Tag Archives: Windows-Vista

Managing Control Panel in Windows Vista

At some point in your migration from Windows XP to Windows Vista you’ll no doubt be looking to manage which Control Panel applets are available to users. Controlling access to applets is no different than earlier version of Windows, but given that there are approximately 48 default applets in Windows Vista compared to 29 in Windows XP, more consideration will need to be given to those which you make available.

There’s a good chance that list will be different for everyone, but here’s my approach: Hiding Control Panel applets is not a replacement for ensuring users are not logging into their workstations with administrative access. Without administrative access, users cannot make system wide changes. Restrict applets too much and you can make support difficult.

I consider the task of restricting the available applets as a means of de-cluttering the interface, not ‘locking the system down’.

Here’s what Control Panel applets I would consider to be relevant to most users in a Windows XP environment:


A couple of these may not be completely necessary, but they give users enough access to manage their environment to suit the way they work. Note that there’s nothing in these applets (yes, including Network Connections) that lets standard users change system settings. There are also many Group Policy settings that allow you to be fairly granular for settings within these applets.

This is what I’m looking at providing for users in Windows Vista:

Control Panel Home


As you can see there’s many more icons, but Vista does provide many more features. There are a few applets here that you may wonder why I’ve not hidden them:

  • Network and Sharing Center: especially useful to laptop users for providing connectivity information
  • Problem Reports and Solutions: Vista does a good job of providing solutions for device and software compatibility issues
  • System: Information list here is useful for support personnel, hard to see this info if this applet is unavailable
  • User Accounts: this will allow users to change their user picture

Here’s a short list of recommendations when configuring Group Policy for the Control Panel:

  • Leave the standard Control Panel view as the default – don’t be tempted to force Classic view. The default view in Windows Vista is less cluttered and search makes finding the right option easier.
  • Provide the complete list of Control Panel applets across all device types in a GPO on the user’s OU using the Show only specified Control Panel items policy
  • Remove additional applets from the previous list for special case machines (e.g. Terminal Server) in a loop-back policy using the Hide specified Control Panel items policy
  • Using applet names in these policies provides more granular access than using the .CPL filenames (plus they’re easier to read)

There are also a couple of other settings that remove options that users don’t need to see:

  • User Configuration / Policies / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Explorer / Remove Hardware tab
  • User Configuration / Policies / Administrative Templates / Control Panel / Regional and Language Options / Hide Regional and Language Options administrative options

And finally, here’s what Control Panel under Windows 2008 Terminal Server might look like:


So, what do you think – am I off my tree for giving users so many options? Or can I get some support for the ‘enabling users’ camp?

Customise the Windows Vista Default User Profile

There are numerous ways to customise the default user profile in earlier versions of Windows, including:

The first option carries over to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 however the second option is not available in quite the same way. Windows Vista’s setup is a very different beast and customising the default profile with scripts requires using the auditUser pass and setting the CopyProfile value.

There’s some great detail about using this process to modify the default user profile at FireGeier’s Unattended Vista Guide plus there’s a post at MSFN.org that my help you understand the process too. However, I think there’s a simpler way. It’s perhaps not a flexible as deploying via the UNATTEND.XML file but it doesn’t require running SYSPREP to get the job done.

You can edit the default profile by directly modifying the Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 image. This involves mounting the image and making your changes:

  • Mount the image in read/write mode;
  • Load the \Users\Default\NTUSER.DAT hive into the Registry. It’s worth looking around at this registry hive to see the differences between it and the user hive once a user has logged in;
  • Add the required modifications and unload the hive;
  • Commit changes to the Windows image.

