Friday, January 12, 2024

Setting up and Customizing a Windows 11 Start Menu without Microsoft Intune

This post will give you everything you need to customize the windows 11 start menu.  Now typically this is done with intune and Microsoft decided to significantly change the way it handles the start menu and changed it from using an xml file to using a JSON file which is to be used with intune.  Now if you don't use intune; you have a problem.  However this post will go though the options and making a start menu for your Windows 11 clients.  A plus for this is that you don't have to make changes or worry about how it will affect your windows 10 clients.

If your looking at wanting to make a custom Windows 10 start menu you can find that info here https://optionkey.blogspot.com/2018/02/upgrading-active-directory-for-windows.html

In Windows 11 to change to position of the start menu you can do with with a registry entry.

Add a registry Entry called "TaskbarAl" the key goes here 

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

Value name = "TaskbarAl" the l is a L

It is a DWORD 32bit setting, where 0 is aligned to the left and 1 is centered.





Now for customizing the start menu you setup it up like you would for Windows 10.  Customize it up as a single user then run the powershell command.  Now this has been designed to work specifically with intune and making it work without intune takes some work but here is how you do it.

Export-StartLayout -Path "C:\Layouts\Win11Layout.JSON"

 The result is the following JSON:

{"pinnedList":[{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Google Chrome.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Microsoft Edge.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Firefox.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Horizon 7.5.6.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Adobe Acrobat.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Word.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Excel.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\PowerPoint.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Publisher.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\OneNote 2016.lnk"},{"packagedAppId":"Microsoft.WindowsCalculator_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App"},{"desktopAppLink":"%APPDATA%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\File Explorer.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\VideoLAN\\VLC media player.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\paint.net.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Notepad++.lnk"}]}

Open windows explorer and paste the following URL in the explorer

%LocalAppdata%\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState

It will take you to a folder and copy the start2.bin to a location where you can apply it with your ad controller; I put it in the NETLOGON folder on my AD Controller, if you need it to be local put it in a folder that is local.



Now we are going to have AD add a registry entry on our clients and there are two of them, we are going to add them to the User Configuration section of group policy.


The first one we are going to make is called "ConfigureStartPins_ProviderSet"


HKEY_LOCALMACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\current\device\Start

It is a DWORD 32 bit value and the value should be set to 1.

Now we need to make a new Registry entry called "ConfigureStartPins"

Here is where we will be adding the JSON we got from the start menu.


HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\current\device\Start

In the value data we paste the JSON we exported out earlier.

{"pinnedList":[{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Google Chrome.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Microsoft Edge.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Firefox.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Horizon 7.5.6.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Adobe Acrobat.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Word.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Excel.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\PowerPoint.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Publisher.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\OneNote 2016.lnk"},{"packagedAppId":"Microsoft.WindowsCalculator_8wekyb3d8bbwe!App"},{"desktopAppLink":"%APPDATA%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\File Explorer.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\VideoLAN\\VLC media player.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\paint.net.lnk"},{"desktopAppLink":"%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\\Microsoft\\Windows\\Start Menu\\Programs\\Notepad++.lnk"}]}

Next we need to make a file to copy the start2.bat to the user profile when you login; I called the file startmenu.cmd and I am running it from the same location from the start2.bat which is in the NETLOGON folder, and we are going to put in the following code which we will run at logon.

copy "\\$DOMAIN\netlogon\start2.bin" "%LocalAppdata%\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState" /Y

This will replace the default start2.bat file with the configured one.

In group policy I am putting the following in the Scripts section of User Configuration


\\$domain\SysVol\$domain\folder\startmenu.cmd

Now on login your windows 11 clients will have a custom start menu.
References:

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