Boot to Classic Desktop

After installing the Desktop Experience feature, Windows Server 2012 will automatically boot to the Start screen. Thanks to Igal Tabachnik with his post at the hmemcpy Blog, it is possible to automatically boot to the classic desktop although the Desktop Experience feature is installed. The installation can be done either automatically or manually.


1. Download (171 KB) from win2012workstation.

2. After downloading the zip extract the zip, as an Administrator and follow the instructions on the screen.
Extract and run install.cmd


1. Open the Start screen, enter regedit and press Enter to start the Registry Editor.
Open the Registry Editor via the Start screen

2. In the Registry Editor navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Server, right click the Server key and choose Permissions.
Open Permissions of the "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionServer" key

3. At the Permissions window, click the Advanced button, next on top click the Change link behind the Owner: TrustedInstaller line, enter Administrators in the objects text area and click OK twice to get back to the Permissions window.
Change ownership of the Server key

4. Now click the Administrators group and in the lower section check the Allow checkbox of the Full Control Permission to give the Administrators group all permissions to edit values within this key.
Give Administrators group full rights to Server key

5. Double click ClientExperienceEnabled to open its value editor, change the value to 0 and click OK to save the change. Close the Registry Editor and reboot, and voila, your Windows Server 2012 with Desktop Experience enabled will automatically boot to the classic desktop! 🙂
Change ClientExperienceEnabled DWORD to "0"


Continue to install the Windows 8 Aero cursors…

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16 Responses

  1. Alex says:

    Please add Mike Millers response to the guide – maybe as an 8.1 option. Thanx for the nice guide!

  2. Mike Miller says:

    Although most of the instructions here still apply to Server 2012 R2, this one does not.

    Instead, I used, which suggests right clicking on the taskbar, and selecting Properties. Under the Navigation tab, there’s a checkbox that says “Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in”.

    Note that this setting is per-user, although the link there also mentions a registry setting (which I did not try).

  3. Russia says:

    Bad choice –
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionServer]

    Because of this –
    Change PC Settings missed

    It is better to use the Task Scheduler – C:Windowsexplorer.exe,
    Comma in the arguments.

    Sorry for bad English

    • Abigail says:

      I just spent HOURS trying to figure out why my Server 2012 machine wouldn’t receive Push Notifications from the Windows Notification Service. Turns out it’s because the client-side connection checks this registry key. I still really appreciate this website! And I’m sad that in order to receive notifications I can’t boot to the desktop. However, I thought I would post this comment so that people can decide whether they want to turn off Notifications or if they’re surprised when they don’t get notifications and can’t remember why they turned this off!

    • Raipe says:

      Change it back -> 0.
      And you get back “Change Pc Settings”

  4. Callie says:

    This website was… how do you say it? Relevant!
    ! Finally I have found something which helped me. Appreciate it!

  5. Wade Hatler says:

    Even easier is to install the opensource Classic Shell from That gives you a classic Start Menu on the desktop, and one of the options is to boot to the desktop. Kills 2 birds with one stone.

  6. Holt says:

    When you enable boot to desktop with the registry change to 0, it makes only 3 items show up on the charm bar. Changing this back to 1 makes them reappear but makes it boot to metro. Anyone know how to have both?

  7. Oh wow! Thanks for making the automatic batch file!
    I didn’t expect to find my name on it, thanks so very much! 🙂

  8. Megg G says:

    Thanks for the guide :D. Do you have a guide somewhere on how to ‘use’ Windows Server 2012 ?

  9. Thanks for posting this! And thank you very much for your blog, it is very useful 🙂

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