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When Microsoft released Windows 10 last summer, one of the biggest headlines was the return of the Start Menu A Guide to the Windows 10 Start Menu A Guide to the Windows 10 Start Menu Windows 10 fixes the Start Menu dilemma! Getting to grips with the new Start Menu will supercharge your Windows 10 experience. With this handy guide, you'll be an expert in no time. Read More . It was designed to meld the most-loved features of Windows 7’s Start Menu with the new live tiles of Windows 8.

On the whole, it has been well-received, but that doesn’t mean everyone is happy. Microsoft has included some native tools that let you customize the menus and layout Start Menu Too Cramped? Try This New Trick in Windows 10 Start Menu Too Cramped? Try This New Trick in Windows 10 If the Start Menu in Windows 10 feels cramped, there's one helpful trick that you probably overlooked. Read More , but if you want a major overhaul, you’ll need to turn to the modding community.

Their tools will let you tweak everything from the overall appearance to the tile iconography. Here are some of the best to get you started.

1. StartIsBack++

StartIsBack shot to prominence along with the release of Windows 8, and the developers have now released an updated version for Windows 10. Its core premise is to make your Start Menu both resemble and function like the Start Menu in Windows 7, though it offers additional options that’ll let it match Windows 10’s user interface (UI) more closely.

startisback++

New features include live badges for modern Windows apps, larger taskbar icons, lower CPU usage, blur, drop shadow, and immersive context menus.

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Note that this is a paid app! After the 30-day free trial, you need to shell out $3.

2. TileCreator

One of the biggest criticisms that’s leveled at the Windows 10 Start Menu is the inability to customize the tiles How to Create Custom Start Menu Tiles in Windows 10 How to Create Custom Start Menu Tiles in Windows 10 Windows 10 is jam packed with customization options, but some features are neglected. Like the Start Menu. We will help you turn your plain Windows 10 Start Menu into a crisp and beautiful command console! Read More . Apps that you “Pin to Start” are merely the program’s .exe image overlaid on a blue background; this applies to both Windows native apps and anything you’ve installed from elsewhere.

tilecreator

TileCreator lets you modify these tiles to an image of your choosing. The installation process is a bit finicky as a result of some Windows restrictions, but once you have it set up, you can use tiles of various size, images, and background colors. The developer has stated he wants to add support for circular tiles in the near future.

If you’re looking for modern UI images for a huge number of common programs, check out modernuiicons.com and dAKirby309’s DeviantArt page.

3. Start10

Start10 is developed by Stardock, the same company which produced the highly-popular skinning software How to Change the Look and Feel of Your Windows 10 Desktop How to Change the Look and Feel of Your Windows 10 Desktop You just upgraded to Windows 10 and you're wondering how you can customize and personalize it. We help you turn your desktop into a virtual Windows experience, one step at a time. Read More of the 1990s. In more modern times, they developed a well-received app for Windows 8, which restored a more traditional function and feel to the ill-fated Start screen, as well as allowing modern apps to be windowed.

Their latest release – Start 10 – is similar in style to the previously mentioned StartIsBack++. It uses Windows 7 as it’s starting point, restoring search to the Start Menu, removing the “All Apps” menu item, and reintroducing quick links. Newer services such as Cortana How to Make Cortana Organize Your Life How to Make Cortana Organize Your Life Your life is so complex, you deserve a personal assistant. Meet Cortana, your virtual assistant ready to serve at the tip of your tongue. We'll show you how to effectively delegate tasks to Cortana. Read More and modern apps continue to function.

Its option menu allows you to tweak the color scheme, menu background, and specific menu items.

Like StartIsBack++, it also has a cost – $5 for a lifetime license. A 30-day trial is available.

4. Classic Shell

If you’re feeling seriously retro and want to roll back to the pre-Windows 7 The History of the Windows Start Menu The History of the Windows Start Menu For all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the release of Windows 10, one of the most well-received features of the operating system is the return of an old friend—the Start Menu. Read More era The History of the Windows Start Menu The History of the Windows Start Menu For all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the release of Windows 10, one of the most well-received features of the operating system is the return of an old friend—the Start Menu. Read More , Classic Shell is the answer. It does have a Windows 7 setup available, but it also comes complete with a Windows XP-style layout (two columns The Quick Way to Add Another Column to Windows 10's Start Menu The Quick Way to Add Another Column to Windows 10's Start Menu Need more space on the Start Menu? Here's how to effortlessly add another column for tiles. Read More ) or even a Windows 98 overlay (a single “classic” column).

classic-shell

These layouts can be further customized with various skins. For example, the XP Luna skin makes it extremely close to the original Windows XP color scheme, using Blue, Olive, and Silver. As you’d expect, you can also choose which buttons appear on the main menu and how the file trees work.

