Windows 10 default profile customization

We often receive support questions around some aspect of customizing a Windows 10 default profile. Even though this isn’t specific to SmartDeploy imaging software, our customers often want to customize default profiles as part of their new hardware rollout or Windows 10 migration project.

Since Windows 10 no longer supports the traditional CopyProfile method to customize default profiles, check out the most frequently used customizations in Jeff’s video or in the steps below.

1. Windows 10 Start Menu and Task Bar

  • Power on the virtual reference machine and log in
  • Configure the Start Menu to your satisfaction
  • Use the PowerShell command, Export-StartLayout -Path [Path\LayoutModification.xml] to export an XML file
  • Tip: When you’re done with the custom XML, open it in Internet Explorer. If the window is totally blank, an issue occurred in the process.
  • In-depth video: Customize the Win10 Start Menu
  • Save the XML file to the C:\Users\Default\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\ folder
  • To customize the pin tiles and the task bar, you need to add that information to the same XML file.
  • To test, create a new local user and log in to that account to view your customized Start Menu.

2. Shortcuts and Placement of Files

  • Copy selected files into the corresponding folder in the hidden directory, C:\Users\Default
    • (e.g. \Documents, \Music)

3. Application Defaults

  • Set application defaults as desired on the reference machine
  • Run the command: dism /Online /export-defaultappassociations:\\Server\Share\Appassoc.xml (to export an XML file containing the app associations)
  • Use a script to run an import command which will parse that XML file and set your default apps as a post-deployment Task (e.g. during the Specialize or First Boot phases).
  • Here is an example command:
    • Dism.exe /Image:C:\test\offline /Import-DefaultAppAssociations:F:\AppAssociations.xml

See this article for more information.

4. Desktop Background

The easiest way to customize the desktop background image is through Group Policy. There are plenty of guides out there, like this one.

  • Open Group Policy Management Console
  • Right click Create a GPO in this domain and link it here OR to link to an existing GPO, right-click on the domain or an OU within the domain and click Link an Existing GPO
  • Create a name for the GPO and right click to select Edit to open the Group Policy Management Editor
  • From here, expand User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Desktop, and then click Desktop
  • In the Details pane, double-click Desktop Wallpaper
  • To enable this setting, select the Enabled radio button
  • Enter a local or UNC file path for an image in the Wallpaper Name field
  • Set the wallpaper style as Fill
  • Click Apply and then Ok

We recommend using Group Policy because it’s easier to apply uniformly and change in the future if needed.

Hopefully these four solutions to customize a Windows 10 default profile are helpful and your Windows 10 project is a success!

What happened to CopyProfile?

Once upon a time, Microsoft offered a handy method using Sysprep (with the CopyProfile option selected) which accomplished many of these default profile customizations. Unfortunately, this procedure started to become deprecated – not all at once, but in a piecemeal way, one feature at a time, often without any accompanying change in documentation. As of Windows 10 Version 1607 (three and a half years ago, as of this writing), this method stopped working for preserving customizations to the Start Menu and Taskbar. Since this functionality was an absolute requirement for most of our users, this was the point when our support team stopped recommending this method.

The fact is, using Sysprep to preserve these items was never a great option to begin with. Running Sysprep on a reference VM prior to capture can cause additional problems with Sysprep down the road (when it is run automatically on the deployed device), and this was a good opportunity to start moving users toward a more reliable and less error-prone method.