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.

Comments (34)
  1. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Caryn,

    The copyprofile option must be used during deployment because this this the way they designed it. This setting will have no impact if it is used when you create the image. Here is a KB that explains how it works –



  2. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Alex,

    There is no way to change what an app tile launches, however you could just unpin the Mail app from the start screen and pin the Outlook Tile in its place.



  3. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi FearofWeapons,

    You are correct, you can reuse different layouts and the apps will appear on the Start Screen as long as they are on the image.

    I am not sure if this method will work across SKU's or languages.



  4. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Joey,

    As long as you add this step before the Execute Sysprep stage everything should work.



  5. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Louie,

    The script "de-provisions" the app from the computer and uninstalls it from the administrator profile so that you only need to run it once.



  6. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Sam,

    The machine needs to be joined after the image is deployed. You cannot Sysprep a domain joined machine.



  7. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Dan,

    The screenshot is from an MDT task sequence. Collapsing groups is something that you can do in MDT, however as you know this does not work in ConfigMgr.



  8. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Aaron,

    The AppFolderLayout.bin file is only available after the Sysprep process, once you logon as administrator this file will no longer be available. This is why I run the script immediately after the image has been applied to the device. I didn't originally include the file with this post but you can now find it here –…/



  9. Anonymous says:

    I'm yet to see AppsFolderLayout.bin; instead appsFolder.itemdata-ms seems to be the file to copy. Additionally this needs to be set to read-only for the custom Start Screen settings to persist (the RO attribute then needs to be removed after the user logs on).

  10. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi ITGuy,

    Unfortunately there is no way to customize the Start Screen post image deployment.

    Here is an article that explains some of this behavior –…/en-us



  11. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Louie,

    You can remove he apps using a script, we have a blog post on doing that here –…/removing-built-in-applications-from-windows-8.aspx.



  12. Anonymous says:

    So.. could you crack the WIM file and copy the AppsFolderLayout.bin from one image to another?

    This would potentially enable you to have a library of layouts in an org – one for CxOs, one for the techs, etc.

    If so what are the restrictions on this? i.e. Language, SKU, etc.?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great KB. How do I quickly fix the admin user name and initial showing up in each and every user's office app personalize section? I installed the office under administrator login and capture the image. Users don't get prompt when open the office apps for the first time.

  14. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Scorpio92,

    That is correct, can you please provide a link to the incorrect information on TechNet. I will get it corrected.


  15. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Joey,

    I have not seen the issue you are having. Perhaps it is caused by a clash with CopyProfile, are you using CopyProfile when you deploy the image?



  16. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Bo,

    Is this a non-domain joined Windows 8 Pro machine? If so then this is expected.



  17. Ben Hunter says:

    Hi Mike,

    The only option that would work for you right now is to create a separate app layout file for each user group as detailed in option 3. You would then need to write a script that contains the logic required to determine which layout to apply at deployment time.



  18. Dan Clark says:

    In your first <a href="…/a>, you have collapsed groups in the Task Sequence. The buttons for Add, Remove, Move Up and Move down also look different than the standard interface in CM 2012. Being able to collapse groups in longer task sequences is something I've been wanting to do for a while now. Can you explain how to enable collapsing groups in the Task Sequence Editor?


  19. Louie C. says:

    I've succeeded in copying the Start screen layout, but what if I *do not* want it to install the default Metro apps? (Photos, Mail, Calendar, People, etc.)

  20. Louie C. says:


    Thanks, this is great, but will I have to have the machine run that script every time a new user logs in to prevent it from installing those apps, or is there a way to prevent the initial "Installing apps…" stage of the initial login from running at all?



  21. Dewitte Bo says:

    Thanks for the how-to but when i use

    the copyprofile method the start screen goes back to default.

    the strange thing is that when i want to pin programs afterwards (those i wanted to be pinned

    in the first place) Windows says they are already pinned. do you have any idea where it went wrong ?



  22. ITGuy says:


    I know we can achieve the customization of start screen tiles for apps which are already installed in the Image, but what i am looking is for the apps which are deployed after the Image is applied. For Ex: Office is installed in the deployment TS after the Image is applied, can in any way customize the tiles for these office apps after the deployment or am i asking for too much.

