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Windows 8 Start Screen Customization with MDT

Windows 8 Start Screen Customization with MDT

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If you are creating a Windows 8 image then you most likely want to customize the Start Screen layout that users see when they logon for the first time. However the question is "how should I customize the Start Screen?"

There are three approaches that you can use:

  1. Use the Unattend.xml file to define which applications will appear in each "slot" on the Start Screen as detailed here.
  2. Manually customize the Start Screen, then use CopyProfile to apply the customizations to the default user profile.
  3. Manually customize the Start Screen and capture the layout file created, then copy this file to the default user during image deployment.

The main approach that I use is CopyProfile. I use this approach because this gives me control over the process and captures all customizations in the image, not just the Start Screen customizations. The one drawback is that it requires manual steps in the image creating process, and I love to automate everything! However at present the really isn't a viable alternative to manual steps. In the rest of this post I will detail how to customize the Start Screen using options 2 and 3 when building an image using MDT 2012 Update 1.

Customizing the Start Screen

As mentioned above when I create a Windows 8 image I always like to fully automate the process. This provides a consistent and repeatable image engineering process, however the customization of the Start Screen must be performed manually. To minimize the manual steps I pause the task sequence using the little know built-in MDT script - LTISuspend.wsf. I then perform the customization and resume the task sequence. The following steps outline this process:

       1. Add the LTISuspend.wsf script to the task sequence. This action should be added as highlighted in the picture below.

    clip_image001

        2. During the deployment you will see the following prompt.

    clip_image002

        3. Bring up the Start Screen and manually arrange the tiles and label groups as needed.

    Before:

    image

    After:

    clip_image003

4. Resume Task Sequence and automatically capture the image by clicking on the Resume Task Sequence shortcut on the desktop.

 

Once the image has been captured there are two options for replicating these changes to the default user profile.

Customization using CopyProfile

The CopyProfile process has been well documented in a this Deployment Guys post. In summary you must add the CopyProfile option to the unattend.xml used to deploy the image (NOT the unattend.xml used to create the image). This will then copy the Start Screen layout from the local administrator profile (that you manually customized) to the default user profile. Then when a user logs in for the first time they receive this layout.

The CopyProfile option should be added to Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup in the specialize pass section as follows:


    < CopyProfile>true</CopyProfile> 
 

Customization using App Layout file

During the Sysprep generalization process a file is created called AppsFolderLayout.bin. This file contains the layout for the local administrator in a generalized form which can be applied to other users. To use this file we simply copy the file from:

C:\Users\Administrator\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\AppsFolderLayout.bin

To:

C:\Users\Default\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\AppsFolderLayout.bin

The script located here will perform this process. Simply add this script to the task sequence immediately after the Postinstall \ Configure step as shown below.

  1. Copy the attached file to the scripts folder of your Deployment Share
  2. Add a new Run Command Line Task sequence action as shown in the screenshot below:

    clip_image004

 

Here are few extra tips that will help with your Start Screen customization:

  • If you want to change the color scheme then then use the SystemDefaultBackgroundColor setting in the unattend.xml as detailed on TechNet.
  • You can only customize the Start Screen layout for Windows 8 Enterprise or domain-joined Windows 8 Pro machines.
  • Links to websites will be maintained during the copy process however the icons for these links will not be retained.
  • You cannot add non-default Windows Store Apps to the image. This will cause Sysprep to fail. However you can side load applications.

For more information on customizing the Start Screen please refer to this TechNet article.

This post was contributed by Ben Hunter, a Solution Architect with Microsoft Consulting Services.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, confers no rights, and is not supported by the authors or Microsoft Corporation. Use of included script samples are subject to the terms specified in the Terms of Use.

  • I'm yet to see AppsFolderLayout.bin; instead appsFolder.itemdata-ms seems to be the file to copy. Additionally this needs to be set to read-only for the custom Start Screen settings to persist (the RO attribute then needs to be removed after the user logs on).

  • Hi Aaron,

    The AppFolderLayout.bin file is only available after the Sysprep process, once you logon as administrator this file will no longer be available. This is why I run the script immediately after the image has been applied to the device. I didn't originally include the file with this post but you can now find it here - blogs.technet.com/.../2046.CFG_2D00_Win8_2D00_CopyAppFolderLayout.zip

    Thanks,

    Ben

  • So.. could you crack the WIM file and copy the AppsFolderLayout.bin from one image to another?

    This would potentially enable you to have a library of layouts in an org - one for CxOs, one for the techs, etc.

    If so what are the restrictions on this? i.e. Language, SKU, etc.?

  • Hi FearofWeapons,

    You are correct, you can reuse different layouts and the apps will appear on the Start Screen as long as they are on the image.

    I am not sure if this method will work across SKU's or languages.

    Thanks,

    Ben

  • In your first <a href="blogs.technet.com/.../a>, you have collapsed groups in the Task Sequence. The buttons for Add, Remove, Move Up and Move down also look different than the standard interface in CM 2012. Being able to collapse groups in longer task sequences is something I've been wanting to do for a while now. Can you explain how to enable collapsing groups in the Task Sequence Editor?

    -Dan

  • Hi Dan,

    The screenshot is from an MDT task sequence. Collapsing groups is something that you can do in MDT, however as you know this does not work in ConfigMgr.

    Thanks,

    Ben

  • I've succeeded in copying the Start screen layout, but what if I *do not* want it to install the default Metro apps? (Photos, Mail, Calendar, People, etc.)

  • Hi Louie,

    You can remove he apps using a script, we have a blog post on doing that here - blogs.technet.com/.../removing-built-in-applications-from-windows-8.aspx.

    Thanks,

    Ben

  • Ben,

    Thanks, this is great, but will I have to have the machine run that script every time a new user logs in to prevent it from installing those apps, or is there a way to prevent the initial "Installing apps..." stage of the initial login from running at all?

    Thanks,

    Louie

  • Hi Louie,

    The script "de-provisions" the app from the computer and uninstalls it from the administrator profile so that you only need to run it once.

    Thanks,

    Ben

  • Thanks for the how-to but when i use

    the copyprofile method the start screen goes back to default.

    the strange thing is that when i want to pin programs afterwards (those i wanted to be pinned

    in the first place) Windows says they are already pinned. do you have any idea where it went wrong ?

    Thanks

    Bo

  • Hi Bo,

    Is this a non-domain joined Windows 8 Pro machine? If so then this is expected.

    Thanks,

    Ben

  • Hi,

    I know we can achieve the customization of start screen tiles for apps which are already installed in the Image, but what i am looking is for the apps which are deployed after the Image is applied. For Ex: Office is installed in the deployment TS after the Image is applied, can in any way customize the tiles for these office apps after the deployment or am i asking for too much.

  • Hi ITGuy,

    Unfortunately there is no way to customize the Start Screen post image deployment.

    Here is an article that explains some of this behavior - support.microsoft.com/.../en-us

    Thanks,

    Ben

  • Thanks for the great KB. How do I quickly fix the admin user name and initial showing up in each and every user's office app personalize section? I installed the office under administrator login and capture the image. Users don't get prompt when open the office apps for the first time.

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