HP Support Assistant – The Epitome of Spyware and How to Disable It

Sure there are several legitmate cases where the HP Support Assistant can be helpful, such as updating drivers or flashing the BIOS on the computer, but if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already established the fact that the software basically hijacks your computer and does a lot of shady shit in the background. I would absolutely classify the product as being spyware and would highly recommend that you take all steps necessary to disable it when it is not being used, and here are some reasons why.

My first problem is that by default, the HP Support Assistant does an intrusive scan of your network to search for “devices” every time the software runs and it appears you can’t turn that off. It doesn’t get much shadier than that folks, seeing as how you don’t really know what they are up to and why they are taking an inventory of your entire network.
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RDS Server 2012 – Disable On-Screen Keyboard Toolbar While Shadowing a User

While researching on how to make shadowing or remote controlling transparent to the end user in Server 2012 (While shadowing, now end users get an on-screen keyboard toolbar icon and somehow the ability to change the taskbar positioning even if that ability is disabled so that now they can tell when their session is being remote controlled), I came across some articles that said Microsoft had completely removed the functionality when the product first came out and I was completely and utterly flabbergasted. I seriously can not believe that they could be that freaking ignorant. I think I can speak for every system admin out there that they would stab MS in the neck with a jagged shard of broken glass if given the chance for removing that option. Administratively, the whole point of being able to remote control a users session without their consent or knowing your there tends to keep end users on task or to keep them from doing things they know they’re not supposed to be doing instead of working.
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Server 2012/Windows 8 – Ribbon UI: Disable Icons, Buttons, Shortcuts, Tasks, and Commands

To disable a Ribbon UI icon, button, shortcut, task, or command, it requires a combination of registry keys. Some of which must be added to the registry, other keys merely need to be edited if they already exist. In cases where I’ve added the “MUIVerb” column in the table below, the only reason I am adding this key is because once you disable the icon, for whatever reason the icon description is missing so it looks fairly strange to have a grayed out icon without a name under it. Here is the location of the Ribbon UI stuff in the registry:


All of these registry keys use the same values throughout so I’m just going to place an X in the column below whether you need to set it or not. Also, I don’t have that kind of time to be able to test every single one of these entries, however, I would like to see this table completely filled at some point and I can only do that with your help. If you figure out an entry that I haven’t documented yet here, please take the time to quickly email me the info containing all the necessary info at webmaster@thisdomain.com with a subject line of “Ribbon UI”. I will ask one more thing of you, since at the time of this writing, this is literally the only place on the internet you will find this information (and I searched online for days) because I figured it out all by myself, if this page helped you out, please give me a thumbs up vote at the bottom of the post. I intend on adding some sortable post rating functionality to the site and I need feedback. Continue reading “Server 2012/Windows 8 – Ribbon UI: Disable Icons, Buttons, Shortcuts, Tasks, and Commands”

Server 2012 – Ribbon UI: Disable Hidden Items Checkbox

For a good explanation of the process involved to do this and how I figured this out, check out my other post here. Microsoft really dropped the ball this time around by reinventing the wheel (aka the Ribbon UI) and not creating the associated Group Policy templates to be able to disable items that standard users should never have access to.

Just a couple of questions for Microsuck…

  1. Why in the hell does a person hide a file or folder in the first place? Could it be because they don’t want users to access it? Sure you can set file permissions but what about hidden DFS root folders that they have to have write access to? Do you want your users to have access to those? Nothing can go wrong there…
  2. Why would I have a Group Policy to disable access to “File Options” yet have a checkbox to show “Hidden Items” with no way to disable it. It doesn’t make sense. You don’t make sense. Dumbasses. Finish the fucking product before you roll it out for god sakes. This OS has been out for three years already, how in the hell is this not fixed yet? (P.S. you suck.)

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Server 2012 – Ribbon UI: Disable Add a Network Location and Other Icons

This one task took me days of research online and a lot of trial and error to figure out and you won’t find this answer anywhere else on the net (except for another forum I posted the solution in), so I hope some server admins out there will really find this useful (and I know you will).

My initial conquest began as a search for the “Add Network Location” CLSID {D4480A50-BA28-11d1-8E75-00C04FA31A86} in the registry after learning how to disable the other icons in File Explorer. My first attempts to disable this shortcut followed this same procedure but failed miserably and I couldn’t understand why. I tried at least a dozen different locations in the registry to no avail but eventually I found a post on stackexchange that sort of pointed me in the right direction and gave me an idea of what to search for in the registry and then I started to make some connections in my head.
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Server 2012/Windows 8 – Complete File Explorer Icon/Shortcut/Folder Removal List

I thought I would share with you the master icon removal list for File Explorer that I’ve compiled from various sites. All of the articles I’ve come across tend to delete the icons for all user’s, but I’ve found that it is possible to delete some of them on a per user basis by creating the key structure in the HKCU section of the registry instead. You’ll just have to fiddle around with them if you want to try it.


My biggest bitch by far about Server 2012 is that it doesn’t appear to even be a finished product in regards to Group Policy lockdown procedures. On almost every account, you have to hack the damn registry to get rid of unwanted items from File Explorer not to mention the god damned Ribbon UI which I’m going to do a whole nother post to rant and rave about and explain how to customize/remove icons from it. I’m not going to go into great detail here on how to add them through Group Policy Preferences or anything so if you need to know how to do that, check out some of my other articles where I explain how to do it.
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Polycom RealPresence Desktop – Do Not Minimize to Taskbar Tray

While poking through the registry trying to find a way disable Automatic Gain Control (AGC) for Polycom RealPresence Desktop (version video conferencing software, I stumbled upon a different registry key that addresses another annoying problem and that is to keep RPD from minimizing itself to the taskbar. Low and behold, it doesn’t appear that there is a setting associated with this registry key inside the program to disable this functionality either.

As a side note, I did have to open a support request with Polycom over the AGC issue as it automatically takes over the audio recording interface even after disabling all of Windows control over the settings and it negatively impacts conference quality. Because the software automatically dials down the input level of the recording interface, the user then has to yell just to be heard, which only further possibly causes the input level to go down even more, without ever adjusting the audio level back up. Currently, there is no way to turn this off, so it will probably end up as a feature request for the next software release.
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Server 2012 – Restrict Access to Specific Drives via Group Policy

If you’re familiar with Group Policy, there’s been an administrative template available since the Windows 2000 days to restrict access to the drives in File Explorer. The only problem with that template is that it only gives you the options to remove access to either all the drives or drives A, B, C, and D which is isn’t very flexible.

In search of a more granular option, I found this very helpful post here that explains exactly how to restrict access to specific drives using registry keys. Here I’m just going to copy the table and show you how to add a Group Policy Registry Preference to achieve the same thing.
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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… Continue reading “Server 2012 – Remove Network Icon from File Explorer Navigation Pane via Group Policy”