Learn from my mistake when a trial turned into captivity! Uncover the twist that left my PC trapped in the digital chains of Microsoft Autopilot. 💻🔐 Don’t let this happen to you!
About a year ago, I eagerly initiated a Microsoft 365 demo tenant, envisioning a platform to test innovative ideas and immerse myself in cutting-edge technologies. This platform has served me well as my playground for experimentation. In this journey of discovery, one of my older computers became a willing participant in the Autopilot program. Recently the device was involved in testing the concepts of Intune-Powered Shared Windows 11 Devices.
The Unforeseen End and a Brave Decision
As the demo tenant’s expiration date approached, I eagerly sought to extend its duration, eager to continue my explorations. To my surprise, extending the trial proved impossible.
I made a bold decision to embark on a new 1-year trial. However, this transition came at a cost – the need to delete the existing trial tenant through the demos.microsoft.com portal. What could possibly go wrong? (famous last words) The day had already been long, and my eagerness drove me to press on. I was keen to resume my exploration, with my ToDo list brimming with notes to delve into.
Upon deletion, I was given a reminder of custom domains which was out of my scope.
The Dreaded Realization: Autopilot Hostage
Later that evening, during a leisurely stroll with my dog, reality struck me with brutal clarity. I couldn’t help but wonder: could there have been a device registered with Autopilot on the Tenant I had just deleted? It suddenly dawned on me that my cherished test device had unwittingly fallen into the clutches of the Autopilot program. Panic surged through me as I fully grasped the gravity of my mistake.
Desperate Attempts to Break Free from Autopilot Nightmare
Filled with growing concern, I initiated a search for a solution. The old tenant had as expected disappeared from my environments in the demos.microsoft.com portal. I held onto a glimmer of hope, praying that Microsoft had simultaneously cleared the Autopilot devices registered with the tenant.
Driven by curiosity, I embarked on a series of frantic measures, including a device reset, and a reinstallation from a USB stick. Luckily I hadn’t locked the UEFI BIOS completely down on this test device during my HP Connect for Intune, Part2: BIOS Authentication experiments earlier. Once reinstalled, the hardware hash was exported, and attempted to import it into my new demo tenant.
Regrettably, these efforts proved futile. The device wouldn’t import and remain obstinately imprisoned by the old deleted demo tenant.
Seeking Help Recovering My Device
With the walls closing in, I reached out to Microsoft support, anticipating a lifeline. Predictably, they requested the elusive original purchase receipts to prove the ownership of my device.
I was fully aware of this requirement. I have previously described this in my post Stuck in the Autopilot Device Deadlock. it is also clearly outlined in the Microsoft Learn article, which provides guidance on seeking Microsoft Support to remove Autopilot device records. Yet, who retains receipts for devices aging several years?
Lesson learned: Keep a record of the original PDFs proving the ownership of your devices!
Alternatively, if you consistently use one vendor for all your purchases, you can most likely contact them to obtain a copy of the receipt. I have a good relationship with Glenn who delivered this computer a couple of years ago. He could actually help me out with the missing documentation 👏
Waiting impatiently for a possible PDF, I attempted to solve the issue using technology…
A Glimmer of Hope: Rediscovering Access
In a parallel effort, I attempted to access portal.azure.com using my old Global Admin credentials. To my surprise, the tenant seemed alive, albeit my password no longer matched. After a successful password recovery, I regained access, only to discover Intune was inaccessible. A quick troubleshooting session revealed that the licenses were missing. A dash of hope ignited when I added an Intune demo license to the tenant, granting me access.
Astonishingly, the Autopilot device table was empty.
The Key to Freedom: Rediscovering the Device
Persistence and a stroke of luck led me to an unexpected solution. A deep dive into my previous blog posts guided me to the old Microsoft Store for Business. Miraculously, this portal was still operational.
Navigating through, I located my device and promptly removed it from Autopilot’s clutches.
Liberation: My Device Reclaims Freedom
Finally, my device was free, back under my control. And I have a PDF receipt safely stored! The device is now onboarded in my brand-new pilot environment. I’ve gained a valuable lesson from this costly experience, and I hope that others can also learn from it. 😎
Requiring documentation before deregistration might seem overwhelming for some. However, I totally understand the need for clear proof of ownership before deregistering a corporate device.
If the customer has a partner agreement with Microsoft, the process is less strict, and Microsoft can proceed with just the CSV file.
This experience underscored vital lessons:
- The importance of vigilance in monitoring device registrations in Autopilot.
- The necessity to clear out the Autopilot registry before terminating a tenant.
- The smartness of meticulous record-keeping with original PDF receipts for every device in your possession.
- The advantage of buying all assets from a single vendor/partner fostering a strong relationship to help out with original receipts or deregistrations.