Announcing Right Click Tools 4.0 - Unified Write Filter Manager

Recast Right Click Tools 4.0 had several new features and changes, one of which was separating the functionality of Lab Manager in 3.X into two new options, Kiosk Manager and Unified Write Filter Manager. This post we'll cover Microsoft's Unified Write Filter (UWF) technology and how Recast's solution will remove some of the pain of implementation of UWF. We've made several enhancements to predefined exclusions, which include the Configuration Manager Client, Windows, Defender, and some 3rd Party AV apps. Many exclusions you should NOT do have been documented, and you'll want to keep that list handy. In my testing, I had added some of those and caused the blue screen of death boot loop and I ended up re-imaging the machine.

Unified Write Filter, which I covered the basics and the native functionality and implementation in the previous post. This post is going to go over where Recast's Right Click Tools can help simplify and allow you to better manage UWF devices.  

Assuming you read the previous post, and understand the fundamentals of UWF, I'm going to jump right into how Recast Right Click Tools assists in managing UWF.

The Right Click Tool UWF Menu
  • Apply UWF Profile: Applies a group of UWF settings you've pre-created to a specific machine (or set of machines). Settings include file and registry exclusions, overlay type (RAM or disk and size)
  • Disable Unifed Write Filter: Disables the UWF on drive C:
  • Install Unified Write Filter: Installs the Windows Feature Unified Write Filter
  • Manage UWF Profiles: Where you create the profile of settings that you deploy in the Apply UWF Profile.
  • Unified Write Filter Status: A "Dashboard" for a specific computer that gives you the current status, and allows you to take actions.

Manage UWF Profiles

This is the tool that you'll be able to create, modify, delete, update profiles.... you know, manage them.

There are two screens, one for managing the profile properties, you can rename it, delete it or export it, along with create a new one. On the second screen you'll get a list of file & registry exclusions long with the "cache" options. (Virtual Overlay Settings, more info from MS Docs) By default, this will be blank, but we've provided several common exclusions you can use to populate the list.  In this example I chose "ConfigMgr Client, Windows Defender, and Windows".  This way once applied, when these items make updates to these files / folders / registry items, they will persist through the reboots.

Install Unified Write Filter

Lets go to a workstation now and install the UWF Feature.

Confirmed that the UWF Feature was NOT installed before running the tool
Confirmed that the Right Click Action did indeed install the Windows Feature

Lets look at the current status of that machine's UWF in the command line:

As we would expect, the Filter is "OFF" and the overlay settings are set to the defaults.

Lets look at the Unified Write Filter Status Tool

The Data returned is the same as from the command line, except its in your ConfigMgr console, and from here, we can now take action, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

Apply UWF Profile

On our demo machine that we've installed UWF Feature, I'm going to go ahead and apply the UWF Profile I created.

Now the Recast UWF Profile is applied to the machine.  Lets Confirm:

I had to trim a bit, I did not show the top part of the output which shows "Current Session" as nothing changed there, but "Next Session" you can see the filter will enable, the Drive C will be protected, and the exclusions have been added. Lets look at the Recast Tool.

Current Session Information
Next Session Information

The Recast UWF Status "Dashboard" aligns with the data in the command prompt. We see that when we reboot the machine and it enters the "Next Session" that we'll be locked down. Lets reboot.

You can Right Click the Computer Name and get the context Menu, and we'll reboot from there.

The UWF Status Manager now shows UWF is enabled. I went ahead and created a file on the desktop to test that it is discarded after the reboot.

After the reboot the file was gone as I expected, didn't think you cared enough to see a screen capture without it, I assume you trust me by now.

If you're testing on a machine trying to get it just right before you create a profile and push to your collection, you can easily add and remove exclusions right in the Exclusions portion.

Once you get it tweaked, you can update your main Profile, and push it out.  Remember, every change you make in exclusions, you'll need to reboot for it to take effect.

Unified Write Filter Status

So we've already spent a fair bit of time inside of this Right Click Tool, but I'm going to cover some of the items you can do with it.

  • See overall Current and Next Session UWF Status [MS Docs]
  • Add or Remove Exclusions on the machine [MS Docs]
  • Enable\Disable UWF Windows Feature [MS Docs]
  • Enable\Disable UWF protections [MS Docs]
  • Enable\Disable Servicing Mode [MS Docs]
  • Restart Machine

I really like this tool, gives me an overview of the UWF status of a machine, and allows me to take action.

If you'd like any additional information about the Recast UWF Manager, how in-depth guides to using it for a specific situation, contact support and we'll be happy to assist and write up additional blogs posts or docs that would be of assistance.