The default Start menu layout in Windows 10 is most likely not the configuration that you want to deploy in your network. With the help of Group Policy and PowerShell, you can easily deploy a user-specific Start menu.
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Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in IT management and system administration.
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Creating your Start menu layout ^

The first thing you have to do is prepare a reference machine that has all the applications installed that you want to pin to the Start layout. To pin a new tile to the Start menu, you first have to find it through Start search. Next, you right-click the tile and select Pin to Start.

Configurating the Start layout in Windows 10

Configuring the Start layout in Windows 10

To remove a tile, right-click it and then click Unpin from Start. Of course, you can also arrange the tiles by just dragging them to their position.

After the Start menu has the configuration that you want to deploy, you have to run the following PowerShell command:

Exporting the Start menu configuration with Export-StartLayout

Exporting the Start menu configuration with Export-StartLayout

This exports the current Start menu configuration to an XML file. Note that the Export-StartLayout cmdlet in Windows 10 differs from its counterpart in Windows 8/8.1. The new cmdlet no longer offers the -As parameter that allowed you to choose between an XML and a binary format.

In theory, you can modify the XML file in a text editor because its structure is relatively simple. However, I think it is easier to use the Start menu of your reference machine to create the configuration that you want to deploy.

Start menu configuration stored in an XML file

Start menu configuration stored in an XML file

Deploying the Start menu layout via Group Policy ^

Next, you can deploy the settings via Group Policy by specifying the XML file. The policy can be found at User Configuration  > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar > Start Screen Layout. The same policy is also available under Computer Configuration.

Start Screen Layout Group Policy

Start Screen Layout Group Policy

Note that the corresponding policy in Windows 10 is no longer called “Start Screen Layout” but just “Start Layout.” It will be interesting to see how the policy will be named in Windows Server 2016.

Start Layout Group Policy in Windows 10

Start Layout Group Policy in Windows 10

A downside of this method might be that the Start menu will be locked. That is user can no longer pin or unpin tiles. However, perhaps this is just what you want.

Importing the Start layout from a WIM image ^

Another option is to import the Start layout configuration from a mounted WIM image that you will deploy in your network. For this purpose, you would use the Import-StartLayout cmdlet:

In Windows 8, you would have imported the binary Start screen configuration file. However, because Windows 10 no longer supports this format, you have to work with the XML file.

You can also import the Start layout during an MDT deployment.

Update: It is unclear if this feature works in Windows 10 Pro or not. When I first tried it, it didn’t work. I tried it again after a reader’s comment (see below) and it worked now in 1511 and 1607  (see comments below).

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26 Comments
  1. avatar
    Madhu Sunke 2 years ago

    I always prefers MDT for start menu customization ; because user don't have rights to change start layout if you deploy through GPO but in MDT user can modify.

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  2. Profile gravatar of Michael Pietroforte
    Michael Pietroforte 2 years ago

    Madhu, that's a very good point. It is just that sometimes you have to change Start after OS deployment. I guess if you want users to be able to change Start, you have to work with Group Policy Preferences and the corresponding Registry keys.

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  3. avatar
    Samuel Auger 2 years ago

    Please note that only Windows 10 Enterprise supports this GPO, not the Pro edition.

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  4. avatar
    IT Support Dublin 2 years ago

    Hi Samuel, this works fine in Windows 10 Pro.

    Hi Michael, another point on this GPO is that you shouldn't deploy it until you are 100% certain all your apps have been installed.
    For example, say you have assigned the GPO and the xml layout for the start menu has tiles for Word, Excel, Outlook and some Microsoft Store Apps. If the user logs in but they don't have Office or the MS store apps installed then the tiles will be missing. This is fair enough but the problem is the tiles will not appear once the apps are installed. It looks like this GPO is applied once then the start menu is locked. Even removing and re-applying the GPO will not "refresh" the start menu and restore the missing tiles. Pretty frustrating. You have to refresh manually with the Import-StartLayout command:
    Import-StartLayout -LayoutPath \\servername\sharename\startmenu.xml

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  5. Profile gravatar of Michael Pietroforte
    Michael Pietroforte 2 years ago

    I didn't try this case. Did you try to disable the policy, restart and then apply it again?

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  6. avatar
    anon 2 years ago

    "Start screen control using Group Policy is supported in Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education. Start screen control is not supported in Windows 10 Pro."

