Windows 10 1607 (Anniversary Update) provides new ways to manage the pinned apps on a user's Taskbar. In this post, I explain how you can deploy a Taskbar layout with PowerShell, Group Policy, and Configuration Manager and share the experiences I had with the new Taskbar feature during my tests.

Jörgen Nilsson

Jörgen is a principal consultant at Onevinn in Sweden. His work focuses on enterprise client management and system management. He is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in Enterprise Mobility. He also speaks at events such as Microsoft TechDays, Microsoft Management Summits, and TechEd.

The feature we used to deploy a customized Start menu in Windows 10 has been extended with the ability to manage pinned items on the Taskbar. There are some unsupported solutions for importing a Taskbar layout during OS deployment. However, now we can do it in a supported manner, and we can even add items using Group Policy after we create the user profile.

Windows 10 Taskbar

Windows 10 Taskbar

Note that this feature requires Windows 10 Enterprise/Education and it only works in Windows 10 1607.  (Editor's note: There is some evidence that this feature works in Windows 10 Pro. Please share your experiences in a comment.) We cannot use this feature to remove items the user pinned to the Taskbar; we can only remove items from the Taskbar that we added with the new feature.

The Taskbar layout is configured in an .xml file either together with the Start menu layout or in a separate file. The .xml file can then be deployed using different tools according to which suits your organization best.

Sample .xml file used to modify the Taskbar ^

This sample file will give the following layout on the Taskbar:

Modifed Taskbar

Modifed Taskbar


Sample .xml file for Start menu and Taskbar ^

The sample file below includes the layout configuration for the Start menu and the Taskbar as shown in the screenshot:

Modified Taskbar and Start menu

Modified Taskbar and Start menu

The corresponding .xml file looks like this:

Remove the default pinned apps ^

We have the option to either keep the default pinned apps (Edge, Store, and File Explorer) or delete them. If we delete them, we can add them back again using the same .xml file that we use to delete them. In my example, I have added the Messaging app and Internet Explorer to the Taskbar.

Taskbar with default items

Taskbar with default items

To remove the default pinned items, you have to replace <CustomTaskbarLayoutCollection> with

 <CustomTaskbarLayoutCollection PinListPlacement="Replace">

Taskbar without default items

Taskbar without default items

If we want to keep Edge and File Explorer and only remove the Store app, we can add both apps back to the .xml file by adding the following lines:

XML file with Edge and File Explorer

XML file with Edge and File Explorer

We then get a Start menu that looks like this:

Taskbar without Store

Taskbar without Store

How to find the AppUserModelID ^

To add a modern app, we need the AppUserModelID. To find the ID, you can add the app to the Start menu and then use PowerShell to export the Start menu layout with the Export-StartLayout cmdlet to an .xml file.

For instance, to get the AppUserModelID for the Camera app you can follow this procedure:

  1. Add the modern app to the Start menu by right-clicking the Camera app and selecting Pin to Start.
    Modified Taskbar and Start menu

    Modified Taskbar and Start menu

  1. Launch PowerShell as standard user.
  2. Export the Start menu to an .xml file using the following command:
    Export-StartLayout -Path C:\temp\Camera.xml

    Export Start menu

    Export Start menu

  3. Open the exported XML file using Notepad and copy the AppUserModelID.
    XML file with the Camera app

    XML file with the Camera app

  1. Then add the line below to the Taskbar.xml file:
    <taskbar:UWA AppUserModelID="Microsoft.WindowsCamera_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App" />

Import a Taskbar layout using PowerShell

The easiest way to test if your XML file works as intended is to use the PowerShell cmdlet Import-StartLayout as a local administrator:

Import-StartLayout -layoutpath C:\temp\layoutfile.xml -Mountpath C:\

Then log on to the computer with a user account that has no profile on the machine, and the Taskbar modifications should be applied.

Of course, you can use PowerShell to deploy the Taskbar with a script, and you can also use the above command during OS deployment, such as with Configuration Manager.

Adding a Taskbar layout with SSCM

Deploying a Taskbar layout during OS deployment with Configuration Manager is done exactly the same way as with the Start menu in Windows 10. You can simply add the information to the same .xml file that you use for the Start menu.

