A New Windows 8.1 Enterprise feature: Start screen Control

This blog post is part of a series of guest posts we’re publishing in the coming weeks from Windows 8.1 experts across Microsoft. – Ben

Windows 8.1 Enterprise is now available, and included in it is a brand new feature called Start screen control. For those not familiar with this new feature, it is designed to allow IT pros to configure the layout of the Start screen for a group of users, preventing those users from making changes to that layout.

So how exactly does this work? First, you need to configure an appropriate layout for the group of users. For example, maybe you want the Start screen to only include Office, Internet Explorer, and the Desktop icon, so you arrange the layout like so:

Start Screen 1

Once arranged, you can export this layout into an XML file using a simple PowerShell command:

PS C:> Export-StartLayout –As XML –Path contoso-mgmtLayouts$ManagedUser.xml

Next, you can specify a path to this layout file using Active Directory Group Policy. From the Group Policy Management Editor, navigate to “User Configuration Policies Administrator Templates Start Menu and Taskbar” where you can find the “Start Screen Layout” policy setting:

Start Screen GPO

Enable this setting and specify the path to the layout file that you exported using PowerShell. (Make sure to use a path that is accessible to the users.)

Now all that remains is trying it out. Ensure that the group policy containing that setting has been targeted to a user, then log in as that user. What you will see is the identical Start screen layout that you had configured before:

Start Screen 2

And the user won’t be able to make any changes – no new items, no removing items, no rearranging items. The layout is completely locked. If you have different layouts that you want to use for different users, just repeat this process and target a different layout file via different group policies. If you want to make changes to the layout, you can update the XML layout file and those changes will appear the next time the user logs in.

For more information on this process, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn467928.aspx. For more information on Windows 8.1 Enterprise, visit Springboard.

Michael Niehaus
Senior Product Marketing Manager
Windows Commercial