Start-Menu-Classic-Settings

The developer also makes “Classic Explorer” and “Classic IE”. While they may not be necessary for people who only want to reenergize their Start Menu, they are great additions if you’re going for a computer-wide retro look.

5. Start Menu Reviver

Instead of trying to make your Start Menu look like older versions, Start Menu Reviver reimagines it in a whole new way.

The left-hand column gives you one-click access to your most common destinations (such as Search, Run, Recent Documents, etc.), while the right-hand column allows you to pin apps, folders, websites, documents, music files, video files, and just about anything else you want.

It’s also touchscreen-friendly – a big plus for people who have touch-enabled laptops or frequently use one of Microsoft’s Surface tablets Surface Pro 4 Review and Giveaway Surface Pro 4 Review and Giveaway If you’re looking for a flexible portable hybrid computer, one that is capable of replacing your notebook and iPad or Android tablet, the Surface Pro 4 Core M3 device is a perfectly adequate replacement. Read More .

6. Radial Menu

We finish the list with a Start Menu alternative.

Sometimes you might find that you spend too long scrolling up and down to find the apps you need. If you pin lots of apps the problem can be somewhat alleviated, but another solution is to forget about the Start Menu altogether and instead use a launcher Launch Applications, Files & Folders Faster with MadAppLauncher [Windows] Launch Applications, Files & Folders Faster with MadAppLauncher [Windows] Most application launchers work the same way - open the launcher, type in the application's name, and hit Enter to launch the item. There are many launchers available out there using this method. But if... Read More . It might take a bit of getting used to, but over time you’ll probably find yourself becoming more productive.

radialmenu

One option is Radial Menu. It’ll let you create unlimited groups, subgroups, and items that can launch applications, documents, websites, or any other files. It’s easy to set up, thanks to its drag-and-drop functionality, and has lots color and layout customizations options to get it looking exactly how you want it.

What Start Menu Alternatives Do You Use?

The bottom line is that there is something out there to suit everyone’s tastes. Whether you want to bask in the glory of Windows 7, reawaken the ghost of Windows 98, or maintain the Windows 10 functionality in a different format.

Remember, if you love the native Windows 10 Start Menu, but just want to tweak it to make it perfect for you, it’s easy to do – just follow our guide 6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu 6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu The Windows 10 Start Menu combines classic elements with modern tiles. Tiles can add a lot of creative freedom. We'll give you tips and reveal tricks for customizing the entire Start Menu to your preferences. Read More .

What tools do you rely on to make the Windows Start Menu work for you? Have you tried any of our suggestions, or do you have you own hidden gems to share with our readers?

As ever, you can leave your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions in the comments box below.

  1. JAK
    June 26, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    My laptop came with Windows 8.1 and I immediately installed Classic Shell, which I continue to use it on this laptop with Windows 10 Last week I installed Windows 10 on my desktop and also use Classic Shell. The program works for me. Since this story showed me an alternative, StartlsBack++, I may give it a try.

  2. GodSponge (EB)
    May 14, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    You have TileCreator on there, but BetterStartMenu is a far better alternative. The interface need some updating, but the app has far more customization available. It works like TileCreator in that it also requires 2 apps to work, but it is my go to for making great looking tiles.

    Also, unless they've added the ability since I checked last, BetterStartMenu can make transparent icons and TileCreator can't.

    http://www.win10controller.com/betterstart/

  3. Frank J
    May 10, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Finalbird is great and never fails

  4. James Van Damme
    May 9, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    I use MATE desktop right now, but I used Cinnamon for a couple years. Tried LXDE and XFCE, both light and fast but a little boring. KDE is the closest to Windows 7 but a flat icon look. Enlightenment had its pluses. Unity, not a fan but it's useable. Can't go wrong with Gnome2 or 3.

