The start menu as we knew it since Windows 95, is dead. The start button was removed with the launch of Windows 8 and then brought back with the Windows 8.1 update. But this button was but a shell of the start menu of the past. Clicking the start button in Windows 8.1 merely takes you to the Windows 8 start screen – the one with all those tiles. Microsoft might decide to bring the start menu back in a future update, but why wait when you can restore it right now? Here are our three favourite ways to get the start menu back in Windows 8.
The simplest method available is to download Classic Shell and install the app. By default, this app will hide the Windows 8.1 start button and boot to desktop without opening the Windows 8 Start screen. So all you have to do is install it and enjoy your classic Windows start menu, with no further steps involved.
However, if you wish to customize the look-and-feel your start menu, Classic Shell has enough options for power users. You can replace the start button icon with any image of your choice, choose how the start menu looks (Windows classic or Windows 7 style), choose which shortcuts open the Modern UI screen, choose icon sizes and even disable or enable active corners (which let you switch to Modern UI). You can see more options for yourself. Just right-click the start button > settings.
If that isn’t enough, you can even change how Windows Explorer menus look. If you would rather have Windows show you classic Windows 7 toolbar at the top of every Explorer window you open,head to Start > All Programs > Classic Shell > Classic Explorer Settings. Here check Show all settings and click the Toolbar buttons tab. Now you can add all the buttons you were missing. There are several other appearance tweaks here that let you tweak Windows 8’s explorer. If you are hell-bent on getting that Windows classic look, you can take a look at all the options and see what suits your needs.
If you don’t want Classic Shell’s advanced tweaking options and want a different-looking start menu, try Pokki. This app doesn’t replace the Windows 8.1 start button, but adds a Pokki icon next to it. To remove the start button, right-click the Pokki icon > deselect the “Show Windows logo” option.
The Pokki menu is also not the classic start menu you would be used to but rather, a modified version that’s bigger and better than what you remember. There’s a large panel of grey boxes to the right of your usual start menu, and each box can house an app while the left hand side has quick navigation links to favourites, all apps, Control Panel, along with a customisable list of locations such as Libraries, Documents, etc.
To tweak this menu, right-click the Pokki icon > Settings. Make sure you uncheck “Show popular PC apps” to remove the ads at the bottom.
That aside, you can choose the theme, show or hide the left sidebar, choose which quick-links show up in the sidebar, change the Pokki icon to a walnut, home or the Windows logo, etc. There are more than enough customisation options and the layout isn’t as intimidating as Classic Shell if you are not used to tweaking.
In case you want the start menu, but liked the modern Windows 8 style and would prefer a mix of the two styles, then this is the best choice. To use Start Menu Reviver 2, just go to the website, and download and install this free software. Unlike Classic Shell, Start Menu Reviver doesn’t completely hide the Windows 8.1 start button. If you take your mouse pointer to the bottom-left corner of the screen, you will be able to access that button. Start Menu Reviver 2 has a two column layout, with the left column having commonly accessed programmes and addresses such as Computer, Libraries, Control Panel, Run, Task Manager, Settings (for Start Menu Reviver) etc. All of these options are marked by icons. In case you forget which is which, just hover your mouse pointer over any of the icons and the name will pop up.
Next to this column is the list of programmes. To change the look and feel of the start menu, go to Start Menu Reviver settings > Start Menu. You can choose between a classic layout that lists all apps in alphabetical order or go for a better-looking tile-based layout. The tiles look and function just like a Windows Phone start screen. Just drag-and-drop tiles to rearrange the layout and to make a tile smaller, simply drag another tile and drop it on top of the larger tile. For further changes, right-click on any tile > Edit Tile.
We noticed that Start Menu Reviver 2 lagged a bit on our laptops, so we wouldn’t recommend this programme if you’re using an older computer.
We hope you found these three apps useful. As always, head to our How to DO section for more tutorials. Which is your favourite app to restore the old start menu? Feel free to leave a comment.