  23. sam says:


    I just want to make sure that the start screen customize only work if I joined the Windows 8 pro to the domain before running sysprep? Thanks


  24. mike says:

    Dear Ben,

    I have successfully created a defaultuserprofile on my server. There is only one problem left: For each Usergroup in my domain I need a different start screen. How do I do this???



  25. Caryn says:

    Ben, can you explain "you must add the CopyProfile option to the unattend.xml used to deploy the image (NOT the unattend.xml used to create the image)"?    I'm already using this setting in a customized sysprepped image.  Are you saying I should add a task in MDT to sysprep with a different unattend.xml after the OS is dropped?

  26. Alex Kirby says:

    I have a question to everyone. I LOATHE windows live mail instead i use Outlook.. Now is there a way for me to associate the "Mail" metro button with Outlook 2013 instead of Windows Live Mail?

  27. Joey says:

    Hi Ben,

      Can you tell me what point exactly the LTISuspend must be entered?  My State Restore group looks completely different from yours.  My last subgroup under "State Restore" is "Capture Image" – do I need to put it after "Execute Sysprep"?

    Thank you


  28. Joey says:


       The appfolderlayout.bin switcharoo is working like a charm.  However, I notice that some of my icons are missing.  

    I kept desktop, weather, store, music, photos, video, camera, and Internet Explorer all pinned, but they are mostly missing.  The only built-in Metro apps that appeared that were supposed to are store and desktop.  All of my after-the-fact pinnings (such as to my Cisco WebEx Connect client, Firefox, Chrome, Adobe Reader, etc) are all there as they are supposed to be.  So ironically the only things not appearing are the standard built in Metro apps.  Any clue on why this might be?

  29. Joey says:


       This thing is killing me.  I added a shortcut to Internet Explorer, an "All Apps" shortcut, and a shortcut to our VPN client and they will not pin no matter what I do (using appsFolderLayout.bin).  We are not using CopyProfile.  We are simply copying the appsFolderLayout.bin file during deployment of the operating system to the default profile.  Everything works except for those applications – iexplore.exe (not the Metro IE), an All Apps shortcut I made, and the Cisco VPN client.  I have literally tried ten different ways to make it work.  It's always those same 3 applications giving me fits.

    In total, we remove about 10 built-in apps, keep 7 of them, and add about 10 tiles to start (Outlook, Excel, WebEx, etc).  Everything works except for those 3 stupid shortcuts.

    Any clue at all what is giving me this grief?

  30. Joey says:

    I just wanted to share in case anyone else comes across this issue….in order for the Appsfolderlayout.bin file to actually place everything you want it to on the desktop, the shortcuts to those files MUST exist SOMEWHERE in C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart Menu.  They don't have to be in any certain folder or anything but they have to be somewhere.

    So Ben, my issue is finally fixed!!  I just added in where all of my shortcuts (*.lnk files) got copied to that folder during the deployment.  Then Appsfolderlayout.bin worked like a champ.  Thank you.

  31. zack says:

    Hi Ben

    I installed Office 2013 on Windows 8 in Audit Mode. After I finished everything, office works ok, but there is no shortcut for the office programs on the start screen of Windows.

    Have any way?


  32. Matt Gelder says:

    Hi Ben,

    I've had to do this recently for a large UK retailer and have managed to customise the Start Screen in what I think is an easier way. Having used yours and other Deployment Guys pages many times I figured this was a good place to share it. Basically using OblyTile (in elevated mode and set to create tiles for All Users)to create fancy tiles, customising the layout and exporting the file and supporting files to the Default User profile this can work well. The batch file I've used at the end can easily be run in MDT / ConfigMgr.

    I've stuck the information on my blog at:…/customising-windows-8-start-screen.html

    Hope this is of use to people it took me a long time to get right.

  33. Scorpio92 says:

    Are you sure with this ?:
    ***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).***
    Technet tell we another thing.

  34. chivas Tan says:

    Comment: Hello.At first,I should say sorry for my poor English. I an in trouble on MDT 2012 to deploy Windows .In my scenario,I want to deploy windows 7 pro x64 to one Pc. Before install OS ,I need to format disk 0 partition 1 first.I use a diskpart script
    to do this job.I set a command tasksequence after Format and Partition Disk.the script of task is: select disk 0 select partition 1 format fs=ntfs quick active but,if i do so,I will get a error after first time log in the windows: Unable to find the sms task
    sequencer. I had check my WIM file,There no MININT folder in root directory. Can you help me?

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content