Windows 10 , the current branch release at time of writing , is recommended by Microsoft for all new deployments. Windows 10 LTSB and the reasons most people want to change things up. The right-hand side is the tile area, which is stored in a combination of file system and registry locations. The default configuration and layout of this start menu is pulled from the default user profile via the following location:. Typically, in a VDI environment, we do not want either of these things, however removing them is not as easy as it would seem and comes with some inherent risk.
There is a full write-up from Microsoft on the architecture behind the XML design; however, it is far simpler to create a start menu as you like it, export it, and then deploy it. These often look and feel like Microsoft modern apps, but they are third party products. Removal of the consumer experience-based applications can be handled simply by Group Policy for Enterprise Windows This policy is located here:.
The Citrix Optimizer tool provides the ability to remove Microsoft modern apps from the default user profile, ensuring the all new user profiles do not provision these applications.
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However, it will not touch existing profiles, including the profile under which you are running the tool. If you need to remove the applications from that profile you, you have to do it manually. In the detail below, the following configuration and settings are in place to make our demo environment what it is:. As such, with the above configured, the base start menu, for all users, looks as shown below. If you would like to see the process undertaken to gain this style of start menu, you can view my blog post here.
There are three scenarios available for custom layouts, each built off the Microsoft capability of deploying a full start layout or a partial start layou t, per Microsoft definitions. In the image below, we have logged on to the Windows 10 Enterprise image with an account used to create a default layout that we want to apply to all others. This user is not hampered by an existing start menu configuration policy; it is, happily, default everything. In the start menu, we have pinned a load of applications available on the base image and created some groupings:.
We store this XML file in a location that is accessible to all users on the network, as we will deploy it later. If you were to open this XML file, you would see how the tile layout is structured and how it can be manipulated. A full technical specification of this XML file is provided by Microsoft.
To deploy this new layout to users, create a new group policy object, apply it to the Windows 10 OU ensure Loopback is enabled , and configure the following setting:. Choosing to use the user configuration rather than the computer configuration here allows flexibility to apply different layouts to different departments based on filtering of GPOs. Note that in the layout currently applied, there is no ability to alter it. There is no ability to pin, unpin, move, or alter the start menu layout in any way. For those that want some flexibility, read on.
As we mentioned above, a partial start layout allows some flexibility for the users to create their own groups and start menu items, whilst at the same time ensuring the default and required layouts are maintained to a certain level. To change the existing deployed layout to a partial start layout, we need to alter the exported XML file and alter the following element:. There are some considerations to be aware of here in how a partial start menu is applied:. As you can see straight away, what we have by default before applying a partial start layout , directly impacts what the users will see.
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In the environment depicted below, this is fine as we have dealt with modern apps and edge, however if you have not done so, you will be directly impacted by the default start menu when using a partial start layout as shown below:. This is where the option of overwriting the default layout on the base image may become appealing for some, using the import-start layout commandlet.
The import-start layout commandlet allows a default layout as to your liking for all new users. You still need to follow the above process of defining and exporting a layout file, however this time you simply import the layout back into the system to create a new baseline.
This creates a new LayoutModification. Once the xml file has been altered to allow for partial start layout , logging back on shows some noticeable changes as shown below:. Note that in the above image, our locked groups are defined by a lock icon now identifying that these are controlled groups that cannot be altered from a content perspective. The rest of the layout however is free-for-all, as shown below:. As you have probably noticed by now, we have addressed two out of the three layout approaches discussed above. We attacked the predefined mandatory start menu layout scenario by utilising a full start layout approach which allows not customisation.
We attacked the predefined, partially customisable start menu layout by utilising a partial start layout and discussed how to address existing layout items and how they will affect a partial start layout. Our last — and the simplest scenario to deal with — is a predefined, yet completely customisable layout. This is met by following the same process we used to prepare our existing layouts for a partial start layout approach, by utilising the import-startlayout commandlet, we just never move on to defining a managed layout via Group Policy.
Whilst the days of managing simple start menus in simple ways are behind us, the general experience that end users have with Windows 10 far exceeds what we could ever have imagined back when redirecting Windows XP start menus to a common network share. Microsoft have provided a set of tools that when understood and configured appropriately, allow us to deliver a great user experience to end users, whilst still retaining a level of control, and at the same time flexibility that IT may need.
In Part 2 of this series, we will address considerations and the process of updating these layouts when changes occur within your environment, and how to appropriately prepare and deploy updates to your user base.
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