documentation_2004

Windows 10 AME Documentation

The goal of the AME project is to provide a stable and non-intrusive build of Windows 10, without sacrificing usability and Win32 compatibility for the majority of mainstream applications. This includes the avoidance and riddance of privacy infringing automated data collection services, central to Microsoft’s strategy for the Windows 10 operating system.

This page provides a complete step-by-step description of how AME images are mastered based on Windows 10 build 2004 with minor proceeding updates, defining a complete documentation of this project.

While large portions of this process have been automated using various scripts and Linux command line utilities, a large majority requires manual effort, with many of the steps often producing differing and sometimes non-predictable results from instance to instance, increasing the difficulty of this procedure. As such, sections where abnormal behavior may occur have been appropriately highlighted.

It is also recommended that anyone attempting to reproduce the steps in this guide be moderately versed with Linux and consequently also not afraid of using the command line.


Firstly, you will need to grab a clean ISO of Windows 10 build 2004. This can be done from Microsoft’s website directly, via the use of third party tools, such as rg-adguard the Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Download Tool.

During installation, particularly the next few steps, it is necessary to disconnect your target machine from the Internet. Burn the image to a USB flash drive or attach it in your VM manager to boot the installation medium. A partition size of at least 32GB is required.

When asked to provide a product key, use your Windows 10 Pro key, or continue by clicking “I don't have a product key”. If your hardware has already been activated with a legitimate key, or if you have acquired your own, please enter your key.

If you purchased your key from a third party and have not activated that key using a vanilla Windows 10 Installation, you may want to do so, as the key will be tied to your motherboard and unable to be used again. Third party sellers sometimes check for this so they can make more money by reselling the key if you did not use it within a short time from purchasing it.

Post Install Procedure - After the initial installation perform the following steps:

The installation and initial setup proceeds mostly normally, with the arguably placebo-trier toggles for privacy being disabled for good measure.

It is again vital to mention that no internet connection be established during the entire installation!

https://ameliorated.info/video/Windows_Initial_Startup.mp4

Video: Windows 10 Post Install

During the initial post-install setup, select your default language, skip any network setup (it will ask twice, click no on the second prompt), and add a user as a local account. This user will be the user which does not have administrator privileges. The username can be anything you want, but on AME releases the username is simply “user”.


Simplifying the UI and removing extraneous visual features is one of the critical aspects of the amelioration process (as well as ensuring that certain subsequently damaged and/or non-responsive features are pulled from the interface). The following tasks need to be undertaken before the amelioration and ameliorate scripts are executed. Given the various extraneous and difficult to describe UI elements to be navigated for these procedures, videos have also been added to help document these basic tasks.

Note that although these tasks may appear simple, they need to be undertaken before the amelioration or ameliorate scripts are executed.


Windows 10 ships with very confusing and misguided functionality and features implemented by default in the taskbar. These can and should be removed manually, aiding in simplifying the UI. Note that most of these features will be unavailable once the amelioration script is executed. The Start Menu tiles (application links) are being removed now, for this very reason. Attempting to remove them later may actually not work.

https://ameliorated.info/video/startmenu_taskbar.mp4

Video: Cleaning up the Start Menu and Taskbar

Remove all tiles from the Start Menu and all links except for Windows Explorer from the taskbar. Set the taskbar to never combine and set the system tray to show all icons.




Before further changing the operating system, we recommend installing Microsoft’s security updates. Both the Servicing Stack Update (SSU) and Cumulative Updates are required to properly install updates. The Cumulative Update includes all updates released since the initial release of 2004. This means that only the latest Cumulative Update is required to obtain updates included in prior Cumulative Updates. The correct SSU for the Cumulative Update package can be found in the “How to get this update” section of each Cumulative Update page. For a full list of update options, as well as updates proceeding this guide, follow the Microsoft link here. The latest AME release uses SSU KB4577266 in conjunction with Cumulative Update KB4579311.

Proceed at your own risk when installing updates outside of the scope of this guide, as amelioration features with respect to privacy may be jeopardized.