Be sure to set the CopyProfile value to False in the UNATTEND.XML, otherwise these changes will be overwritten. Here’s a script that performs those steps for me:

REM -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
REM  Script configures the Default User Profile in a Windows Vista/2008 image
REM -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

REM Mount the Windows image
IMAGEX /MOUNTRW "D:\install.wim" 1 D:\mount

REM Load the default profile hive
REG LOAD HKU\Default D:\mount\Users\Default\NTUSER.DAT

REM Configure the default user profile
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Sound" /v Beep /t REG_SZ /d NO /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Sound" /v ExtendedSounds /t REG_SZ /d NO /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Desktop" /v HungAppTimeout /t REG_SZ /d 5000 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Desktop" /v AutoEndTasks /t REG_SZ /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Desktop" /v WaitToKillAppTimeout /t REG_SZ /d 4000 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Desktop" /v FontSmoothing /t REG_SZ /d 2 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Desktop" /v FontSmoothingType /t REG_DWORD /d 2 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Desktop" /v WallPaper /t REG_SZ /d "" /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Control Panel\Colors" /v Background /t REG_SZ /d "10 59 118" /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Console" /v QuickEdit /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor" /v CompletionChar /t REG_DWORD /d 9 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor" /v PathCompletionChar /t REG_DWORD /d 9 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\CTF\LangBar" /v ShowStatus /t REG_DWORD /d 3 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\CTF\LangBar" /v Label /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\CTF\LangBar" /v ExtraIconsOnMinimized /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v SeparateProcess /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowControlPanel /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_EnableDragDrop /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v StartMenuFavorites /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v StartMenuLogoff /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v StartMenuScrollPrograms /t REG_SZ /d "YES" /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v IntelliMenus /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowHelp /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowMyComputer /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowMyDocs /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowMyMusic /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowMyPics /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowNetPlaces /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowPrinters /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowSetProgramAccessAndDefaults /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_ShowRecentDocs /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_AutoCascade /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_NotifyNewApps /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_AdminToolsRoot /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v StartMenuAdminTools /t REG_SZ /d "NO" /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced" /v Start_SortByName /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AutoComplete" /v "Append Completion" /t REG_SZ /d YES /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\TabbedBrowsing" /v PopupsUseNewWindow /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\PhishingFilter" /v Enabled /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main" /v "Enable AutoImageResize" /t REG_SZ /d YES /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\HideDesktopIcons\NewStartPanel" /v "{59031a47-3f72-44a7-89c5-5595fe6b30ee}" /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\HideDesktopIcons\NewStartPanel" /v "{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}" /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\AppEvents\Schemes\Apps\Explorer\Navigating\.Current" /ve /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /d "" /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Setup\UserOptions" /v DesktopShortcut /d No /t REG_SZ /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Setup\UserOptions" /v QuickLaunchShortcut /d /t REG_DWORD /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Preferences" /v AcceptedPrivacyStatement /d 1 /t REG_DWORD /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Preferences" /v FirstRun /d 0 /t REG_DWORD /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Preferences" /v DisableMRU /d 1 /t REG_DWORD /f
REG ADD "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Preferences" /v AutoCopyCD /d 0 /t REG_DWORD /f
REG DELETE "HKU\Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" /v Sidebar /f

REM Unload the default profile hive

REM Unmount the Windows image and commit changes

As you can see I’m adding registry entries that will configure the user environment which does mean that there’s a bit of work required to find them in the first place, but it does allow me to document every change to the profile, so I think the effort is worth it.

Extending this process, there are a few other things we can change in the Windows image that will impact the default environment:

  • Modify the default theme file in \Windows\Resources\Themes\aero.theme. I’ve used this file to do things such as remove the default wallpaper. Theme files are just text files so they’re easy to maintain;
  • Configure Internet Explorer defaults by using INSTALL.INS created with the Internet Explorer Administration Kit. This is useful for preventing IE from adding the default favourites or RSS feeds at first launch. Place a copy of INSTALL.INS in \Program Files\Internet Explorer\SIGNUP and \Program Files\Internet Explorer\CUSTOM.

Then there are a couple of additional tools that I’ve used to make changes to the default user environment once Windows has been installed and added to the domain:

  • Group Policy. Some settings such as preventing Windows Media Player from displaying the first run dialog are useful;
  • Group Policy Preferences. GPP allows you to set registry values as a preference, i.e. apply once only.

By modifying the Windows image directly, your custom default profile will be available on machines whether you use an unattended or manual deployment.

Here’s a few more articles worth reading: