Export Start Menu Layout (Tile Arrangement) without PS ? Help...

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  1. Posts : 7
    Windows 10 Home

    Export Start Menu Layout (Tile Arrangement) without PS ? Help...

    I want to export my Start Menu layout to another (local) account.

    However, when using Powershell's Import-StartLayout, I receive an 'access denied' error, it seems that the command tries to access the (hidden) C:\Users\Default folder as I set C:\ as -MountPath, perhaps this is just a minor issue, perhaps not.
    (If you're familiar with this issue, please reply as well, can't figure this out either.)

    I also tried copying and changing perms of the C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\TileDataLayer\Database folder,
    to export my start menu and to lock it, but changing any perms (admin or user) to that folder, resulted in corrupted boots,
    rendering windows slowly and with half its accessibility, I had to do a full system repair (twice), and copying that folder isn't even possible whilst windows is active. But I found out that to lock it, the Registry DWORD ''NoChangeStartMenu" sufficed. But my problem to transfer the settings, the tiles arrangement, persists.

    I figured to leave that TileDataLayer\Database folder with its data alone, and to move on to another solution, being thus the PS command, as described above. I got the info (about that folder) from somewhere on the Internet, someone claimed that the windows 10 Start Menu configuration is stored in it, my advice though : don't touch it!

    I'm quite familiar with using the Registry (Users, never LM) to alter perms, either with DWORD's or Key Perms,
    as well as exporting and executing registry files. I've been searching for some key or value in the Registry,
    that relates to the arrangement of the Start Menu Tiles, (I know where the shortcuts are in explorer),
    but no luck there... (like Explorer\Taskband relates to the Taskbar pins)

    Thus, given that the StartLayout commands don't work out for me,
    and well, I don't really like using them either, I'm placing this desperate request,
    for some knowledge on where I can find the Start Menu Tile arrangement,
    or how I could export and import it without the StartLayout commands.

    Thanks for your concern, fellow Windows users and admins,

    Kind Regards

    PS : The appsFolder.itemdata-ms file as well as its relatives, as they were used in the Appdata to transfer the Start Menu Layout in some versions of windows 8, no longer exist in 10, at least not where they used to be, also I don't have GPO, and prefer Regedit over it.

    Related thread (not by me) :
    Solved Start menu tiles layout savefile? - Windows 10 Forums
    (Not at all solved for me...)
      My Computer

  2. Posts : 17,636
    Windows 10 Pro

    Hi Audax, welcome to the Ten Forums.

    Import-StartLayout does not work the way you are trying to use it. You cannot copy (export) the Start layout from a user profile to be imported to another profile with it.

    The Import-StartLayout only works with Windows image files. You first export the preferred Start layout to a .bin file with Export-StartLayout cmdlet, then mount a Windows image (original or customized install.wim file), and finally insert the exported .bin file with Import-StartLayout cmdlet to the image file.

    PowerShell Export-StartLayout cmdlet syntax:
    Export-StartLayout -Path "D:\AnyName.bin"

    PowerShell Import-StartLayout cmdlet syntax:
    Import-StartLayout -LayoutPath "D:\AnyName.bin" -MountPath X:\YourWindowsImage

    The MountPath is and can only be the path to your mounted install.wim Windows image file.

      My Computer

  3. Posts : 7
    Windows 10 Home
    Thread Starter

    RE : Export Start Menu Layout (Tile Arrangement)

    Hello Kari,

    Thanks for your fast reply. Thus the PS Startlayout command only works with a Windows image, as far as I now comprehend, such an image is used to install Windows, often in a network setting on several devices at once (like in a school environment), or just a way of installing Windows at home, though this is a neat feature, could it serve my purpose?

    This will probably then change the default StartLayout for a newly installed Windows OS (thus in particular the Default user), and therefore seems to be an inconvenient way to transfer StartLayout data between two accounts operating on the same, already installed OS, yet, would it be a possibility to use this? (just 'no' is definitely an optional answer, I just want to be sure before I eliminate an option)

    In addition, in which direction would you, as a far more experienced Windows user, send me off to, to find what I'm looking for? Do you know (even a guess is very welcome) of a way that might enable me to transfer Start Menu Layout (Tile Arrangement) Data between two accounts (say User and Admin for instance)?

    Kind Regards

    PS: I'll look some further into the WIM method in the meantime.
      My Computer

  4. Posts : 7
    Windows 10 Home
    Thread Starter

    RE: Start Menu Layout : Discovered but not Disclosed...

    What I've discovered so far :

    The Export-StartLayout creates an XML (by default), I named it LayoutModification.xml,
    then I just copy pasted this file into C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Shell ,
    next to the DefaultLayouts.xml , I read somewhere that this might work, and it did (for now),
    I haven't tried it for my whole tile setup yet, I imagine that it's necessary to copy paste your folder,
    in C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\[nameOfYourFolder] ,
    that is only, if you created a folder with shortcuts, as I did.

