Force or specify a Fixed Start Screen Layout for Users in Windows 8.1

The Start Screen, which was the noticeable feature introduced in Windows 8 last year, has now received and updated thanks to the recently released update i.e. Windows 8.1. You can swipe Start Screen, view it in Start or Apps mode. Technically, with Windows 8.1 you can also control the layout of Start Screen. Today in this article, we’ll show you the way to get a fixed layout using the new Start Screen Control feature in Windows 8.1

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Start Screen Control

Shown above, is the screenshot of Start Screen in Windows 8.1, and it clearly shows that you can group the tiles and give the name to a group. As an example, we created a group “Native Apps” in the left and “Entertainment” as another group in the right. So lets call it the fixed layout. It means, we want only this layout or in other words, no user should be able to make changes to it. So lets see how to get this fixed layout.

Specify a Fixed Start Screen Layout for Users in Windows 8.1

1. Firstly, open the Windows PowerShell as administrator and paste the following command to export the above shown Start Screen layout into an XML file:

Export-StartLayout -path <Output XML file path> -As XML

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Here, in the above-mentioned command, edit the red part with your desired location to store the output XML file. We’ have to use this as the generated XML file in Group Policy Editor. If you don’t include the -As XML part, then the output will be a binary file, which will be meaningless for GPO. Here is XML file, as output:

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You can open the XML file in Internet Explorer to view the coding:

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2. Now, open the Group Policy Editor by pressing Windows Key + R, and typing gpedit.msc followed by Enter key. In the Local Group Policy Editor window, navigate:

User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Start Menu and Taskbar

Start Screen Control windows 8.1

3. As shown in the above shown window, look for the setting named Start Screen Layout and double click on it to open its Configuration box:

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4. In the Start Screen Layout window, firstly select Enabled, then paste the location of the XML output file generated in step 1. Click Apply, followed by OK. Close Local Group Policy Editor and restart the Explorer to observe changes.

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This policy setting specifies the Start screen layout for users. It lets you specify the Start screen layout for users and prevents them from changing its configuration. The Start screen layout you specify must be stored in an XML file that was generated by the Export-StartLayout PowerShell cmdlet. To use this setting, you must first manually configure a device’s Start screen layout to the desired look and feel. Once you are  done, run the Export-StartLayout PowerShell cmdlet on that same device. The cmdlet will generate an XML file representing the layout you configured. If you disable this setting or do not configure it, the Start screen layout won’t be changedand users will be able to customize it.

Once this is done, you’ll find that customization to Start Screen has become locked now. And in this way the layout of Start Screen becomes fixed.

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An Electrical Engineer by profession, Kapil is a Microsoft MVP and a Microsoft Content Creator. Please read the entire post & the comments first & create a system restore point before making any changes to your system.