Customizing the XP Start Menu Using Group Policy

Regardless of whether you’re responsible for a single XP system or an office full of them, one feature that you may find useful is the ability to control which customizations a regular user can carry out. For example, as an administrator you may want to control whether other users can remove important shortcuts like My Network Places from the Start menu. If a user were to remove this shortcut icon, they might have difficulty finding the program in the future. To account for this, XP allows you to control what users can do to the Start menu via both Group Policy settings (on XP Professional) and edits to the Registry (XP Home and Professional).

If you’re running XP Professional, open the Group Policy MMC from the Run command by typing gpedit.msc and clicking OK. Once the tool has opened, browse to User Configuration > Start Menu and Taskbar, as shown below. Selectively enabling or disabling items on this list can force the removal of certain icons, or disallow them from being removed, as per your preferences. For example, if you were to open the Remove My Network Places icon from Start menu policy item and set it to Disabled, users would not be able to remove this icon. If set to enabled, the icon would not be available on the Start menu at all. Users running XP Home will need to use the Registry Editor to make these changes, with paths and settings outlined in the boxout below.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.