Removing ‘Ease of Access’ in Windows 7 via GPO

Ease of Access button - bane of my life

I was called by a school this week about an issue with Windows 7.  For the normal world it wouldn’t really be considered a problem but for comprehensive schools especially, it proves an annoyance.  Yup we’re talking about the ‘Ease of Access’ button at the bottom left of every login/lock screen.

Microsoft developed a, dare I say it, pretty damn good OS when it came to Windows 7, but for a company that wanted this to replace XP in a corporate and education environment it just isn’t ready.  For schools, we have to trim down the desktop to make it as easy to use as possible whilst locking out the little evils that can get tampered with to make everyone else’s life hell.  Anyhow, back to the my original point (not going to rant here), we needed to find a way of getting rid of the EoA button to stop the kids from turning on the high contrast mode for all users and of course to stop the narration tool.  After all, with a suite of 30 computers spouting out profanities from their speakers it needs to be turned off.

All the ways on the internet mention the ease-of-access disable tool which is available, but unfortunately across a network this cannot be rolled out simply and there is always the risk of an update or service pack undoing your work thus making you have to go around every computer manually once again.  No thank you!

To get around this on a network we’ll use the help of group policy.  To lock down the dreaded EoA do the following:

– Start up Group Policy Management console and create/edit a policy you want this to apply to

– Navigate to Computer Configuration > Policies > Windows Settings > Security Settings > File System

– Right Click ‘File System’ and select ‘Add file’

– Point to the file ‘c:\windows\system32\utilman.exe’ (this is the launcher for the button)

– Set ACL permissions to Users : Deny; Administrators : Deny; System : Deny

This should then disable the accessibility launcher from the button and via any shortcuts in Windows. Of course, should you need accessibility you would need to reverse the above changes via a targetted GPO.

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6 Responses to “Removing ‘Ease of Access’ in Windows 7 via GPO”

  1. Gary Woo June 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Hi Matt,
    I’m in the same situation as you, trying to lock down Windows 7 machines in a classroom environment. We do not have a domain, but just a workgroup. The student machine is running Windows 7 Ultimate and I’m using the Group Policy Object Editor to maintain two local policies, one for the local computer and one for a particular user account. When I use the Group Policy Object Editor to modify the local computer policy, “File System” is not listed under “Computer Settings>Policies>Window Settings>Security Settings. I’m a newbie with this Group Policy stuff, so I’m not sure why File System is missing. My only guess is that Group Policy Object Editor is not the same as Group Policy Management Console. Any feedback on why File System is missing would be of great help. Please feel free to email me.

    • Matt June 17, 2012 at 10:58 am #

      Hi Gary,
      As its seen as a file system change there is no apparent need to have an entry for it in the local security policy as you can modify the permissions of the file/folder yourself locally. Group policy is generally part of a domain and thus one policy can apply to thousands of machines, hence the need for the entry I mentioned, as it gets ‘pushed’ out to the machines on start up.

      In your case the best bet would be to set the permissions manually on the student machines which would disable the ‘Ease of Access’ button.

      Run a command prompt as an administrator and enter the following followed by an ENTER. When prompted press Y to apply the change :

      cacls %windir%\system32\utilman.exe /C /D Everyone

      If you wanted to put it back to default (undo the changes) then do the same from an administrator ran command prompt :

      cacls %windir%system32\utilman.exe /E /G “Everyone”:R

      If you aren’t comfortable modifying permissions then there is a tool available that can be ran to disable it for you :

      http://www.softpedia.com/get/Tweak/System-Tweak/Ease-of-Access-disabler.shtml

      Hope that helps

      Matt

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  3. Jon B March 21, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    Thank you. Works perfect in my school lab.

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