A New Windows 8.1 Enterprise feature: Start screen Control

A New Windows 8.1 Enterprise feature: Start screen Control

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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-mgmt\Layouts$\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

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  • How about putting an option back for the classic start menu for those that want it? Modern apps? not in my company. We don't want to be tracked! Linux can do something this simple and may be my new choice for OS going forward. As much as I hate Linux, it may be the better option if I can't get a normal start menu!

  • This may not be exactly what you're looking for, but you can grab the "appsFolder.itemdata-ms" file from %appdata%\local\microsoft\windows under the user's profile, back it up, and then replace the file on the new machine. This worked in 8 but I haven't checked it in 8.1.

  • Is it possible to push a default Start Menu, but then let the users modify it as they desire?  Typically we configure a "suggested" Start Menu which would include shortcuts to Word and Outlook, but if the user modifies it after they receive the default/suggested one we're OK with that.

    Is there a built in/automated method that would allow the users individualized Start Menu to be backed up to a network location (not Skydrive), then restored on another computer if their existing hardware is replaced?  I'm guessing to backup we would use the PowerShell script as listed in this article upon logout, but I'm unclear on how would I get each individual's back onto their system upon login.



  • Nice abm, Much simpler solution :)

  • abm
    268 Posts

    , or you can simply open the website in IE11 (modern desktop one), right click and press the pin button :)

  • Yes it is!

    What you need to do is navigate to the hidden folder that is located at C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

    Copy or create the shortcut in this folder.

    Either use search to locate your shortcut or navigate to all you programs.

    Right click the shortcut and choose Pin to Start.

    This should do the job :)

  • Hello, is it possible to pin website links to the start screen - if you wanted to link to a fact sheet website or back to this blog post how would you go about this?