Classic Shell is a necessary evil for any normal Windows user who wants to be able remain productive with introduction of the Start Screen in Server 2012 and Windows 8. As a network administrator, I highly recommend Classic Shell because it even has it’s own Group Policy templates that you can add in with the PolicyDefinitions inside your domain’s SYSVOL folder so you can at least somewhat try to put the Start Menu back to the way it once was. The Start Screen is a technical support person’s worst nightmare for novice users who don’t deal well with change (and trust me they don’t).
If you’re trying to customize a Remote Desktop Server environment, one somewhat annoying thing you will run into is trying to get rid of the first run wizard for Classic Shell. Obviously, the first run wizard is handy for anybody who wants to customize the look and feel of their Start Menu, but more than likely in a Remote Desktop environment, you’re going to want all this predefined with no user interaction so the chances of them screwing things up is slim to none.
That being said, I’ve also found that yes the Group Policy Templates for Classic Shell are nice, but to truly lock down certain settings of the user interface the way you want them to be, you’re going to need a mixture of using the GP Template to lock the user from being able to change the settings in the user interface and then setting your predefined settings in the registry with Group Policy Preferences.
I plan to write up a whole other article on that topic when I get around to it, but for now, below are the registry keys needed to prevent Classic Shell’s first run wizard from appearing.
Inside of the Group Policy editor, navigate to:
User Configuration > Preferences > Windows Settings > Registry
In the left hand pane, right-click on Registry and select:
New > Registry Item
You can leave the action to “Update” and set the Hive to “HKEY_CURRENT_USER” for all of the items. For the first two entries, in the Key Path field, enter just the following without Value names or any data:
For the Start Menu layout, I just went with the Windows 7 style. If you want something else, go ahead and run through the wizard, make your selection, open up the registry editor, and then you will need to find out what value to enter for this entry:
Key Path: Software\IvoSoft\ClassicStartMenu Value name: ShowedStyle2 Value type: REG_DWORD Value data: 00000001 Base: Hexadecimal
Last but not least, if you haven’t already set this elsewhere with the Group Policy templates, you will probably want to add one more entry to bypass the Start Screen and boot directly into the Desktop:
Key Path: Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StartPage Value name: OpenAtLogon Value type: REG_DWORD Value data: 00000000 Base: Hexadecimal