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In April, Microsoft demonstrated a Start Menu mock-up, which fueled speculations that this much-demanded feature would make a return with Windows 8.1 Update 2. Recently, however, Microsoft clarified that the Start Menu won’t be rolled into a new version of Windows until 2015. Well, you certainly don’t have to wait that long.

Whether you’re on Windows 8 or have upgraded to Windows 8.1 How To Safely Upgrade To Windows 8.1 How To Safely Upgrade To Windows 8.1 Are horror stories of how Windows 8.1 upgrades went horribly wrong keeping you from upgrading yourself? If you are longing to try Windows 8.1, you can now learn from other people's lessons and upgrade safely! Read More , you can get your Start Menu back right now.

Third Party Start Menus

As soon as it became clear that the Start Menu was missing from Windows 8, developers got busy and released third party software that emulates the classic Start Menu. We have previously covered alternatives and here’s a summary of what’s out there.

Classic Shell

If all you want is the old school Windows Start Menu, possibly with a retro skin, Classic Shell is the way to go Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell Make Windows 8 usable for people who think it's not. Add a start menu to the desktop and tweak the way Explorer and Internet Explorer behave, all thanks to a piece of software called Classic... Read More . With Classic Shell installed, Windows 8 will automatically boot to the desktop and display a functional Start button. Right-click the Start Menu to get into the app’s Settings, where you can change the skin, among other things.

Classic Shell Settings

Classic Shell can also fix odd new behaviours in Windows Explorer; just find the new menu button and right-click it for Settings.

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Start Menu 8

What IObit has done really well here is the onboarding process. Right after installing Sart Menu 8 (be sure to opt out of the Advanced System Care install), it launches the Settings screen where you can choose a style for the Start Menu and button, define the app’s behavior, and populate its content.

Start Menu 8

Start Menu 8 allows you to disable hot corners and set hotkeys under General Settings.

Pokki

Try this Start Menu, if you’d like to see something fresh.

If you are trying to install Pokki on Windows 8.1, note that you have to apply a little trick to make it work. When hovering over the Windows 8.1 Start button, notice the tiny black bar. Right-click it and uncheck Show Windows logo button to reveal Pokki’s Home button.

Pokki Start Menu

Pokki sports three tabs Pokki Brings The Start Menu Back To Windows 8 (And Apps To The Desktop Mode) Pokki Brings The Start Menu Back To Windows 8 (And Apps To The Desktop Mode) Bring back the start menu in Windows 8 – and then some. Pokki is a simple app for re-adding the start menu to Windows 8, but that's not all it does: it also gives you... Read More : My Favorites, All Apps, and Control Panel. By clicking and activating the star next to items listed in the latter two, you populate your favorites grid. You can then drag and drop them into your preferred order.

Pokki Start Menu View

To change what else you see in the menu sidebar, the theme, and advanced settings, right-click the Pokki Home button and choose Settings. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to get rid of the ads displayed below your favorites (hidden in screenshot above).

Start Menu X

This utility has been around for a long time. It’s available for Windows XP through 8.1 and we have reviewed it in a previous incarnation, when it was called Start Menu 7 Upgrade to a Smarter Windows Start Menu With Start Menu 7 [Windows] Upgrade to a Smarter Windows Start Menu With Start Menu 7 [Windows] Read More . In Windows 8, it adds a Start button and a customizable Start Menu.

The free version adds a Start button and Menu, it supports shut-down timers, internal document search, and up to five virtual groups. On top of that, the Pro version ($9.99) offers unlimited virtual groups, one-click launch, and tabs.

Start8 ($4.99)

Start8 is Stardock’s answer to the Start Menu challenge. It’s the only app in this list that doesn’t offer a free version, but you can try it for 30 days before having to make a purchase. In his article on alternative Start Menus Start Menu, How I Miss Thee: 4 Ways To Make A Start Menu On Windows 8 Start Menu, How I Miss Thee: 4 Ways To Make A Start Menu On Windows 8 Windows 8 brought down the axe on the Start Menu. This is a feature that no one paid special attention to for years but its untimely demise has caused all sorts of despair. Not only... Read More , Matt found that Start8’s main benefit was it’s ease of use. In terms of features it doesn’t compete with the other options in this list, although it offers some nice styling options.

Stardock Start Menu

If you’re a fan of Stardock and care much about first impressions and sleek interfaces, try Start8.

