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How to hide and secure settings pages in Windows 11

To prevent users from accidentally changing Windows 11 configuration settings, it is possible to hide these settings screens from users using group policies or registry modifications.

Photo: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

For individual users, one of the most useful 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 these settings can cause problems ranging from minor inconvenience to sheer chaos.

See: 100+ IT policies at your fingertips, ready to 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 certain configuration settings from individual users. This task is also possible with Windows registry file editing, but this method is less efficient.

How to hide and secure the settings page

To make it clear what we’re talking about, click or tap on the Windows 11 Start menu and select Settings from the list of apps to bring up the screen (Figure A).

Figure A

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Photo: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

On the right navigation bar, you can see a list of system configuration pages. We will use the Group Policy Management Console to hide one or more of these system configurations from users. Configuration changes may still be made, but individual users will be blocked from accessing them using traditional 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 detect the application (Figure B).

Figure B

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Photo: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

Use the left window pane to navigate to this policy:

computer configuration | Administrative Templates | control Board

In the right part of the window, find an item called Page Visibility Setting (Figure C).

Figure C

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Photo: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

When you double-click on the setting page visibility item, the configuration page will open (figure d). Click the radio button to enable the policy.

figure d

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Photo: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

The next step is to enter the command settings in the options box. Microsoft provides extensive documentation on the possible values ‚Äč‚Äčassociated with the options, but the main takeaway is that you can either specify which items will be shown on the Windows 11 settings page or which items will be hidden on that page.

for example:

hide:windowsupdate

or

showonly:windowsupdate

In our example (figure d), we hide 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

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Photo: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

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

See: Windows PowerToys: Cheat Sheet (TechRepublic)

If you are using Windows 11 Home and want to hide certain configuration screens, you can edit the Windows registry file.

Disclaimer: Editing the Windows registry file is a serious task. A corrupt Windows registry file may crash your computer, requiring a reinstall of the Windows operating system and possible data loss. Back up the Windows registry file and create a valid restore point before continuing.

To make our modifications in the Windows 11 registry file, we will type regedit in the Windows 11 search tool. From the results, choose Regedit application and then use the left window to navigate to this key (shape and): HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer.

shape and

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Photo: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

We will have to create a new key. Right-click on 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 (shape g).

shape g

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Photo: Mark W. Kaelin/TechRepublic

As we did in the Group Policy Management console, we are going to enter options in the Value data text box that will either hide certain configuration pages or only display specific pages.

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

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