Most users only use a small percentage of the features on their computers; they never touch many of the items in the Start menu, on the Desktop, or in other aspects of the user interface. By removing items that don't get used, you simplify the user's computing experience. You can also remove access to items the user shouldn't be able to access, helping them avoid potential user-inflicted problems.

One of the easiest ways to remove interface items is through group policy settings. In a domain environment, you can configure these policies at a domain or organizational unit level to control GUI roperties across the network. On smaller networks or individual computers in a workgroup, you can use local policies.

Go to Start | Run, and enter GPEDIT.MSC to open the Group Policy console focused on the local computer. The User Configuration | Administrative Templates policy branch contains several policies that affect Windows' appearance. For example, the Windows Explorer branch enables you to hide drives in My Computer, change the items that display in Network Places, and make many other changes.

Likewise, the Start Menu and Taskbar branch offer many policies that let you control the appearance of the Start menu and the Taskbar. For example, you can force the addition or removal of items from the Start menu, prevent logon from the Start menu, disable drag-and-drop for the Start menu, and make many other changes.

If you want to control the user interface for novice or problem users, take some time to explore the policies in the User Configuration | Administrative Tools branch. You'll find a wealth of policies to put you back in control.