    I leave this thread open, (unsolved), because I still wonder where exactly changes to the start menu are stored,
    the Export command must get the info of the current start menu layout from somewhere, and I'd like to know where that is, in previous Windows versions, there were files in which the start menu setup/layout was stored, that could be found in the explorer, other layouts like the taskbar, have their configuration settings stored in a (array) registry key, the cmdlet allows you to transfer the settings, but when I used a decompiler on the dll, I couldn't get much wiser on where it gets the information from to create that LayoutModification file based on the current start menu layout settings, even if it just creates that in the moment, I still figure that, given these settings are unaltered with the next bootup, or in fact that they are changeable at any time, that somewhere on this machine, in this Windows OS, that information is stored, perhaps a key or file that keeps track of changes, or has all the position/arrangement values for the start menu.

    Where, oh where, do you store alterations to the start menu, windows 10?

    Hope this helps others, and keep up the replies, someone must know this, or must at least be able to tell me where it is at, even if it's not accessible or encrypted...

    For now I can manage my transfers, but like mentioned above, I'll keep this open and active,
    because I really do want to know what happened to the configuration 'appsFolder.itemdata-ms' file in windows 8, when 10 took its place...

    Kind Regards

    References :

    Start layout for Windows 10 desktop editions - Windows 10 hardware dev
    (this is the file that the Export command creates for you, but it can be done manually as well)

    Customizing the Windows 10 Start Menu and add IE Shortcut during OSD - CCMEXEC.COM System Center blog
    OS|DC: Windows 10 : Deploying a customized start menu
    (copying the xml file)

    How To Save and Restore my Windows 8 Start Screen Tile Layout | Next of Windows
    (the configuration file in windows 8, that is no longer available or 'findable' in windows 10)

    PS : An additional, relevant question might be ;
    'How to reset your Start Menu Layout back to default without creating a new account to do so?'
    (the answer to that question might reveal some insights on where this configuration is currently stored)
      My Computer

  5. Posts : 17,636
    Windows 10 Pro

    The confusing thing here is that although Export-StartLayout cmdlet can export either a .bin or a .xml file, the Import-StartLayout can only import a .bin file which it then converts to a .xml file.

    This from https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/...r=-2147217396:
    The Import-StartLayout cmdlet imports the layout of the Start screen into a mounted Windows image. When you import a layout, it replaces the existing layout of the Start screen. Before you use this cmdlet, mount the Windows image file to import the layout into.

    Use the Export-StartLayout cmdlet to create a .bin file, and then use this cmdlet to import that file. You must have administrator rights to import a layout.

    The Export-StartLayout cmdlet also exports layouts as .xml files, but this cmdlet imports only .bin files.
    What is clear though is that you cannot use Import-StartLayout cmdlet the way you wanted, to copy the layout from an existing profile to another.
      My Computer

  6. Posts : 7
    Windows 10 Home
    Thread Starter

    Yes, however the need for Import-StartLayout seems to be obsolete now for my desires,
    which is good, one less thing to worry about, just copying the XML file does the trick (so far),
    but I'd still like to know where these settings are stored in windows 10, given that for 8,
    they were stored (simply) in two appsFolder.itemdata-ms files accessible with the explorer.
    The information must be stored somewhere, a reg key, a file, a value somewhere, somehow the Start Menu,
    knows to display my apps, arranged as I arranged them. I wonder ...

    However I'm glad that this works now, your reply about the import command,
    given that it made me discard it as an option, in combination with some further browsing,
    made me try the simple copying, thanks for that!

    Perhaps, you (or someone) can help me out with finding the location of data, that stores information on the Start Menu Layout, whilst changes are made to it, the XML file after all just sets up a template for a new user, or changes one (if you reboot) that of an existing one.

    Kind Regards
      My Computer

  7. Posts : 5,478

    I did look into this with process monitor in the past and it seems that the start menu layout is indeed stored in the TileDataLayer database and not in the registry, at least I couldn't see anywhere else being updated... I've not dug into it and don't understand its structure though.

    I'm not 100% sure what you are trying to achieve here- are you wanting to configure for new installs or create a layout and use it for the other existing account? You could consider exporting the layout to a share and then defining its location in group policy.

    Export Start Menu Layout (Tile Arrangement) without PS ? Help...-capture.png

    This would give a unchangeable start menu though so perhaps not what you want.
      My Computer

  8. Posts : 17,636
    Windows 10 Pro

    lx07 said:
    This would give a unchangeable start menu though so perhaps not what you want.
    Interesting idea, though!
      My Computer

  9. Posts : 7
    Windows 10 Home
    Thread Starter

    RE: Start Menu Layout : Sharing? ...

    Yes, the second is what I'm trying to achieve, I figured out how to set up a default Start Layout for new users, unfortunately this only sets up the Start Layout for a newly created account, as you both mentioned, what I'd really like to do, is the second process you mentioned, lx07, creating a preferred Layout (configuration of tiles), and then use it for another already existing account.

    I was thinking about just using the Export command and the hidden default folder, so that when I create a new account, it has my configured Start Layout initially, however, that would mean that I would have to transfer my files and recreate the other account to have its Start Layout updated, or mirror its settings manually. This would however work for me, but isn't the most elegant solution obviously.