    All on Linux. I can't imagine going back to Windows. One or two desktops? Yuk.

    • Timothy Vels
      May 10, 2016 at 5:23 am

      Yes Sir I agree with you...Windows can't beat Linux when it comes to the endless desktop options.
      I personally use Manjaro 2016 Preview (KDE 5) for some time when I get bored of Windows :)

  5. Michael Spitz
    May 9, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Start Menu X is still the best and you don't even have it on your list.....

  6. Jean-Francois Messier
    May 9, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Missing from Windows 7, and AFAIK all Windows thereafter, I miss the toolbar that Windows XP could let me create for my most-used programs. This is something that Microsoft removed from Windows, starting with version 7, and was never re-instated. To fix that issue, I got a software named True Launch Bar. It gives me a huge load of options. To the point that it takes me a bit of time to get what I wanted, but it works well. TLB is not free, but since this is something I use all the time, it is well worth the price. It also supports skins and hotkeys. Very complete tool.

    Their web site is:
    http://www.truelaunchbar.com/?pk_campaign=truelaunchbar

  7. Rufus
    May 9, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    I use Classic Shell because it is the only one that has kept up with the times. For example, Classic Shell works excellently with the Windows touch keyboard. It's high DPI and multi-monitor support is superb. It can uninstall Metro apps that even the Windows 10 menu can't. It searches modern Settings app also very exhaustively yet fast. Believe me, its developer knows what he's doing. I read somewhere that he's a Microsoft employee.

  8. RamMichael
    May 9, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    You can get larger taskbar icons using my freeware 7+ Taskbar Tweaker which also fixes many other problems with the taskbar.

    • Dan Price
      May 9, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Thanks!

    • Timothy Vels
      May 10, 2016 at 5:24 am

      I love your app Sir....works well with Windows 10

  9. Anonymous
    May 9, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    What the stupid author doesn't understand is Classic Shell is not just for a retro look. It is to optimize and fine-tune the usability with mouse and keyboard regardless of the look. No other menu or solution beats it in that area which is why people enjoy using it so much.

    • Eric Stoick
      May 9, 2016 at 10:32 pm

      If you're going to insult someone put your name, COWARD!!

  10. CoolHappyGuy
    May 9, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I would just like my Start menu to, uh, START. Since I've Upgraded to Win10 from Win7, the Start Menu, Cortana, and Notification buttons consistently become unresponsive. It's become typically to reboot 2 or 3x per day. I applied suggested fixes but the problem has come back.

    A related problem, is that when the Start Menu does open, the tiles become unresponsive.

    I've never had any problems with Win7. I'm hoping the anniversary update will address this!

  11. CBPetrovic
    May 9, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Can any (all) be installed on a per-user basis? I've got a machine w/ several users, not all want to change things.

    • Gilbert
      May 9, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Classic Shell can be turned off or on selectively for certain user accounts using Group Policy or Registry configuration.

  12. tony
    May 8, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I have a Windows 8.1 comp and i changed it last year when i got it and now it looks the same as Windows 7 .....This site is always promoting Windows 10 . We don't want or need that junk !!

    • Lindsay Gnesios
      May 8, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      "We"

  13. JJ
    May 8, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Classic Shell & launcher "PaperPlane"

  14. Real
    May 7, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    I'm a user of the Windows 10 Start Menu, I like the way to press the Windows key on the keyboard and to type the first letters of an app name or a keyword to find something, then press the enter key to run it. The search feature has been greatly improved with Windows 10, I find it very user friendly to use it. I also like the Tiles, especially the animated ones (News and Meteo), and I use TileCreator to add my own shortcuts with my own tile designs (it also works with web links by the way, thus you can create your own links to webapps too). TileCreator is a hacky workaround (it has to launch the TileCreator app a short moment when you click a link), but it works.

  15. pierre
    May 7, 2016 at 8:37 am

    classic shell - of course

  16. Howard A Pearce @HAPLibertarian
    May 6, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    2nd - Been using Clasic Shell for a while

  17. Jaden Peterson
    May 6, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    Classic Shell all the way

  18. armando
    May 6, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    i dont use the start menu anymore. i use the desktop and an utility called pstart, its like a launcher.

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