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A welcome new enhancement of Windows 8.1 Update is the better integration of Windows Store apps with the conventional Windows desktop. The icons for running Modern apps now appear in the Taskbar. Another change, which most enterprises will probably dislike, is the fact that the icon for the Windows Store is pinned to the Taskbar by default.
I can understand that Microsoft wants to push the Windows Store. Thus, this setting makes a lot of sense on consumer PCs. However, in corporate environments, the pinned Store app causes admins headaches.
Allowing end users to install apps is not only a big security risk, but the Windows Store can also reduce employee productivity. The Store enables users to download all kinds of games; even if users are looking for useful apps related to their work, they waste time with searching and testing apps. In my view, it is the management’s job to decide what kind of applications are required for end users, and it is IT’s job to test and deploy those applications. Of course, this all has to be seen in the light of the BYOD hype—an undesirable trend that significantly reduced security and IT productivity.
What makes the situation worse is that no easy or satisfying way exists to remove the pinned Windows Store from the Taskbar. I wonder if this is one of the reasons that some organizations are still moving from Windows XP to Windows 7. Several Group Policy settings can help you deal with this problem. However, they all have undesirable side effects.
If you disable the setting “Show Windows Store apps on the taskbar” in User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar, your users won’t see any Windows Store apps in the Taskbar when they launch them through the Start Screen.
Show Windows Store apps on the Taskbar
The configuration has the same the effect as the Taskbar and Navigation properties (right-click the Taskbar).
Taskbar and Navigation properties
Unfortunately, this setting doesn’t help solve our problem. It not only disables a useful feature of Windows 8.1 Update but also doesn’t remove the pinned Store app in the Taskbar. The icon will be removed from the Taskbar only if the user unpins it manually.
Another option is to leverage the policy “Remove pinned programs from the Taskbar.”
Removing pinned programs from the Taskbar
A problem is that this Group Policy doesn’t just remove the Store app from the Taskbar but removes any pinned apps, including desktop applications. Furthermore, users will be unable to pin new apps to the Taskbar. Note that this policy also applies to Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines. I think this method of getting rid of the Windows Store icon in the Taskbar will be overkill for most environments.
A better option is to simply disable the Windows Store via Group Policy. You can find the Group Policy “Turn off the Store application” in User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Store. Make sure that you launch the Group Policy Management Console from a Windows 8.1 machine that has the Update installed, or update your Group Policy Central Store with the latest ADMX templates.
Turn off the Store application
A downside of this solution is that it will only prevent the Store icon from appearing on the Taskbar if you deploy this policy before you install the Update for Windows 8.1. Another problem is that users will see the following screenshot when they launch the Windows Store from the Start Screen:
Windows Store isn't available on this PC
The problematic part is the second sentence, “Contact your system administrator for more information.” This sentence alone will cost many organizations a lot of money. In my next post, I will show you how to also get rid of the Windows Store app on the Start Screen. And, in the third post of this series, you will learn how to unpin the Store app icon, without disabling pinned apps on the Taskbar, by using a PowerShell logon script.