Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 3, Return of the Start Button and Boot to Desktop

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With the right hardware and enough time to plan the Windows 8.1 deployment within your organization, it’s time to start looking at the many new Windows 8.1 features you might (or might not) want to take advantage of with your organization.

One much anticipated feature of Windows 8.1 by Windows 8 users is the return of the Start Button and the heavily hyped Boot to Desktop possibility.


Managing the Start Button

In terms of client management the return of the Start Button in Windows 8.1 appears to be a double-edged sword. While it’s good news for users of Windows versions prior to Windows 8 and users of Windows 8 with one of the numerous Start Button programs, it might also be confusing for users at organizations who have been told to live without a Start Button…

One thing you should know is you can’t remove the Start button from Windows 8.1 with built-in tools.

For Windows 8, several 3rd party tools exist to add a Start Button to the taskbar. For Windows 8.1, even prior to its release, a 3rd party program already exists to remove the Start Button: Start Killer.

I expect many more Start Button management tools to appear or to be updated in the wake of the Windows 8.1 launch to accommodate your Start Button needs.


Managing Boot to Desktop

While managing the Start Button might prove tricky, booting to the desktop instead of the Start Screen in Windows 8.1 isn’t. Several ways exist to boot to the desktop after each logon. Here’s how.

For tablets booting to the Start Screen might be preferred (and is the default on Windows 8.1), but on desktops and laptops, booting to the Desktop might bring your colleagues higher productivity.

Boot to Desktop with Group Policy

First off, there’s a Group Policy setting, labeled Go to the desktop instead of Start when signing in or when all the apps on a screen are closed in the User Configuration part of Windows 8.1 Group Policy Objects (GPOs), so all your Boot to Desktop Group Policy targeting scenarios should be covered.

Group Policy setting for Boot To Desktop (click for original screenshot)

This setting is located in User Configuration / Administrative Templates / Start Menu and Taskbar.

When you enable this Group Policy setting, colleagues targeted by the Group Policy will be shown the Desktop after logon and will also be shown the Desktop after they close their last open Windows 8 Interface app. When you disable it, their experience will be the Windows 8 experience, where the Start Screen appears on the screen whenever it feels appropriate.

Boot to Desktop through the registry

More a registry aficionado? You can achieve the same goal through registry. With your favorite Registry editing method (Group Policy Preference, System Center Configuration Manager Compliance Setting, *.reg file, manually with RegEdit.exe or RegEdt32.exe or through your 3rd party management solution), simply add a GoToDesktopOnSignIn DWORD value with 1 as its data to


You can also force the Start Screen at every logon and after closing the last Windows 8 Interface app. For this goal, you’ll need to use 0 as the data for the value. If you don’t want to override settings, simply remove the registry value.

Boot to Desktop for individual use

For colleagues wanting to change their own settings, you can instruct them to do so on the Navigation tab of the Taskbar and Navigation Properties screen. Simply right-click the taskbar in Desktop mode, select Properties from the context menu, head to the Navigation tab and select the When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.

Navigation Tab of the TaskBar and Navigation Properties (click for screenshot in separate window)

Next, click OK to save your settings and close the screen.

When you’ve used the Group Policy or Registry method earlier, then, the option When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start will be grayed out.



The Start Button is back with a vengeance. You can’t make it go away with built-in tools. As it’s Microsoft new policy to hold on to the Desktop a little while longer, you can now make the Desktop show at logon instead of the Start Screen.

Related blogposts

Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 1: Overview
Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 2: The best hardware for the job

Further reading

Will I be able to hide/remove the start button in the windows 8.1 update?
Start Killer v3.2 Allows you to Kill Windows 8.1 Start Button in just 2 Minutes
Windows 8.1: How to remove Start Button?
Start Killer: Free Software to Remove Start Button (ORB) from Windows Taskbar
Windows 8.1 will let you disable hot corners and shut down from the Start button
It’s Official: Windows 8.1 Will Feature Start Button and Boot To Desktop

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