To install an update, use Microsoft’s Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool.

Firstly, extract the desired .cab file from the .msu files:

C:\> expand -F:* <.msu file> <dest>

The SSU will need to be installed prior to the Cumulative Update, but the DISM command structure is identical. Just point to the correct .cab file.

Copy the Windows10.0-KB4577266-x64.cab and Windows10.0-KB4579311_PSFX.cab files to the root of the C: drive, or a location of your choosing, and run the following commands from an elevated command prompt:

C:\> dism /online /add-package /packagepath=C:\Windows10.0-KB4577266-x64.cab


Reboot before installing the Cumulative Update

C:\> shutdown /r /t 0


Continue by installing the Cumulative Update

C:\> dism /online /add-package /packagepath=C:\Windows10.0-KB4579311-x64_PSFX.cab


Once the Cumulative Update has finished installing, it will prompt for a reboot. Reboot a second time after Windows boots up. The last step concerning updates is to clear the Windows Update cache:

C:\> dism /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup


Sometimes the progress bar hangs in the command prompt; it will update if you type on the keyboard. Use the arrow keys since that will not put text on the screen. Cleaning up the cache currently takes longer than installing updates.


The amelioration process requires you to run a of batch script in Windows to prepare and finalise the Windows environment before and after amelioration, and a bash script in Linux to remove the Windows components responsible for telemetry.

The Windows scripts can be run from any location whilst the bash script must be placed at the root of your windows installation (C:\).

Download
BAT File 17 KiB
SHA256: D7F975052B5BF873ABF66BAD41856F9D748F34C4009AE6D4F4B90496EF185607 scripts-2004.2020.11.3.zip
Version 2004.2020.11.3



At this stage we are ready to begin the amelioration process, which is structured into various phases due to the nature of Windows 10's self-updating and healing capabilities. The amelioration script, the Windows-side component of the AME process, is responsible for disabling services, applying individual registry hacks, modifying various configuration files, and installing software. Consequently, this script has both options to be executed before and after the proceeding deletion process.

The script has been heavily commented to reasonably document each operation. Download the script:

Run the amelioration_2004.bat as Administrator

Once opened, run option 1 Pre-Amelioration from the main menu. This may take several minutes to complete, this will prompt for a reboot after completion.

The script will likely generate errors; this is fine, it is just unable to remove some of the built-in apps with PowerShell.




To assure that our changes are permanent, we need to remove Windows Update and its self-healing ability. This cannot be done within the running system because of Windows file permissions and repair operations. Another operating system, preferably a Linux distribution, is required for this step.

The Ameliorate script makes heavy use of filesystem fuzzing search operations to effectively find and remove all files classified under specific naming conventions by Microsoft and pipes these paths to delete commands. As noted above, modifying the Windows filesystem from Linux allows us the luxury of ignoring filesystem permissions and ensures that Windows cannot re-patch these files before we reboot. This process enables the complete deletion of all relevant binaries from the system. In addition to the removal process the script also generates a recovery script to restore all of the removed Windows files from backup.

The script is written in bash, and commented to reasonably document various deleted components.

Boot into Linux and mount your Windows drive.

Ensure ameliorate_2004.sh is in the root directory of your Windows drive, and execute it with root permissions:

$ sudo ./ameliorate_2004.sh


The script will generate ten errors, two for OfficeHub and eight for MicrosoftEdge. This is due to permissions. This seems to be fine and neither of the programs can run. For unknown reasons, there are multiple copies of Windows files all over the folder structure of Windows 10. The ones that actually run Microsoft Edge are successfully removed.

Once the script has finished, boot back into Windows to continue.


Run (Post) Amelioration Script

Due to the deletion process, at this stage, Windows 10 lacks even basic software, such as a web browser or media player. This process installs the Chocolatey package manager and a selection of basic sensible software.

Once again, run the amelioration_2004.bat as Administrator and enable internet access.

Run option 2 Post-Amelioration from the main menu. This may take several minutes to complete and will prompt for a reboot after completion.