    Source: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt431718(v=vs.85).aspx

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  7. avatar
    IT Support Dublin 2 years ago

    Hi Michael,

    If you install the missing apps then modify the xml file to change the time stamp the missing tiles will appear at the next log on.

    Also, here is setting I found that worked well if you would like to apply a default start menu to all users but also allow then to edit or add to it:

    If you have ever used GPMC to export then import a start menu GPO to another server that does not have Windows 10 gpo templates, you will have noticed that it is simply applying 2x reg edits from looking at the "settings" tab in GPMC. The 2x registry changes are:
    HKCU\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\StartLayoutFile String \\domain.local\share\pathtoxml.xml
    and
    HKCU\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer\LockedStartLayout DWORD 1

    Both of these keys need to be set for the default xml to apply. LockedStartLayout must be 1 for it to apply but it must be 0 to be able to edit it.

    So rather than use the "User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar > Start Screen Layout" to set the start menu, use the registry setting
    "User Configuration > Preferences > Windows Settings > Registry to create 3x registry entries with the following order
    1. StartLayoutFile pointing to the xml
    2. LockedStartLayout 0
    3. LockedStartLayout 1 with the box "apply once and do not re-apply" checked

    When the user logs on for the first time LockedStartLayout will be 1 and the xml will apply but the next time they log on LockedStartLayout will be 0 and they can edit their start menu.

    Tested on 3x different networks across approx 200 PC's all Windows 10 Pro.

    Note that since LockedStartLayout is 0, modifying the xml in future (to overwrite the users startmenu changes or for tiles to display for apps that were not originally installed when it first applied) will not have any impact unless you mess around with the policy again to set LockedStartLayout to 1.

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  8. avatar
    john 1 year ago

    Also, you need to add the Windows 10 Admin templates (at least if using a non-microsoft domain control like zentyal)

    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=48257

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  9. avatar
    Harry Bijl 1 year ago

    I agree with Samual and anon.. even MS says: "Start layout control using Group Policy is supported in Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education. Start layout control is not supported in Windows 10 Pro." (source: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt431718(v=vs.85)). Confusing is that the Group Policy itself suggests it works when you have Windows 10.. and IT Support Dublin is persistent in telling it does work. It does not work on my test PC. The Start Menu, okay, it is locked for the user (that part works), but the tiles I have in my XML file for Word and Excel do NOT appear!!! Now I am hoping to find a list on the internet somewhere with all the GroupPolicies that do NOT work with Windows X PRO, so that I can decide to upgrade to X PRO or need to spend more money for the X Enterprise version. I expect Microsoft to force us the upgrade to the more expensive version. I hope someone can give me that list with GPO's.

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  10. avatar
    robcal 1 year ago

    We've got it deployed on our network and its running fine on win10 Pro. The only issue we're running in to is the startmenu is not editable after the gpo is applied. I'll see if manually scripting out a change in the registry will fix this.

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    • avatar
      Kevin 1 year ago

      Robcal,

      Add this line in there that will let you lock only  what you define in the layout and user can pin new icons to it.

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    • avatar
      Carl Gray 4 months ago

      @robcal

      If you use the following line, only a portion of the startmenu is locked.

      <DefaultLayoutOverride LayoutCustomizationRestrictionType="OnlySpecifiedGroups">

      Cheers,
      Carl

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  11. avatar
    putti 1 year ago

    Hi, i have the same problem, LayoutModification.xml not working.

    on windows 10 64 pro

    if i force with gepedit.msc the layoutmodification.xml work but the user can’t change the start menu.

    A idea ?

    Thanks

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  12. avatar
    sean 1 year ago

    Hi guys ,

    I notice that when you pin a network program that runs from the network and or network shared drives , even though its coded in the xml file , but when i deploy through gp it doesnt show the icons, only the local apps show in the start menu, any ideas how to make the network shares k: and h: and network run apps show??

