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.
#3 Classic Shell
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.
# 4 Start Menu 8
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 downloaded Windows 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.
#6 Skip Metro
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 Menufeature, but you can combine this with other programs.
We wrap up with the paid solutions that aim to restore the Windows 7 look and feel withinWindows 8. Stardock’s Start8 restores a Start Menu button, while also improving on other things. There’s the ability to do unified searches for files, apps, or settings within the search bar, the ability to pin Metro and classic desktop style apps to the Start Menu, disabling of hot corners, and the ability to boot straight to desktop. On the other hand, you do have to pay for these features, unlike Start8′s less powerful competitors.
Verdict: It’s a good Start Menu restoration with the ability to handle Windows 8 apps within the desktop view. However, as free apps begin to catch up in functionality, it might not be too long before this paid app is eclipsed.
RetroUI Pro is more than its name suggests. Yes, it restores a Start Menu functionality, allows you to boot straight to desktop and disable hot corners. However, it also bridges the Windows 7 andWindows 8 styles, allowing you to display the taskbar and Start Menu even in the Metro Start Screen interface. Most interestingly, it allows users to run Metro apps in resized windowed mode, which means you can run them while keeping the desktop visible. On the downside, it’s a paid app, but the functionality provided seems well worth it.
Verdict: RetroUI Pro restores the classic Windows Start Menu, but also adds some very interesting features of its own, such as taskbar view in the Start Screen and the ability to window newer Windows 8 apps.