Microsoft

Talking Shop: Use the Registry Editor to take control of your users' desktops

Use the Windows registry to gain more control over what users do and to make the system easier to use.


Wouldn’t you like to have more control over what the user has access to on your network? Of course you would, and in this article I will show you how to achieve it. Through the magic of the Windows registry, you can customize your system to gain more control over what the user does, as well as make the system easier to use.

There's a new way, called the registry
A few years back, I enjoyed the control I had with Windows for Workgroups. You could exercise this control by changing a few things in the Windows INI files. Customizing the Windows environment gave you greater control over the network and user activities. By changing some of the attributes of the INI files, you could remove the File and Run options completely from the Windows menu. This gave the network more security (and gave me some peace of mind). However, since Windows 95, if you want to change how the operating system functions, you have to deal with the registry.

Before you proceed
The tips that follow all use the regedit command to start the Windows Registry Editor program. You can type this in at the Run command line from the Start menu. These registry tweaks are applicable to Win95, 98, NT, and Windows 2000. Always back up your registry before making any changes to it.

Trick #1: Remove Favorites
If your users don’t need to have the Favorites item on their Start menus, try this tip to remove it. From the Registry Editor, drill down until you find the line:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

Right-click on the right pane, select New, and then choose DWORD Value. You will want to rename the new value NoFavoritesMenu. Once you have completed that task, double-click on the value and enter 1 in the Value Data text box.

Trick #2: Remove Documents
If you don't want Windows to display the list of previously viewed documents, or you'd simply like to remove some of the clutter from the Start menu, you can remove the Documents menu. In the Registry Editor, locate this line:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

Right-click on the right pane, select New, and then choose DWORD Value. Change the value’s name to NoRecentDocsMenu. Now, double-click on the value and enter 1 in the Value Data text box.

Trick #3: Remove Find
Sometimes, you might want to prevent a user from searching for files on the network using the Find feature on the Start menu. To remove this function, first look for this line:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

Right-click on the right pane, select New, and then choose DWORD Value. Change the value’s name to NoFind and then double-click on it and enter 1 in the Value Data text box.

Note
If you want to restore the settings you changed in the tips above, you can simply delete the appropriate DWORD entry or change its value from 1 to 0.

Trick #4: Remove Taskbar
If you don't want users to be able to modify their taskbar or Start menu, you can prevent access to the Taskbar Properties dialog box by making a few changes in the registry. Using the Registry Editor, look for the following line:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

Right-click on the right pane, select New, and then choose Binary Value. Name the new value NoSetTaskbar. Double-click on the value and then enter 01 00 00 00 in the Value Data box. Note that this change will remove the Taskbar & Start Menu item from the Settings submenu on the Start menu in Win2K. (It will simply disable the item in Win95 and 98.) And while users will still see the Properties command on the shortcut menu that appears if they right-click on the taskbar, the command will be disabled. If you want to restore user access to the Taskbar Properties dialog box, simply change the value of the key to 00 00 00 00.

Conclusion
The Registry Editor enables you to do a lot of things that will enhance your Windows environment and make it more secure. While these changes are mostly cosmetic, you can see the power you have when it comes to controlling your users’ desktops. Of course, there are many other changes you can make, which go beyond the scope of this article. If you’d like more information, check out the following books:

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