    <start:Group Name="Targeting Maths" xmlns:start="http://schemas.microsoft.com/Start/2014/StartLayout">
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="0" Row="0" DesktopApplicationID="\\JUNIOR-FILES\Common Area\Common Area\Apps\TargetingMaths1\start.exe" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="2" Row="0" DesktopApplicationID="\\JUNIOR-FILES\Common Area\Common Area\Apps\TargetingMaths2\start.exe" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="4" Row="0" DesktopApplicationID="\\JUNIOR-FILES\Common Area\Common Area\Apps\TargetingMaths3\start.exe" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="0" Row="2" DesktopApplicationID="\\JUNIOR-FILES\Common Area\Common Area\Apps\TargetingMaths4\start.exe" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="2" Row="2" DesktopApplicationID="\\JUNIOR-FILES\Common Area\Common Area\Apps\TargetingMaths5\start.exe" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="4" Row="2" DesktopApplicationID="\\JUNIOR-FILES\Common Area\Common Area\Apps\TargetingMaths6\start.exe" />
    </start:Group>

     

    <start:Group Name="Explorers" xmlns:start="http://schemas.microsoft.com/Start/2014/StartLayout">
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="4" Row="0" DesktopApplicationID="Microsoft.Windows.Explorer" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="2" Row="0" DesktopApplicationID="Microsoft.InternetExplorer.Default" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="0" Row="0" DesktopApplicationID="E7CF176E110C211B" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="0" Row="2" DesktopApplicationID="H:\" />
    <start:DesktopApplicationTile Size="2x2" Column="2" Row="2" DesktopApplicationID="K:\" />
    <start:Tile Size="2x2" Column="4" Row="2" AppUserModelID="Microsoft.WindowsStore_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App" />
    </start:Group>

    thanks

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    • avatar
      Paul 1 year ago

      Hi Sean, did you find a solution for map drive shortcuts? having the same trouble!

      0
  13. avatar
    Tommy 1 year ago

    Import-StartLayout -LayoutPath \\servername\sharename\startmenu.xml

    @ IT-Support Dublin....

    this command doesnt work on my windows 10 pro machines...

    why is that so?

    and i cant change a existing startlayout...why is that so?

    i have only win 10 pro machines here 🙁

    Regards

    0
  14. avatar
    Dan G. 1 year ago

    I have customized a start menu layout.

    I have deployed it via GPO.

    The groups I defined do show up, but the Life at a glance and Play and Explore tile groups still appear.

    I am using Server 2012, and Windows 10 Pro x64.

    0
  15. avatar
    Adam Thomas 1 year ago

    Hi all

    If you want to deploy start menu shortcuts that work with legacy programs i.e. exe's and/or network locations, then you need to create a .lnk for the legacy program or for Internet Shortcuts create a .url for the shortcut.

    Drop the .lnk and .url files into:

    C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

    Then edit your StartMenu.xml to point to these .lnk's and .url's. You will find that they now work.
    You will also notice that with the links in this location, they will then also appear on the Start Menu under "All Apps"

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  16. Profile gravatar of Michael Pietroforte Author
    Michael Pietroforte 12 months ago

    I tested the feature now on Windows 10 Pro 1511 and 1607 and it worked. Hard to say if it will always work because some Microsoft pages claim that it doesn't. An update might break it, so better don't rely on it.

    0
  17. avatar
    your mama 6 months ago

    this does not work at all, everyone here is crazy.......

    1+
  18. avatar
    Frank 5 months ago

    This no longer work and I suspect a Windows update to prevent that to run in PRO version and only allow it for Enterprise

    0
  19. avatar
    Chris Daniels 5 months ago

    Working on getting this set up. Set up my start menu the way I wanted it, exported the layout, set up the gpo and it works for the apps locally installed but the remote apps aren't showing up. I did see them show up after the pc had been logged in a while but went away again when I relogged so I suspect it could be timing between mapping the start menu items and mapping the remote apps themselves.

    0
  20. avatar
    Doug 4 months ago

    Testing 1607 deployment and need to lock down start menu.  Used this method but unhappy with disabling users from adding things to their start screen.  Added the below snippet to the xml and works a treat:

    <DefaultLayoutOverride LayoutCustomizationRestrictionType="OnlySpecifiedGroups">

    Taken from here.  Scroll down the page until you get to the 'Configure a partial start layout' section.

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  21. avatar
    Doug 4 months ago

    For those travelling down this road, this may be useful to you too.  Configure the taskbar by adding a section to the xml you export for the start menu.

    I had some issues when trying to get the changes made to taskbar to take until I copied the example from the page and amended it to fit my brief.

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  22. avatar
    Pedro Rodrigues 3 months ago

    I've been testing to use the webfeed to pin the remoteapps automatically to the startmenu (because there are different applications for different users - groups), and it seems not possible, it works with everything local but not with webfeed.

    I ended up by creating a shortcut via GPO of the %appdata%\\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Work Resources (RADC) folder. It's not an elegant solution but at least the shortcuts inside change depending on the user that logs in.

    0

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