    Some weeks ago, I received similar results with the proc monitor, I dug quite deep into it, and found out that the reg keys that were edited, didn't directly relate to anything usefull, like they do when you pin something to the taskbar (taskband key), some reg values changed, but no arrays, and mostly of keys that I couldn't easily comprehend. I did also find that the TileDatalayer is used, and it does seem an obvious candidate for storing that info.

    The problem is that, for security reasons I limited my own admin permissions on that folder, stupid, I know, now I use both admin and user accounts, to avoid meddling with admin rights and permissions. I was able to discard this idea, for I found that the simple registry policy 'NoChangeStartMenu' already disabled me from altering the Tile setup, and therefore no additional permission setup was needed.

    I believe that somehow, the windows OS doesn't like it when you alter the permissions on that TileDataLayer\Database folder, for when I did, on the next boot, my windows stopped working decently, started crashing, slowed down, I couldn't even open taskmanager anymore after a while. I had to use a full System Repair to fix this.

    Later on, I did figure that even though I had the policy now to lock my Start Layout settings, I still needed to find a way, to transfer these settings between accounts, and therefore I tried copying the TileDataLayer\Database, but somehow I wasn't able to do that, because it's opened in some State Repository Service, which might not be a big deal, but still kind of shaking from the experiences I endured when altering the perms of that folder and its content, I rejected copying it anymore, as I encountered that first error. This led me to the Powershell command, and a quest to find out where the Start Layout is stored (hoping that it wasn't that scary TileDataLayer\Database).

    I would love to just set up a (fixed) Start Layout for every user, as Kari already verified, that is kind of exactly what I'm looking for, and indeed a Shared folder, could be the answer! I was thinking something similar a couple of hours ago, haven't tried anything yet. I'm not too familiar with my options for doing this, and unfortunately I don't have the gpedit.msc in my package, but I figured that anything gpedit does, should be possible to do with regedit and explorer (or PS/cmd), as that goes for most of its features and settings, it's mostly just a matter of finding the right keys and processes.

    So, without gpedit, is there a way to do this, to share one fixed Start Layout for all the users on my device?

    If not, should I try to copy the TileDataLayer\Database again, even though changing its perms crashed my system earlier, and the folder content seems to be used by some State Repository Service (which might just be something to turn off and on)?

    Thanks for your concern, I really appreciate this!

    Kind Regards
    Last edited by Audax; 25 Dec 2015 at 04:42.
      My Computer

  10. Posts : 7
    Windows 10 Home
    Thread Starter

    So yesterday evening, this happened :

    Just stopped the State Repository service (as I stopped the TileData service) in taskmanager, and I managed to copy (paste) the content of the Tiledatalayer\Database folder, just in time, before these services automatically turned on again. I then copy pasted it into the Tiledatalayer\Database of my other account and rebooted, resulting in the same first symptom that occurred, when I changed the perms some weeks ago ;
    A non-functioning start button, click it and nothing happens, this is the case for all the accounts on my computer, first the one of which I altered the Tiledatalayer\Database content, then when I signed that user off, the same error persisted on the other user accounts, including admin accounts, just like it did when I changed the perms for a user, weeks ago. I'll try to do some repairs, worst case, I should reinstall my apps, but trained as I am, in doing that now, that shouldn't take me to long (I've got structured folders for that now, figured this sort of thing would happen again).

    Thus is there something else wrong here, or is it that you just shouldn't touch that folder, not its perms, nor its content for copy purposes? (if the latter is the case, be careful if you want to verify that, the same thing could happen) And if so, what should I do then? I'll look forward to some more responses, don't worry about the error, I'll fix it, but please keep up the support, I really want to figure this out, that Shared folder idea might be exactly what I want, but how to do that without gpedit.msc, and without recreating accounts from the default?


    Today, 15 minutes ago:

    After starting Windows in Safe Mode, to copy paste my files to an external hard drive, before starting a system repair (isn't necessary, but just to be safe), I then rebooted the pc (and logged in with my admin account, after I deleted all my other user accounts), and to my surprise I just found out that somehow everything (including the Start Button, taskmanager,...) is working again. I have no explanation for this, other than that rebooting in Safe Mode, might have reinitiated some processes, rendering the normal mode to work again as it should.

    With my files safely stored, I'm going to conduct my experiment again, to see if I experience the same problem, and to check if the Safe Mode reboot fixes it again.

    Kind Regards


    Today :

    So I just tested this, it works for my admin account, however when I load the other (user) account of which I changed the Tiledatalayer\Database, it's slow and the Start button malfunction remains, thus rebooting in Safe Mode and then again in Normal Mode, saves me a System Repair, when things go wrong, that's handy, but the problem persists, copy pasting the Tiledatalayer\Database is trouble. There must be another way.

    Therefore I am really interested in finding out what exactly it is that gpedit does, when it sets a Start Layout for all the users, it seems to be more convenient than to alter the default folder with the LayoutModification.xml, and recreating every account. I'll look further into this...

    Kind Regards
      My Computer


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