials.com, Microsoft refuses to support the WSE bits even today, if they’re installed on top of anything that they didn’t ship with (Server 2019, 2022, etc.). But that’s not the point—for my part at least, I don’t care whether they support it or not. Or whether it’s long in the tooth or not. It’s near-bulletproof and it works as is.

The point is the beautiful simplicity in server management that WSEE brings to the table. I tried my hand at WAC and found myself pulling at the small amount of hair I have left within mere minutes.

Naturally I’ll be adopting the underlying server OSs as they release, so that part’s not a problem.

I’ve just gone and fallen in love with the Essentials Experience, that’s all :- )

So the problem remains—what to do about that awful day when the Connector installer won’t be able to download those necessary bits?

 

 

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve looked at that part of the Essentials source code, but as far as I remember, the client connector installer program is indeed pulled across the LAN/WAN from the Essentials server, and is not downloaded directly from Microsoft’s servers. If you use http://YourServerName/connect to retrieve the client connector, then it would come across the local network (just like the /connect webpage that you’re being served up does), and if you use something like https://remote.YourDomainName.remotewebaccess.com/connect, then it would come across the Internet (again, just like the /connect webpage that you’re being served up does). The file that you’re being served up (ComputerConnector.exe) comes from the Essentials server located at “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Server\Bin\WebApps\Client\Package(2)”. Again, that’s how the source code works unless Microsoft has changed something in it since the last time I looked at it (years ago now). I suppose that you could always compare the digital signature on the file to see if you’re getting the same one (or better yet, just replace the local file with a dummy file of the same name and see if the dummy file gets delivered to you from the /connect webpage instead).

Obviously, Microsoft would never support installing the Essentials bits from Windows Server 2016 onto Windows Server 2019/2022 (and so Mariette is indeed correct there), but they should still fully support the Essentials bits over on 2016 itself until 1/12/2027. And if Microsoft ever updates/changes any of those bits, I’ll deliver them to 2019/2022 via my WSEE Updater program (hence you’d still receive the updates of those “supported” bits). However, after 1/12/2027, Microsoft most likely won’t ever update any of the Essentials bits even under 2016. That being said… I think Microsoft gave up on Essentials a long time ago and has no plans on updating/fixing anything it in ever again (unless some catastrophe forces them to do so that is). According to my records, Microsoft hasn’t updated/changed any of the Essentials bits since way back in January of 2021 when OS Build 14393.4169 was released.

With all of that said… I personally wouldn’t plan on continuing to use the Essentials bits (be it under 2016, 2019, 2022, etc.) after 1/12/2027, but that’s just me. I assume that the client connector will continue to work just fine until then. After that, you can always just grab it straight from the server and copy it over to your clients if I am wrong on the delivery mechanism (which I don’t think I am ;- ) ).

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“…if I am wrong on the delivery mechanism…”

 

Try it out, you’ll see what I mean :- )

Yes, the first part does indeed download from the server, LAN-only. But after about the second screen or so, ComputerConnector.exe starts pulling down files from some destination across the Internet. (In hindsight, I suppose I could’ve used Fiddler to get at that info.)

If you’re running a fast connection from your ISP you likely wouldn’t notice it, but at the time we had a max 2 Mbps. It really showed up then.

And like I said… I tried a few different approaches, e.g. getting the process run location and archiving those files for the next time out. But ultimately nothing worked except letting the installer take the time to download what it needed from Microsoft. That was a real PITA with a slow connection and many workstations (which is what inspired my efforts to make it all local in the first place).

Give it a spin when you get a chance—I’m confident you’ll be able to reproduce this behavior.

