Windows 8 Start Screen Customization with MDT

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.


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


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





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:




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:



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 .