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AutoPilot hanging at “checking connection to Microsoft”

I ran into some trouble recently with a machine that had previously been registered for Intune/Microsoft Endpoint Manager AutoPilot deployment hanging on a Windows reinstall (the SSD had been replaced).

The machine would sit at “checking connection to Microsoft. This might take a while”.

Take a while it did — a spell overnight on this very screen would not help. I used Shift+F10 to get some diagnostics tooling on the system. I could see references to a /join HTTPS endpoint being accessed that seemed to be Intune-related, but it was neither obviously succeeding nor failing.

Some perusal of logfiles suggested to me that UEFI variables are involved in the AutoPilot process.

Fortunately, the machines in question are desktop PCs. A very simple way to (destructively!) clear out UEFI variables was to remove the CMOS battery for a period of time. Upon trying again, we jump right past “checking connection to Microsoft” and can move forward with the install.

On systems where a battery pull is not effective, it may be worth getting yourself into a UEFI shell and using dmpstore to identify UEFI variables in NVRAM that may be related to AutoPilot and deleting them. Sorry I can’t be more specific!