Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

For individual users, one of the more beneficial features of Windows 11 is the ability to change and modify standard configuration settings. But for IT administrators tasked with keeping enterprise systems running, reliable, and secure, allowing users to make random changes to those settings can cause problems ranging from minor annoyances to utter chaos.

SEE: 100+ IT policies at your fingertips, ready for download (TechRepublic Premium)

In Windows 11 or Windows 10 build 1703 or better, enterprise administrators and other IT professionals can use the Group Policy Management Console to hide specific configuration settings from individual users. This task is also possible with an edit of the Windows Registry file, but that method is less efficient.

How to hide and secure the Settings page

To be clear what we are talking about, click or tap the Windows 11 Start Menu and select Settings from the list of apps to reveal a screen (Figure A).

Figure A

Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

On the left-hand navigation bar, you can see a list of system configuration pages. We are going to use the Group Policy Management Console to hide one or more of those system configurations from users. Configuration changes may still be made, but individual users will be blocked from reaching them using conventional methods. This particular method requires Windows 11 Pro or Enterprise.

To open the Group Policy Management Console, open the Search tool on the Windows 11 desktop and type Edit Group Policy, then select the correct result to reveal the app (Figure B).

Figure B

Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

Use the left-hand windowpane to navigate to this policy:

Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | Control Panel

In the right-hand windowpane, look for an item labeled Setting Page Visibility (Figure C).

Figure C

Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

When you double-click the Setting Page Visibility item, you will open the configuration page (Figure D). Click the radio button to enable the policy.

Figure D

Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

The next step is to enter the command settings into the Options box. Microsoft provides extensive documentation on the potential values associated with Options, but the main takeaway is that you can either specify what items will be displayed on the Windows 11 Settings page or what items will be hidden on that page.

For example:




In our example (Figure D), we are hiding the Windows Update settings screen. Click Apply and then OK to complete the process. Now, when you open Settings in Windows 11 again, the Windows Update page will be hidden from view (Figure E).

Figure E

Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

To reverse the process, navigate back to the same setting inside the Group Policy Management Console and disable the setting or delete the options.

SEE: Windows PowerToys: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

If you are using Windows 11 Home and would like to hide certain configuration screens, you can edit the Windows Registry file.

Disclaimer: Editing the Windows Registry file is a serious undertaking. A corrupted Windows Registry file could render your computer inoperable, requiring a reinstallation of the Windows operating system and potential loss of data. Back up the Windows Registry file and create a valid restore point before you proceed.

To make our edits in the Windows 11 Registry File, we will type regedit into the Windows 11 search tool. From the results, choose the Regedit app and then use the left-hand window to navigate to this key (Figure F): HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer.

Figure F

Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

We will have to create a new key. Right-click the Explorer folder and select New | String Value from the context menu. Give the new key the name SettingsPageVisibility.

Once created, double-click the new SettingsPageVisibility key to reveal the options screen (Figure G).

Figure G

Image: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

Like we did in the Group Policy Management Console, we will enter options into the Value data text box that will either hide specific configuration pages or show only specified pages.

To reverse the process, delete the SettingsPageVisibility key or the options listed in the Value data section.

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