What Else Is There to Say About Third Party Tools

Note that the native Start button might still pop up when you trigger the bottom left hot corner. You can use it to switch to the Start screen. If you find it’s nothing but an eyesore, however, you can hide the Start button Have It Your Way: Hide The Windows 8.1 Start Button Have It Your Way: Hide The Windows 8.1 Start Button After killing the Start button in Windows 8, Microsoft restored a mutilated version with the Windows 8.1 update. It's now a shortcut button for the Start screen or desktop and some don't like that. Read More .

By the way, one tool I wouldn’t recommend is ViStart because it doesn’t offer anything special and the Start Search doesn’t include results from the Control Panel.

Do It Yourself Workarounds & Native Options

Would you prefer to avoid additional software that consumes precious resources? We have come up with three simple workarounds that will get you what you want without sacrificing performance.

Use A Custom Windows Toolbar Build A Custom Windows 8 Start Menu Using Toolbars Build A Custom Windows 8 Start Menu Using Toolbars You’re using Windows 8. You want the Start Menu back – but do you really need it? Instead of relying on a third party substitute, build a custom Windows 8 Start Menu with a few... Read More

Windows Toolbars can contain any shortcuts you want. Why not make them link to the items you used to keep in your Start Menu? It might not be as pretty, but it’s practical.

Toolbar Start Menu

In his article (see header link above), Christian takes you through the process of booting to the desktop, setting up a custom toolbar, and adding shortcuts. This method is suitable for Windows 8 and 8.1 alike.

In case this made you wonder what else Windows Toolbars are good for 7 Useful Toolbars You Can Add To Your Windows Taskbar 7 Useful Toolbars You Can Add To Your Windows Taskbar The Windows desktop can be a super productive work space. Native toolbars can help you make it even more efficient by placing shortcuts and information at your fingertips. Let's have a closer look. Read More , we have some suggestions.

Customize The Win+X Menu 8 Ways To Improve Windows 8 With Win+X Menu Editor 8 Ways To Improve Windows 8 With Win+X Menu Editor Windows 8 contains an almost hidden feature you need to know about! Press Windows Key + X or right-click at the bottom-left corner of your screen to open a menu you can now customize. Read More

Unless you were a frequent user of the Windows Mobility Center in earlier versions of Windows, you probably didn’t know this menu existed. The keyboard shortcut Win+X now opens a power user menu, also known as quick access menu. Alternatively, you can right-click the bottom left corner of your screen. This menu is pretty useful the way it is, but you can get a lot more out of it by adding the shortcuts you really need.

Win+X Menu Editor

Chris demonstrates what you can do with Win+X Menu Editor, including adding shortcuts to shut down or restart, system tools, programs, and more. Click the header link above for the full article.

Connect The Start Button To A Customized Apps Screen How To Build A Desktop Start Menu Replacement In Windows 8.1 How To Build A Desktop Start Menu Replacement In Windows 8.1 Are you tired of the Modern interface? Windows 8.1 allows you to boot to the desktop. If only the restored Start Button would launch a proper Start Menu! Well, it sort of can. Read More

In Windows 8.1, the Start button made its return and users were quite disappointed when they found out it only re-directed them to the Start screen. Microsoft really knows how to tease, don’t they?

If you’re trying to avoid the Modern interface, the Start screen is not what you want to see. The Apps view on the other hand can be quite useful, particularly after you customized it to show the shortcuts you frequently use.

Start Menu Apps View

In my article (see link in header above), I’ve outlined how you can boot to the desktop, make the Start button open the Apps screen, edit what’s already there, and add additional shortcuts.

Happy Now?

Are you satisfied with your new Windows 8 Start Menu? What else do you think is missing from Windows 8.1 Update Windows 8.1 Update Is Here! What It Is & How To Get It Now Windows 8.1 Update Is Here! What It Is & How To Get It Now Curious about the latest Windows 8.1 Update or not sure what this is about? KB2919355 is a cumulative update that comes with useful features. It can also be removed in case it causes issues. Read More that should be delivered with Update 2?

Share your thoughts in the comments and maybe we can recommend more workarounds and ways you can customize Windows to your needs 8 Geeky Ways To Customize Windows To Your Needs 8 Geeky Ways To Customize Windows To Your Needs Customizing Windows might help you navigate your computer and anyone can do it. That's right – even if you feel slightly tech illiterate, you should optimize your setup. We've covered your options right here. Read More .

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