Mysteriously Disappearing Start Menu Tiles and Roaming User Profiles

Hello there, Chad Munkelt here! Are you still using Roaming User Profiles in your environment? Are you running Windows 10? Are you running non-persistent VDI’s? Do your Start Menu Tiles keep disappearing or become unstable? Then, you have come to the right blog. I’m going to explain a new hotfix and registry key setting which was released in the March 14, 2017 CU that fixes just that.

Roaming profiles have been around for a long time, and many organizations have decided to stick with them even though more modern technologies such as UE-V with Folder Redirection or Enterprise State Roaming have been created. This decision could be technical, political, or simply, they just work. I’m not going to debate which is better or worse, nor am I going to tell you how to roam the start menu so a user’s customizations follow them from PC to PC. I am going to tell you how to make the Start Menu (mandatory or not) and Roaming User Profiles play nice together.

Recently, while deploying Windows 10 1607 to my customer I noticed that most, if not all start menu tiles, would simply disappear. In addition, many of the apps in the Apps Menu would not execute. This was only happening in our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment. It appeared that when using thick clients, everything was fine. The significant difference between our VDI environment and thick clients was the fact that our VDI’s are non-persistent. Meaning, after every logoff all changes to the VDI are reverted to an initial state, based on a master virtual machine.

When users logged onto the VDI for the first time, and a new v6 profile was created, the start menu and apps folder was fine. The user could work as normal. As soon as they logged off, their local profile was deleted and the VDI reset to its baseline. When users logged on a second time, the start menu was missing most of its tiles. This happened regardless of mandatory profiles or not.

Enter March 14, 2017—KB4013429 (OS Build 14393.953) for Windows 10 1607 and March 14, 2017—KB4013198 (OS Build 10586.839) for Windows 10 1511. The Knowledge Base articles have a very small one liner that states

•Addressed issue that causes Start menu and other items to disappear or malfunction when using roaming user profiles

This is great news! However, if you install it, it does not fix the issue. Interesting. If you have been around for a while, and have used roaming profiles for quite some time, you already know how to set up roaming profiles. There really is no reason to recheck the documentation to see if anything has changed, right? Well, sadly, that is not correct, and I am guilty of doing just that myself. In order for this hotfix to work we must make a small registry change that needs to be done before it can take effect.

Per the Deploying Roaming User Profiles there is a new step to using Roaming User Profiles in Windows 10, which is Step 7. You need to enable the SpecialRoamingOverrideAllowed key for the Start menu to display and work correctly. I didn’t pick the name for the registry key, I just work here. Below are the steps mentioned in the hyperlink. It does state mandatory start menu layouts; however, if you are not using mandatory start menus, you can still test it out in a DEV environment and make sure it works for you. This registry key of course can be deployed via GPO, set in your base image, or baked into your master VDI. I personally like the GPO option because it allows me to centrally control it, but, it is up to you how you want to deploy it.

Step 7: Optionally specify a mandatory Start layout for Windows 10 PCs

You can use Group Policy to apply a specific Start menu layout so that users see the same Start layout on all PCs.

To specify a mandatory Start layout, do the following:

  1. Update your Windows 10 PCs to Windows 10 version 1607 (also known as the Anniversary Update) or newer, and install the March 14th, 2017 cumulative update (KB4013429) or newer.
  2. Create a full or partial Start menu layout XML file. To do so, see Customize and export Start layout.
    If you specify a full Start layout, a user can’t customize any part of the Start menu. If you specify a partial Start layout, users can customize everything but the locked groups of tiles you specify. However, with a partial Start layout, user customizations to the Start menu won’t roam to other PCs.
  3. Use Group Policy to apply the customized Start layout to the GPO you created for Roaming User Profiles. To do so, see Use Group Policy to apply a customized Start layout in a domain.
  4. Use Group Policy to set the following registry value on your Windows 10 PCs. To do so, see Configure a Registry Item.

Action

Update

Hive HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key path Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer
Value name SpecialRoamingOverrideAllowed
Value type REG_DWORD
Value data 1 (or 0 to disable)
Base Decimal

I would like to point out, this DOES NOT allow the start menu to roam from PC to PC, so changes will not move with the user. I hope this helps, and sheds some light on the importance of this setting if you fall into that unique situation of VDI’s, non-persistence, and roaming profiles. Good luck! -Chad Munkelt