The Administrative Start Menu, the one accessed by the Windows Key + X, can really be the one stop shop for troubleshooting a client machine. For my management machine, it doesn’t really live up to the task. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to access Run or System this way. It is pretty cool that I can use shortcut keys. There is not a faster way to launch an Administrative command prompt than Windows + X, followed by A. But things like Search or Mobility center seem to just take up space. Tools that I would use for remote support, like event viewer or device manager, seem downright slow or featureless when compared to Concurrent RDP. That is why I set out to rebuild the administrative start menu.
No Right Click for You!
Starting off, the Administrative menu has zero customization. You can’t even right click on link! While editing is limited, you will notice that the menu is divided into three distinct sections with the common troubleshooting tools at top.
Section 1 is just a link to the desktop. Section 2 are basic tools and links, of which most were on the Windows 7 start menu. Section 3 includes different MMCs and Control Panel applets.
The entire menu can be found at C:Users%USERNAME%AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindowsWinX. In the picture above, you can see that we are in group 3. Before you start playing around, keep reading – this folder and the linked menu have some interesting (downright stupid) quirks.
I’m sorry, that item is no longer available.
Removing items from the Administrative menu is the easiest modification to make. Within a specific group, just delete the offending shortcut. Then log out and log back in (or restart the explorer process). As an example, I removed Program and Features from Group 3. It was previously above Power Options.
New Groups (or folders for the rest of us)
Without much editing, you can also create new groupings. For example, Power Options doesn’t really fit into the Administrative Tools. While I could copy it out of Group 3 and place it into Group 2, I would rather create a new Group for it. In the winx folder, just create a new folder named Group4.
Why You Can’t Easily Add New Shortcuts
If I had to guess, you already tried to add a new shortcut to a group. As soon as I found out how to delete a shortcut, I immediately tried to add Server Manager. After restarting Explorer (and even restarting my machine), the Server Manager shortcut never showed up. I wondered why and found this:
At first invocation (e.g. a fresh boot), the menu scans for and only adds approved shortcuts. Why? Again, Microsoft doesn’t want this becoming another Start Menu or, worse, an icon landfill for installers a la Quick Launch back in Windows Vista.
In short, Microsoft only allows for shortcuts with an approved hash attached to them. You can read more about the details and how the hashing is done here.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Using the HashLink tool on that page above, you can generate and apply a hash to any shortcut you have. While not completely time consuming, it is a pain. Instead download this zip file: WINX. Inside is a shortcut to every administrative tool, common control panel applet, SCCM, MDT, and other common start menu commands (like Shutdown). Open up your WINX folder and create subgroups to your hearts content! Then copy the shortcuts that you wish to have into each subgroup.
As you can see in the picture below, I added the Shutdown command to Group 1. I then created a new group to host Active Directory and Group Policy tools. Finally, I created another new group for PowerShell.
What do the numbers mean?
Inside that ZIP file, you will notice that every shortcut has a number in front of it. Some numbers are duplicated because they came from multiple groups. These numbers control in what order the shortcuts are presented.
Remember how Group1 is at the bottom of the menu? The same principal applies with shortcut numbers. A shortcut starting with 1 will appear at the bottom of the group. If you open up the Desktop.ini file in the existing groups, you can see this clearly:
Administrative Command prompt (01) and Command Prompt (02) appear at the bottom of Group3. Knowing this, you can simply name prefix your shortcuts with numbers to change their order. Remember to restart Explorer to see the changes.
To spark some ideas, here is my new Administrative Start Menu:
Adding Non Microsoft Shortcuts
If you want to add non Microsoft shortcuts (or a shortcut not in that ZIP file above), you can accomplish this in one of three ways.
- Remove the hashing check for the Start Screen/WinX screen: This way involves editing a system DLL. This will most certainly remove you from a supported environment. 🙂
- Use the Hash Link exe that I referenced above.
- Use the Menu Editor that is built off of the Hash Link.
- This was all done on Windows 8 Enterprise version 9200
- The shortcuts were created on a X64 machine. They might mess up on a X86 machine.