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The following is a guide on how to remove the default links, shortcuts, pins, tiles, and apps from the start menu and taskbar in Windows 10, giving you a blank slate, for all users on the computer. The benefit of this solution is that it will not break anything in the operating system, and is a cleaner, more effective approach, than trying to solve it on a live install. This guide was tested on 21H2 and will work on similar versions, but it is not fully compatible with Windows 11, because that operating system uses a different start menu.

The XML files must be integrated into the image before Windows is installed. It is important to note that these are not the same kind of XML files as templates and presets are, rather these files are special instructions that Windows reads while it is preparing the installation of the operating system, and they tell Windows to skip the steps of downloading bloat, rather than having users remove those things later.

1A) Load a Windows 10 image into NTLite.

1B) Right-click on source OS and then explore mount directory.

1C) Left-click twice in address bar and add \Users\Default\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\ to the end.

1D) Copy the tweaked DefaultLayouts.xml and LayoutModification.xml into the mounted Shell directory.

1E) Exit the mounted directory window.

You can tweak the registry file provided to remove any of the changes that do not match your personal preferences. All the keys have been commented inside the file to explain what they do in more detail.

2A) Click "Registry" from the left menu, then "Add", choose "Registry files" and select "Clean.reg" to integrate.

2B) Go to “Apply” and then “Process” to finalize the image.

Note: Exit NTLite after processing is complete, copy and paste the newly edited files onto a USB drive, then boot into that drive to install your custom Windows! If you are not sure how to install Windows, or how to deal with drivers, check out my other guides on that topic.

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  • Tweaks.zip
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- Added a policy to disable the news and interests, because the ShellFeedsTaskbarViewMode gets overridden by the OS at user creation

- Added PreInstalledAppsEnabled="false" and TargetedConsentTilesEnabled="false" into the DefaultLayouts.xml to further ensure nothing is downloaded before, during, or after the OS is installed

- Fixed the wording on a few registry comments to be more accurate
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Windows 11 tweaks

Start button alignment – 0 = Left


Remove Task View from the Taskbar

Remove Chat from the Taskbar

Remove Widgets from the Taskbar


Remove Search from the Taskbar
Update: Added a 4th registry file, which turns off the Microsoft Store auto downloads as well as sponsored apps/tiles. I purposely do not use the ContentDeliveryAllowed key for two reasons. One, it's needed for other features, such as Spotlight for example, but it also gets overridden at user creation. You can still fully and completely disable all sponsored stuff anyway, using this guide.
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When I do use your config, my startupmenu ends up with 3 app tiles : Parameter, Store and Edge.
And I don't know if it's normal.

It's not a problem for me since I want theses apps, I just wanted to let you know.

I do apply .reg in the post machine install menu and copy paste xml files in \shell directory of my mounted folder of a WIN10 Pro version.
The LayoutModification xml is the one that eliminates those last 3 tiles. It works for me on W10 21H2 Home (I integrate the files into the image though, rather than doing it post-install). Are you also including some Windows Updates into your images, and/or are you running Windows Update after Windows is installed?

The other thing that might be the issue is that you may be connected to the internet when you install Windows. If you unplug your ethernet cord before installing Windows and select the "I don't have internet" option, then it won't automatically connect to Windows Update, which makes troubleshooting easier without that running.
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Are you also including some Windows Updates into your images, and/or are you running Windows Update after Windows is installed?
Oopsie, I am :oops:, and the computer is also plug to the internet during the install.
I'll give it a try.
I'll also try to config the registry directly on the image.
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Yeah, these newer Windows have a lot of self healing capabilities, and quite a few tweaks will be overwritten again by Windows Update. Some of us don't update at all for this reason. There's lots of ways to address this, but the main thing is to integrate updates into the image and process it, before doing anything else.
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i use wumt + wsusscn2.cab to scan in Offline mode, export list.txt then download and install msu's until wu/wumt fully satisfied even if it takes multiple runs/scans.
Updated original post to streamline and simplify things, packaged the tweaks together into fewer files, and incorporated forum feedback.
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Thanks for following up, and the screenshot too. I probably should have put screenshots in my posts so people could see the outcome. I think I will go back and do that sometime in the future.
More info :
If you end up getting 3 tiles (param, store and edge) and 3 pinned apps (edge, explorer and store) it means one of the two files is somehow broken and it failed, it's a default layout.
I'm trying to add some apps back because I think it's more "friendly" for casual users but it's quite a mess o_O.

And, question :
- Why adding some rules in reg for thing that are already handled by NTlite ? (like sponsored app, cortana, search bar/button...) ?
Windows overwrites a lot of customizations nowadays (intended behavior), so if you want to use Windows Update on your image, you have to integrate all those into the image first and process it. Then once it's processed, load that edited image into NTLite again, then apply these registry files I've got here, so that the registry tweaks will overwrite any registry changes that Windows Update made.

The order that things are processed matters a lot in an image. You should always do it like this: Windows Update > Process > Remove Components > Process > Integrate reg files > Process

Never try to combine any of these 3 steps together in any combination, and don't put them into a different order, or you will have issues like you've mentioned. They must all be processed separately as layers, or you have a high chance of experiencing issues in general due to things being overwritten.

To add your own shortcuts, tiles, etcetera, you can edit the LayoutModification file to do that, using documentation (link) from Microsoft.
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The main reason I use my own registry files instead of NTLite tweaks, is because NTLite does not have all the tweaks I want to use, and to stay organized better, I decided to put all my tweaks into registry files, rather than trying to split them between different sources.
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Hey bro, thanks for the guide.

All are working on 22H2, except for 'news and interests', for some reason the registry key "ShellFeedsTaskbarViewMode" is changing to 0 after installation.


If you know a way to solve it I would be grateful.

I would like to leave only the file explorer icon fixed in the taskbar, could you tell me which edit to make in the layouts file?

Btw it would be nice if you made a similar guide for windows 11.

Thank you!
I had to add a group policy (GPO) key to get it disabled, since the other key you mentioned gets overwritten. This GPO is in the tweaks folder though, and Windows shouldn't be resetting or ignoring GPO. Check and see if this key got deleted:

; Taskbar > News and interests > Disabled
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Feeds]

For the File Explorer question, offhand I'm not sure what to edit in the XML files without doing quite a bit of testing. As a quick fix though, which won't require you to reinstall Windows, follow these steps and you can add it back easily: Click on "Start" then click "Documents", now while that new window is open move your mouse over your taskbar where it says "Documents" and then right-click on it and select "Pin to taskbar". Now exit out of that Documents window you opened and File Explorer will be pinned to the taskbar.
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