  • Mike
    Ah, I see what you’re saying now… I’m only talking about the initial download of the client connector installer itself. It is indeed quite possible that the installer then calls out to Microsoft’s servers in order to download whatever files it needs to install from there. If that’s the case, then you would indeed be stuck up the proverbial creek without a paddle. I guess that I could reverse engineer the client connector installer as well if I needed too, but as far as I’m concerned, you really shouldn’t be using Essentials once Windows Server 2016 Essentials reaches end of life on 1/12/2027. When I get some free time I’ll certainly look into this one a bit more though. Thx for bringing it to my attention.
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Righto, it’s after ComputerConnector.exe runs. Thanks for having a look at it.

Would that we even make it to 2027 ;- )

  • Mike
    LOL knowing Microsoft maybe not.
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@billd

> however there’s a workaround if for some reason the download fails

 

Good sleuthing! We can use this.

I believe you’re correct on the ‘Not Supported’ question. I ran into the same thing under the exact same circumstances.

 

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@build

Nice sleuthing indeed! Appreciate you chiming in on this one.

Although it may well have all been for not seeing as you can actually download all iterations of the Windows Server Essentials Connector software (i.e. Mac, Windows 7, 8.x, and 10+) directly from Microsoft over here:

Windows Server Essentials Connector

Might be a good idea for folks to grab them all as a “just in case”. ;- )

BTW, it appears that the ComputerConnector.exe program that’s downloaded from the Essentials server merely evaluates the client computer’s specs and then reaches out to Microsoft’s servers and grabs the appropriate iteration of the client connector MSI file. Lastly, it doesn’t look like Microsoft has changed/updated any of the client connector MSI files since 2016 (although I’m unsure if Windows Update updates any of the files once the client connector software has been installed onto the client).

Get Connected in Windows Server Essentials

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FYI:

PS S:\Setup\WSE 2016> Get-FileHash .\WSEClient-x64.msi
SHA256
14EB793F4A74507AB39C77F2ACD1DCCF7E6BEA4F3819E40809E71B687558139F

PS S:\Setup\WSE 2016\Connector Installers> Get-FileHash .\WSEClient-x64.msi
SHA256
14EB793F4A74507AB39C77F2ACD1DCCF7E6BEA4F3819E40809E71B687558139F

 

So this one and the one from the previous download link are the same.

 

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I would be really surprised if WSEClient-x64.msi were to stop working anytime soon (like in the next decade) given 1. as InteXX says it hasn’t changed in a long time and 2. it would imply some kind of change that would mess with a bunch of other legacy stuff.

For completeness I also noticed that it also downloads .NET Framework 4.5 however that’s unlikely to go away in any case.

FYI, here is a more complete list of what it’s doing:

[11/05/2023 16:22:41 3210] ExpandEnvironmentStrings return (C:\WINDOWS\Temp\ClientDeploymentTempFiles\)
[11/05/2023 16:22:41 3210] SetPackageDlcUrl: .NET url is set to http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9816306
[11/05/2023 16:22:41 3210] SetPackageDlcUrl: Connector url is set to http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=789477
...
[11/05/2023 16:22:45 33c] CComputerconnector::RunTasks: Running Task: Id=-1 Description=Downloading .NET Framework 4.5... Index= 1
[11/05/2023 16:22:45 33c] CComputerconnector::RunTasks: Running Task: Id=-1 Description=Installing .NET Framework 4.5... Index= 2
[11/05/2023 16:22:45 33c] CComputerconnector::RunTasks: Running Task: Id=-1 Description=Downloading the Connector... Index= 3
[11/05/2023 16:22:45 33c] CComputerconnector::RunTasks: Running Task: Id=-1 Description=Installing Windows Server Essentials Connector... Index= 4
[11/05/2023 16:22:45 33c] CComputerconnector::RunTasks: Running Task: Id=-1 Description=Starting the Windows Server Essentials Connector configuration... Index= 5
[11/05/2023 16:22:45 33c] RunShellExecute: ShellExecute [C:\Program Files\Windows Server\Bin\ClientDeploy.exe] with parameters [ -Server:192.168.1.10 -LaunchedFrom:installer]
  • InteXX
    Looks good!
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