Server 2012 – Remove Network Icon from File Explorer Navigation Pane via Group Policy

After much research, some poking around in the registry, and a little dumb luck, I’ve discovered a way to disable the Network icon from the left side of the File Explorer navigation pane on a PER USER basis using Group Policy Registry Preferences.

Basically, I borrowed the concept from other posts and made it work for the current user profile. One problem that I ran into trying to use the HKLM key was that I couldn’t update the key using the SYSTEM account via Group Policy and I didn’t want to manually edit registry permissions on a bunch of RDS Servers. On top of that, more importantly, I didn’t want to disable the Network icon for my administrator accounts too! So here’s what you need to do…

FileExplorerNetworkIcon

Inside of Group Policy Editor for your RDS Server’s User Policy, navigate here and do the following:

User Configuration > Preferences > Windows Settings > Registry
Right-click Registry > New > Registry-Item

Action: Update
Hive: HKEY_CURRENT_USER
Key Path: Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\CLSID\{F02C1A0D-BE21-4350-88B0-7367FC96EF3C}\ShellFolder
Value name: Attributes
Value type: REG_DWORD
Value data: 00100000
Base: Hexadecimal

Here’s an illustration of the above method:

FileExplorerNetworkIcon-GPP-Regkey

As with any Group Policy Preferences changes you make, once you’ve done that, you will have to make sure that the group policy has fully replicated to all of your domain controllers and then force a group policy update for that particular user account by running “gpupdate /force /target:user” and then log off and back on if you want the changes to take effect immediately. Otherwise, as long as the group policy has indeed replicated to all of your servers, the policy would go in effect the next time that user logs on because it is a registry preference and those run at logon time.

I’ve gotten a shit ton of negs for this post for some reason and frankly I’m a little pissed off about that, but I assure you that this works. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the damn time to write about it people. Nor would I have wasted the time to edit the post all over again just to add a bunch of stupid pictures for everything. I’ve implemented this solution on more than half a dozen Remote Desktop servers for over 100 plus users via group policy, so if it is not working for you, then it is something that you have done wrong dumb dumb.

If you simply want to test that this works and I promise you it does, you can open up the registry editor and test it out for yourself on any Windows 8 or Server 2012 computer. While logged onto the user’s account that you want the icon disabled on, go to this spot in the registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\{F02C1A0D-BE21-4350-88B0-7367FC96EF3C}

Right click and create a new key called “ShellFolder”

FileExplorerNetworkIconHKCU-CLSID

Right click that new “ShellFolder” key and select New > DWORD (32-bit) value, name the new key “Attributes”, give it a value of “001000000” hexadecimal, and then log off and back on.

FileExplorerNetworkIconHKCU-CLSID-Attributes

The icon should now be gone, if not, retrace your steps because you have missed something or if you have done it via group policy, then maybe one of my explanations above is true.

FileExplorerNetworkIconGone

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