Run option 3: User Permissions, which will open the netplwiz GUI for configuring Windows user permissions:

  • Reset password for Administrator account
  • Double click user account, go to the Group Membership tab and select Standard User
  • Click OK when finished. You will be asked to sign out, click Yes.

After logging back in, change the password of the default user.

In an elevated command prompt, type the following:

C:\> net user user *


Due to Windows 10's ongoing security fiasco and surfacing issues, not to mention AME's commitment to basic levels of security, certain functionality needs to be modified and/or accommodated for along those lines. In addition to the adjustments made by the amelioration script, Hardentools, an open-source project from Security Without Borders, provides an optimal inclusion.

Run the latest executable with administrator privileges:

  1. Uncheck the Powershell and cmd.exe box (unless desired)
  2. Click Harden!
  3. Click OK when finished


The application defaults for Windows 10 2004 can be set by using either the Windows Settings App, or by a more tedious, but more reliable manual process. The manual process was created due to the 1809 release of Windows 10 containing a feature regression which caused the Windows Settings App method for setting application defaults to be broken. The 2004 release of Windows 10 appears to have fixed this issue, but the manual guide is included as it is known to always set defaults successfully.

Setting the default browser, Music player and Video player are relatively simple one-off changes which need to be done using the Windows Settings App. Open the Windows Settings App, click Apps, then under “Web browser” select Firefox, do the same for “Music player” and “Video player” only this time selecting VLC.

For the rest of the defaults start by making empty files with the desired file type. You can use the bash script included (create_empty_files.sh) to generate the files. For example, for gif files; right click the generated file gif.gif, click Properties, click the Change button next to “Opens with:”, then navigate to the executable that you would like to handle that file type.

.doc - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors
.docx - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors
.gif - JPEGView
.flac - VLC
.mkv - VLC
.pdf - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors/Firefox
.pps - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors
.ppsx - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors
.ppt - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors
.pptx - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors
.xls - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors
.xlsx - ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors

  • JPEGView - C:\ProgramData\chocolatey\lib\jpegview\tools\app\JPEGView.exe
  • ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors - C:\Program Files\ONLYOFFICE\DesktopEditors\DesktopEditors.exe
  • VLC - C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC\vlc.exe


The goal of this section is to demonstrate how to modify the default wallpaper on a system level, replacing and/or adding the default GUI selection. The commands in this section will require an elevated command prompt.

First take basic permission ownership over the wallpaper you want to replace:

C:\> takeown /f C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\img0.jpg


Modify access control for the default wallpaper:

C:\> icacls C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\img0.jpg /reset


Replace the wallpaper with your own specified file:

C:\> copy <your wallpaper> C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\img0.jpg

After this, reboot, and go to Settings ⇒ Personalization and select your wallpaper.

The goal of this section is to demonstrate how to modify the default lockscreen image on a system level, replacing and/or adding the default GUI selection. The commands in this section will require an elevated command prompt.

First enable the lock screen with a reg add command:

C:\> reg add "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Personalization" /v NoLockScreen /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f


Run to enable the lock screen image on the sign-in window:

C:\> reg add "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\System /v DisableLogonBackgroundImage" /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f


Take basic permission ownership over the image you want to replace:

C:\> takeown /f C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Screen\img100.jpg


Modify access control for the default lock screen image:

C:\> icacls C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\img100.jpg /reset


Replace the lock screen image with your own specified file:

C:\> copy <your image> C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\img100.jpg


Replace the secondary lock screen image with your own specified file:

C:\> copy <your image> C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\img103.jpg


After this, go to Personalization ⇒ lockscreen and select your image. It should now show your personal wallpaper as the first image from the selection (far left).

To set the wallpaper to another image, only the registry edit and the copy commands will be needed as none of permissions need to be changed.

This marks the end of the AME guide, if you have any questions or concerns please place a message in the group chat, otherwise enjoy using your ameliorated Windows 10 install.

  • documentation_2004.txt
  • Last modified: 2020/11/03 18:43
  • by malte