Guide: Start Menu and Taskbar

Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
The following is a guide on how to remove the default links, shortcuts, pins, tiles, etcetera, from the start menu and taskbar in Windows 10 (21H2).

I tried all of the other solutions everywhere and none of them were working as expected, there was always something left behind. I started tweaking things and eventually this is what I came up with, which completely clears all the crap.

The solution is to integrate both a DefaultLayouts.xml and LayoutModification.xml along with a few registry keys into a Windows image for a clean install.

One of the problems I noticed is the DefaultLayouts.xml sometimes gets incorrectly named by people as "DefaultLayout.xml" without the "s" on the end of "Layouts". It must be spelled correctly or it will not work right.

The other problem is that we also need the "LayoutModification.xml" with some specific coding in order to get rid of those last few stubborn tiles that the first XML file does not address, and this step is overlooked in many of the solutions.

Lastly, I have made changes in each of those XML files to add some settings that are missing from other versions of these on the internet, and I also cleaned up the XML formatting to make sure it validated without errors.

STEP 1: XML FILES
In order to make these work, these files must be integrated into your image before Windows is installed, and then the changes will apply to the first user created, as well as all new users.

1A) Load 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 tweaked DefaultLayouts.xml and LayoutModification.xml into the mounted Shell directory.

1E) Exit the mounted directory window.

STEP 2: INTEGRATE REGISTRY FILE
You can tweak the registry file provided to remove any of the changes that do not match your personal preferences. All of the keys have been commented inside the file to explain what they do.

2A) Click "Registry" from the left menu, then "Add", choose "Registry files" and then select the registry file you downloaded from the attachment on this post.

2B) Lastly, go to “Apply” and then “Process” to finalize the image.

For more guides like this one, visit the following link:
https://www.ntlite.com/community/index.php?threads/gaming-lounge.2999/
 

Attachments

  • Tweaks.zip
    1.6 KB
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Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
Minor update:

- 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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xwing

Member
Windows 11 tweaks


Start button alignment – 0 = Left

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]
“TaskbarAl”=dword:00000000

Remove Task View from the Taskbar
[KEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]
“ShowTaskViewButton”=dword:00000000

Remove Chat from the Taskbar
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]
“TaskbarMn”=dword:00000000

Remove Widgets from the Taskbar

[KEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]
“TaskbarDa”=dword:00000000

Remove Search from the Taskbar
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Search]
“SearchboxTaskbarMode”=dword:00000000
 

Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
Update:

- Added a 4th registry file. This 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 without this key anyway using this guide.
 
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EctoBoggan

New Member
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.
 

Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
Hrm, the LayoutModification xml is the one that eliminates those last 3 tiles. It works for me on every image I make, using W10 21H2 Home (I include the reg files in 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 and download things that will override the xml files.

The last thing I can think of that might be the issue, is try to include the Apps.reg into the image, rather than post-install. Really all the reg files should be included in the image rather than post-install for best results, since then it applies to all users, plus when various keys exist before Windows is installed it helps prevent quirks and overrides of this nature.
 
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EctoBoggan

New Member
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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Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
Yeah, these newer Windows have a lot of self healing capabilities, and quite a few tweaks will be overwritten again by various Windows Updates. Some of us don't do WU at all, and others do.

There's lots of ways to go about it, and the ordering matters too. So like if you include your updates in the image directly, if you use NTLite to process all of those *first* then take that image and integrate the registry files then process that stuff separate from the updates you'll be able to overcome those overrides. Then you wouldn't need to do anything post-install.
 

Clanger

Moderator
Staff member
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.
 

Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
Updated original post to streamline and simplify things, packaged the tweaks together into fewer files, and incorporated forum feedback.
 
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Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
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.
 

EctoBoggan

New Member
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...) ?
 

Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
I'm going to break my reply into 2 parts since these are really good questions you raise, and they require explanation, since what you're asking about applies to all image editing as a general concept, not just my specific guide here.

So for the part about tiles/apps "breaking" it's not actually due to anything failing or breaking.

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 that image. Then once it's processed, load that edited image into NTLite again, then apply these reg files I've created, so that the reg files will overwrite any registry key 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.

Also, you can edit the LayoutModification.xml to add your own custom tile/taskbar shortcuts, and Microsoft has documentation on that:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/configuration/start-layout-xml-desktop
 

Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
The question about NTLite and reg files is a bit more complex though, and it's going to sound like I'm bashing NTLite, but I'm really not, it's just the downsides to closed-source stuff, and Nuhi understands this, as he's commented on it before. There's 3 main reasons why I use my own reg files instead of NTLite preset stuff:

1) NTLite requires a lot of trial and error to both figure out what those settings in NTLite are responsible for since the descriptions in NTLite can sometimes be vague. But also, NTLite isn't telling me what registry key it's actually modifying (transparency). Doing it myself in a .reg file is fully transparent and gives me ultimate control over my ISO, and saves me time since I'm not trying to deconstruct another closed-source program.

2) Another reason is because this way it's all contained in one place. It's more organized and faster to have all the keys in one file, rather than having some of them in a .reg file and then some of them in a NTLite xml file. This also plays into the next item below.

3) NTLite just doesn't have all the settings that I do in my .reg files. So even if I wanted to try and convert everything over to an NTLite xml preset, it's impossible at this time. It's certainly something Nuhi could do, if he wanted to he could go through my almost 600 registry keys and start adding them 1 by 1 into NTLite as toggleable settings. It's just a lot of work, and furthermore you have to keep in mind that Microsoft keeps changing registry keys with each new edition, so a key that worked in XP doesn't mean it works in W7 and vice versa. The same is true for a key that worked in W10 1809 doesn't mean it automatically works in W10 21H2 anymore.

Though, a lot of people assume the opposite, and that's why there's so much misinformation on the internet these days, and a ton of "snakeoil" tweaks out there. Because far too many people are still trying to use registry keys from Windows 7 and applying them to Windows 10 for example. Yes, a lot of keys do transition, but there's also a lot that get removed, added, made obsolete, kept for backward compatibility, etcetera.
 
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tortadefrango97

New Member
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.

vmplayer_wblqltkUSE.png

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!
 

Hellbovine

Well-Known Member
Hey tortadefrango97,

I had to add a group policy (GPO) key to get it disabled since the other key that you mentioned gets overwritten at some point. This GPO is in the tweaks folder already though, and Windows shouldn't be resetting or ignoring GPO keys, but this is the nature of the beast sometimes. Check and see if this key got deleted:

; Taskbar > News and interests > Disabled
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Feeds]
"EnableFeeds"=dword:00000000

For the File Explorer, 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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