Here is how to deploy a Taskbar layout with SCCM:

  1. Create a folder in your Configuration Manager package source folder.
  2. Copy the .xml file to be used during OS deployment to this folder.
  3. Create a PowerShell script in that directory with the following content:
    Import-StartLayout -LayoutPath $PSScriptRoot\StartMenu.xml -MountPath $env:SystemDrive\

    Contents of the source folder

    Contents of the source folder

  4. Create a package using this source folder.
  5. Distribute the package to the appropriate distribution points.
  6. In your OS deployment task sequence, add a step to import the .xml file that must run after the “Set up Windows and Configuration Manager” step (for the OS to be deployed, not for Windows PE)
    Use the following command to run the PowerShell script and make sure to select the package we created earlier:
    Powershell.exe -NoProfile -ExecutionPolicy ByPass -File ImportLayout.ps1

    Task sequence in Configuration Manager

    Task sequence in Configuration Manager

Deploy Taskbar using Group Policy

We can also use a Group Policy to the Taskbar layout, which I assume will be the most used option because it allows you to change Taskbar configuration at any time. When the computer starts up, it will check if the .xml file has been modified and apply any changes.

  1. Copy the .xml file to a file share that domain members can access.
  2. Navigate to the Group Policy setting Start Layout, which is located under Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar

    Group Policy for the Start menu and Taskbar layout

    Group Policy for the Start menu and Taskbar layout

  3. Configure the Group Policy with the path to the .xml file.
    Group Policy setting

    Group Policy setting

Note that the Group Policy enforces the Taskbar/Start menu layout on user computers.

The .xml file is very sensitive to additional characters like an extra space at the end of a line. I recommend you try your .xml file as a local administrator with the PowerShell command explained above before you deploy it with Group Policy. If your .xml file contains syntax errors or illegal characters, you have the chance to get it right before you mess up the configuration on user computers.

PowerShell validates the .xml file and writes results to c:\users\Default\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\LayoutModification.xml. This allows you to detect possible errors.

FAQ ^

  • What happens if a user deletes an item we pinned to the Taskbar using the .xml file and Group Policy?
    Users can delete an item we pinned to the Taskbar. However, the icon will be added back the next time that we modify the .xml file. If you don't modify the .xml file, the user's configuration won't change.
  • What if I add a shortcut that the user has already pinned to the Taskbar?
    Nothing happens. Windows won't add a second icon.
  • What if we pin an item the end user has already pinned to the Taskbar, and then we remove the icon through our .xml file?
    The icon won't be removed.
  • What if we remove a pinned app in the.xml file that we deployed with Group Policy?
    The pinned item will be removed from the Taskbar as soon the Group Policy is applied when the user logs on again.
  • What if a user changes the order of the pinned items in the Taskbar?
    The user's order configuration will be maintained when we add or remove items.
  • What happens to the Taskbar if the computer is no longer targeted by a Group Policy?
    The Taskbar will keep the configuration that we previously deployed via Group Policy.
  • What happens if I add Taskbar shortcuts to an .xml that is applied to Windows 10 1511 machines?
    Older version of Windows 10 can't read this .xml file and will ignore it altogether.

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64 Comments
  1. Author
    Jörgen Nilsson 2 years ago

    Hi,
    No it is not supported on Server 2012 R2 it is only supported in Windows 10 1607 and later.

    Regards,

    Jörgen

    1+

  2. Luuk 1 year ago

    Hi Jörgen,

    We finally started to make the jump to Windows 10, so I also was looking for some start menu customizations. Seemed easy to implement (very good article!), but this doesn't work in 1709 anymore. Explorer is crashing constantly, which makes the desktop useless.

    1+

  3. Robert 11 months ago

    I followed your examples and they worked for me to get rid of the default taskbar icons and to add my own adding the xml file thru GPO.

    But I also need to have only selected icons show in the notification area by the time. I would like this be set up for all users.

    I know how to do  it one user at a time, but I would like it to be already set when a user / new user signs on.

    0

  4. Ben 11 months ago

    I don't understand this line:

    Import-StartLayout -layoutpath C:\temp\layoutfile.xml -Mountpath C:\

    so you just import it to the C drive? doesn't this need to live someplace else to work?

    You make it seem like just doing this will work on the PC you do it too.

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    • Author
      Jörgen Nilsson 11 months ago

      Hi,

      The command requires that you point to an installation of the running Windows 10 os and C:\ is the root path, so it will place it in the correct location based on that and work on the PC you run it on.

      Regards,
      Jörgen

      0

      • Robert Lee 11 months ago

        Jorgen,  Any chance that you might know how to show only certain icons in the notification area by the time for everyone?  I am entry level IT for a medical business and they want employees to have these icons shown.     I know how to do it by user.  But is there a way to do it thru the registry, GPO.. etc....   for those icons to show up as when a new user logs in?

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  5. John 10 months ago

    Has anyone had any luck deploying a website link that is pinned to the taskbar? Microsoft has made the most simple of tasks impossible in Windows 10.

    Its almost like they haven't even tested this OS for business, why the hell does enterprise even have Xbox in it, yes it can be removed with PowerShell but why is it even installed and why do scripts need to be used in 2018, this much micromanagement to deploy an OS is insane.

    0

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