Shell Launcher

Using Shell Launcher, you can configure a kiosk device to run a Windows Desktop or Universal Windows Application as the user interface. The application that you specify replaces the default shell (explorer.exe) that usually runs when a user logs on. This type of single-app kiosk does not run above the lock screen.

Methods of controlling access to other desktop applications and system components can be used in addition to using the Shell Launcher such as, Group Policy, AppLocker, and Mobile Device Management

Note

In Shell Launcher v1, available in Windows 10, you can only specify a Windows desktop application as the replacement shell. In Shell Launcher v2, available in Windows 10, version 1809 and above, you can also specify a UWP app as the replacement shell.

To use Shell Launcher v2 in version 1809, you need to install the KB4551853 update.

Differences between Shell Launcher v1 and Shell Launcher v2

Shell Launcher v1 replaces explorer.exe, the default shell, with eshell.exe, which can launch a Windows desktop application.

Shell Launcher v2 replaces explorer.exe with customshellhost.exe. This new executable file can launch a Windows desktop application or a UWP app.

In addition to allowing you to use a UWP app for your replacement shell, Shell Launcher v2 offers additional enhancements:

  • You can use a custom Windows desktop application that can then launch UWP apps, such as Settings and Touch Keyboard.
  • From a custom UWP shell, you can launch secondary views and run on multiple monitors.
  • The custom shell app runs in full screen, and can run other apps in full screen on user’s demand. For sample XML configurations for the different app combinations, see Samples for Shell Launcher v2.

Turn on Shell Launcher

Shell Launcher is an optional component and is not turned on by default in Windows 10. It must be turned on prior to configuring. You can turn on and configure Shell Launcher in a customized Windows 10 image (.wim) if Microsoft Windows has not been installed. If Windows has already been installed and you are applying a provisioning package to configure Shell Launcher, you must first turn on Shell Launcher in order for a provisioning package to successfully apply.

There are multiple ways to enable Shell Launcher:

Learn the methods to configure Shell Launcher.

Shell Launcher Capabilities

Explore the various capabilities of Shell Launcher:

Additional Resources