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Deploy a customized Windows 11 Start Menu

Now that we know how to “export” the Start Menu layout, it is possible to deploy it to a fresh Windows 11 installation using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) for example.

How to Show ‘All Apps’ By Default in Windows 11 Start Menu

If you are using the latest version of Windows 11, you might know that the operating system ships with a new start menu and new file explorer icons. Actually, Windows 11 is more advanced than Windows 10, and it includes many new features that were not seen on other desktop operating systems.

Additionally, Microsoft has changed the functionality of Windows 11’s Start Menu. If you have been using Windows 11 for a while, you might have noticed that the Start Menu doesn’t show all apps by default. Instead, it shows the newly installed apps, recently opened files, and the apps pinned to the Start menu.

Yes, you can view the All Apps section, but you need to click on the All apps button located beside the Pinned text. While the stock look of the Start Menu suits well with the operating system, users can customize it to their liking.

For example, you can customize the Windows 11 Start Menu to see all apps by default. If you do so, Windows 11’s Start Menu won’t display the pinned apps and recently used files which could have been a privacy concern for many.

Show ‘All Apps’ By Default in Windows 11 Start Menu

Hence, if you are looking for ways to open All Apps by default in Windows 11 Start Menu, you are reading the right guide. In this article, we will share a step-by-step guide on how to Show all apps by default in Windows 11. Let’s check out.

1. First of all, open your favorite web browser and open this Github link. Next, download the latest version of ExplorerPatcher.

2. Once downloaded, you need to run the ExplorerPatcher software to install it on your device.

3. Since ExplorerPatcher doesn’t have any interface, you won’t see anything during the installation. Once installed, right-click on the Taskbar and select Properties.

4. This will open the ExplorerPatcher’s Properties page. You need to switch to the Taskbar option.

5. On the right, select the Windows 11 (Default) on the Taskbar Style.

6. Now switch to the Start Menu option as shown below.

7. On the right, check the option Open Start in All apps by default.

8. After making the changes, click on the Restart File Explorer button, as shown below.

Important: At the time of writing ExplorerPatcher software has many bugs. You might have to make multiple attempts to open the Start Menu.

If the interface has lagged or the screen is blacked out, you need to press the CTRL+ALT+DEL key and select the Task Manager. On the Taskmanager, click on File > Run New task. On the RUN dialog box, enter explorer.exe and hit the Enter button.

That’s it! You are done. Now the Windows 11 Start menu will show All Apps by default.

It’s pretty easy to customize Windows 11’s Start Menu with ExplorerPatcher software. I hope this article helped you! Please share it with your friends also. If you have any doubts related to this, let us know in the comment box below.

The issue

On Windows 10 I created a default Start Menu layout. This way, the Start Menu of our users would not be filled with unwanted apps by default.

Recently Windows 11 was released and I decided to immediately try to create a Windows 11 deployment task sequence in the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT). One thing I noticed is that the way Windows 10 handles the Start Menu layout is not the same as Windows 11 does.

Windows 10 can export and import the Start Menu layout using the Export-StartLayout and Import-StartLayout PowerShell commands. On Windows 10 these commands export and import the Start Menu layout as an XML file. On Windows 11 the Start Menu layout is exported as a json file. The import command can’t be used with a json file on Windows 11.

The solution

So how do we import a default Start Menu layout on Windows 11 then? The only information I could find about this topic was an article on Microsoft Docs, with information for OEMs to add a couple of pinned apps, but there was no information about importing a default Start Menu layout… until I stumbled upon a tweet from Twitter user Albacore.

Apparently the Windows 11 Start Menu layout is stored in the folder %LocalAppdata%\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState as a file called start.bin. According to Albacore the file is encrypted and can be swapped across installs. I can confirm that this works fine indeed.

Exporting and deploying the Start Menu layout

Now that we know how to “export” the Start Menu layout, it is possible to deploy it to a fresh Windows 11 installation using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) for example.

  1. Pin apps to the Start Menu the way you like it.
  2. Go to %LocalAppData%\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState and copy the file start.bin to a folder of your deployment solution.
  3. Add a command to your deployment Task Sequence to copy the file to the Default User profile, for example by using xcopy.
xcopy "%ScriptRoot%\Windows11\StartMenu\start.bin" "%OSDisk%\Users\Default\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState\" /y

MDT Windows 11 Task Sequence example

Alternatively, you could mount the install.wim file and copy the file to the image.

When a new user logs in, the Start Menu layout will be applied once. If you want to overwrite the Start Menu layout of existing users, copy the file to the AppData folder of each user. After that, they need to log out and log in, or restart the Windows Explorer process.

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