Lock-down your Windows system with Simple Software-restriction Policy

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 26, 2015

Simple Software-restriction Policy allows you to harden Windows machines by adding Linux-like execute permissions to them.

Windows by default does not prevent software from being run from any location on the computer which malware and unwanted software exploit.

For instance, programs may be run directly from USB Flash Drives, download folders or system temp directories.

Simple Software-restriction Policy changes that by locking down that functionality on the system. It ships with a default rules file which is a good start but may need tweaking.

After installation, you will notice that you cannot execute files anymore from download folders or most folders on the system for that matter.

It is still possible to run software from select locations, the program files folder for instance but executions from most locations are blocked.

The program's functionality is defined in the softwarepolicy.ini file. Open it in any plain text editor to fine-tune its behavior. This is not as intimidating as it sounds as the syntax is simple and instructions are provided for each entry.

Here is a short list of important sections in the ini file that you may find useful:

  • LimitedApps - This is only useful if the user is a local admin. If that is the case, it ensures that the programs listed in this section are run with limited privileges. Web browsers such as Firefox, Opera or Chrome are listed in this section by default. In addition, you may define when these restrictions apply (when the app is locked down, always, never).
  • CustomPolicies - Use this section to define locations on the computer or network where software exeuctions are not blocked in.
  • AdminMenuPasswordLevel - Enable this to password protect the unlocking functionality of the application and the software#s configuration.
  • SoftwarePolicy - Defines extensions that are limited by the program. Includes many executable file types and important file types such as exe, bat or reg by default.
  • AddRootDirs - Block or allow programs to run from root directories, e.g. c: or d:
  • AddTempDir - Block or allow programs from running from temporary directories
  • IncludeDlls - Whether to prevent the launching of dynamic link libraries as well.
  • AlwaysAllowSystemFolders - Determines whether system programs can be launched at all times.
  • Disallowed - Add paths or executable files that should never be run on the system.

The two main features of the program are to lock-down the execution of programs on the system to safe areas and to run specified programs automatically with limited privileges.

The program ships with an unlock option with disables its protection which may be useful when certain applications or updates won't run properly when the application is enabled. A folder full of portable applications for instance may be a good target for an exemption as you won't be allowed to run the programs on the Windows machine otherwise.

Depending on how you are using your system currently, you may need to change certain behaviors after enabling Simple Software-restriction Policy's protection. It is for instance no longer possible to run downloaded executable files directly from the download directory unless you make modifications to the default configuration.


Simple Software-restriction Policy hardens Windows systems by limiting the locations that applications can be run from. In addition, it is allowing you to run certain programs with limited rights.

It is a useful program not only for your own systems but maybe also for systems of relatives or friends who are not computer-savvy.

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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):


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