Windows 8.1 Reference Image – Boot to Desktop

One of the new great features that I like with Windows 8.1 is that you now have the option to choose if you’d like to boot directly to your desktop instead of the start page. This article walks you through how this can be managed with Group Policy. Instead of using Group Policy, a natural way for me was to update my reference image creation process, to add in those registry values necessary in the Default user hive for accomplishing the task.
I’ve recently done a blog post about how you create a Windows 8.1 Enterprise reference image with MDT 2013, which can be found here. This post will be a supplement to that reference image creation process.

  • Create a registry file to be imported
  • Update LTICopyScripts.wsf
  • Configure the Task Sequence

Create a registry file to be imported
1. Open Notepad or any other text editor of your choice and paste in the following:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

2. Save it as BootDesktop.reg.
3. Copy the file to your Deployment Share’s script folder. In the blog post about creating a Windows 8.1 Enterprise reference image, the path was C:\DeploymentShare\Scripts.
Update LTICopyScripts.wsf
1. Go to C:\DeploymentShare\Scripts and open LTICopyScripts.wsf with Notepad.
2. Search for ScriptsToCopy and amend that array with the following “BootDesktop.reg”. Save the file and close Notepad.
Configure the Task Sequence
1. Open the Task Sequence used to create your reference image. In my previous blog post I’ve named it Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64 – Reference.
2. Select the State Restore -> Custom Tasks group, click Add and choose New Group.
3. Call the new group Configure Default User Hive.
4. Select the Configure Default User Hive group and add three Run Command Line steps, configure them as follows:

  • Name: Load Default User Hive
    Command line: reg.exe load HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Default C:\Users\Default\ntuser.dat
  • Name: Import StartPage Keys
    Command line: reg.exe import “%SCRIPTROOT%\BootDesktop.reg”
  • Name: Unload Default User Hive
    Command line: reg.exe unload HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Default

5. Now re-create your reference image and once you deploy the image with ConfigMgr 2012 SP1 or R2, every user that logs on will now be presented with the desktop instead of the start page. Nice? I think so!


Nickolaj Andersen

Chief Technical Architect and Enterprise Mobility MVP since 2016. Nickolaj has been in the IT industry for the past 10 years specializing in Enterprise Mobility and Security, Windows devices and deployments including automation. Awarded as PowerShell Hero in 2015 by the community for his script and tools contributions. Creator of ConfigMgr Prerequisites Tool, ConfigMgr OSD FrontEnd, ConfigMgr WebService to name a few. Frequent speaker at conferences such as Microsoft Ignite, NIC Conference and IT/Dev Connections including nordic user groups.


  • Hello
    Has anyone tried this on Windows 10 x64 (1511) ? So far I can get the traditional Windows registry settings to work but the newer features like Privacy and Edge do not change in the new profiles. Any ideas? My keys work when I run them manually in the profile.

  • I have tried this a few times and it has yet to work for me. Could you possibly help me out?

  • Well done!
    how to be understood item no. 5 .:
    5 Now re-create your reference image? how? Just very briefly. thank you

  • Is is possible to Boot to Desktop during only the MDT deployment process (to see the progress of the Lite Touch installation) and default back to the Start Screen after a successful deployment?

    • Hi Paul,
      It should be possible yes, but I’ve not tested it. I’d assume that you could apply the same process with the three “Run Command Line” steps, but put them during the “Install” phase instead, right after the image have been applied. One thing that pops in mind though, and that is if the local Administrator accounts profile is created from the Default profile. If it’s not (not able to verify that right now), you’d have to change so that you add the registry changes to the local Administrators registry hive instead.
      The command line of the first “Run Command Line” step that I’ve called “Load Default User Hive” should then be changed to:
      Once again, I’ve not tested this so I’m not sure which method works. If you decide to try it out, please let me know what method worked 🙂