The release of Windows 8 was jarring for some users as they were forced to learn a new interface that abandoned or set aside several Windows staples including the Start Menu and the Desktop. While some users have adapted to the new Metro UI, demand for features like the Start Menu has given rise to the development of software designed to bring features of the Windows 7 interface to Windows 8. What follows are a few apps for restoring the Start Menu and tweaking the Windows 8 interface for a more classic feel.
If you're interested in getting to the desktop and a Start Menu-like interface for Windows 8 without having to mess with third-party apps and modifications, one thing you can try straight away is keyboard shortcuts. Win+D switches the view from the Windows 8 Start Page to a more classic desktop view, which users can then populate with shortcuts, folders, and files. To access system tools and other features once found via the Start Menu, type Win+X to bring up a small menu that allows access the control panel, file explorer, command prompt, and other back-end system tools.
And of course, the Desktop tile is but one click on the Start screen. Just drag it off to a convenient part of the Start page, click, and off you go. These simple interface habits might be enough for some users. If that still doesn't satisfy you, then there are a bunch of third party programs that aim to restore some Start Menu-like functionality to Windows 8. Read on to discover some of our favorites!
We start with free software that can restore a more classic Start Menu functionality to your Desktop. Pokki is a free program that provides users with a button that copies many of the old features of the Windows Start Menu. Pokki displays a list of favorite apps, a button to display a list of all applications, a notifications section, a search bar, file explorer, control panel, and a store link. It's important to note that the store is pokki's own app store, rather than the Windows Store.
Verdict: Pokki provides users with a button that emulates the functionality of the old Start Menu, but not exactly. Also, it won't boot straight to the desktop. Still if you must have some form of Start Menu functionality, pokki does deliver that.
Classic Shell is another free Windows application that allows users to restore a Start Menu to Windows 8. Choose between a "classic," "XP," or "Windows 7"-styled Start Menu. In addition, Classic Shell also includes tweaks for Explorer and IE9.
Verdict: The ability to duplicate older styles of Start Menu might be a nice feature for some users. Classic Shell does the job and is free.
IOBit's Start Menu 8 is a free and surprisingly good custom Start Menu button for Windows 8 that restores the Start Menu feature, providing the user with a Windows 7-like Start Menu that can be customized and tweaked. What really sets it apart from a lot of free options is the ability to totally skip the Metro UI-style Start Screen and boot directly to desktop. On the downside, there appears to be some issues with displaying Modern UI apps in Start Menu 8's interface.
Verdict: A Start Menu restoration for Windows 8 that also allows you to boot straight to desktop, and is free? Good deal. It's a shame modern Windows Store apps don't seem to show up, though. Still, a great piece of freeware.
Note: Be aware that Start Menu 8 will try to get you to install Advanced SystemCare during installation.
Lee-Soft's ViStart does a pretty good job of simulating the old Windows 7 Start Menu in Windows 8, mirroring the look just right. A pane displays frequently used applications, while a sidebar has buttons allowing access to My Computer, Control Panel, and all the other staples. It is also very skinnable, allowing for a fair amount of user customization. Finally, it also allows users to boot directly to the Desktop, avoiding the Metro Start Screen altogether, though as with Start Menu 8, ViStart has trouble with Windows Store downloadedWindows 8 apps.
Verdict: Get the classic Start Menu look, or customize it with a set of skins. A good choice for a free program to restore Start Menu functionality. The newest update also allows you to boot straight to desktop, which is great.
Skip Metro Suite is a utility that allows users to boot straight to desktop, as well as disabling some of the "hot corners" of the Metro UI. While it won't provide a custom start menu, you can combine this with some of the options above, such as Classic Shell or pokki, that lack the ability to boot you straight to the desktop.
Verdict: Turn off the hot corners that you don't use, and boot straight to desktop. No Start Menu feature, but you can combine this with other programs.
We move on to programs that provide minor functionality tweaks to change the Windows 8 interface into something that more closely resembles older versions. First up is Ribbon Disabler, which removes the Ribbon interface from Explorer, returning users to a menu-like style.
Verdict: If the Explorer Ribbon really bothers you, then this little tool can restore the more traditional menu style, or even bring back the Ribbon style if you've removed it.