Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell

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classic shell for windows 8Make 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 Shell. If you like tweaking your user interface, and miss the options provided by previous versions of Windows, you’ll love this software.

To say Windows 8 is controversial would be an understatement. While many love the new security and speed of Redmond’s latest offering, some wish there was an optional way to avoid the Metro interface – including most of the MakeUseOf staff. Forcing a touch-based interface on a mouse-and-keyboard loving populace probably isn’t the smartest thing Microsoft’s ever done – even if it could help them sell a couple of phones someday.

So I’m glad there are ways to make Windows behave a little more like the operating system we know how to use properly. Classic shell gives you exactly the start menu you prefer, whether that’s the one from Windows 7, XP or even older versions of the OS. It also lets you tweak Windows Explorer, adding a customizable toolbar and letting you make other changes to the classic shell in Windows 8.

The Start Menu

Install Classic Shell and you’ll see it immediately – a start menu! The button will stick out like a sore thumb at first but you can configure it to blend in with Windows 8 quite nicely. Here’s how it looks on my computer:

classic shell for windows 8

Once you install Classic Shell, Windows automatically boots to the desktop – nice if you’d rather avoid Metro’s distractions and get right to work.

Do you want to change that, or anything else? Right-click the start menu and you’ll find a “Settings” button. From here you can change the style of start menu you want:

classic shell windows 8

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You’ll find a wide variety of options; just be sure to hit the “All Settings” options so you can see all tabs. You can make your start menu work exactly the way you want, so check it out.


Many people like the new Windows Explorer, but if you’re not one of them Classic Shell is here for you. With it you can make the file manager behave just the way you remember. When you launch it you’ll see a new toolbar in Explorer. Click the Classic Shell button on it and you can configure things, including what does and doesn’t show up in your toolbar:

classic shell for windows 8

Again, you can configure just about anything here. Explore the options and you’ll be blown away.


My wife – a brilliant physicist who is also very computer savvy – recently had cause to replace her computer. The new machine came with Windows 8, with which she was initially frustrated.

“I’m just not sure how I’m supposed to use this,” she said. The Metro apps, which she accurately deemed “Internet stuff”, didn’t seem that useful for most of the things she spends her time doing: crunching data, preparing presentations and taking notes while reading at the same time.

Her plan was to install Windows 7 until I pointed out Classic Shell. It provided the means to get used to Windows 8 without throwing old workflows away completely.

I think Microsoft made a mistake in not making more of their Metro features optional. People love Windows and have workflows worked out using it. Why try to change everything in one swift blow? Classic Shell helps, at least. Install it if you’re feeling the way my wife did.

If you want more help, be sure to check out Chris’ piece on resolving Windows 8 niggles or his piece on making Windows 8 faster. Or, if you want to learn more about Microsoft’s latest operating system, be sure to check out our full, free manual for Windows 8. It goes over all of the new features, teaching you how to use the Metro interface and get the most out of the new configurations.

Thoughts? Leave them below, as always. I’ll be around for the after party.

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Comments (24)
  • Joe Rupe

    I tried windows 8 for the first time today. I am glad to say that it was not on any computer of mine. I was asked to help my 28 year old niece, as I actually have a degree in information systems management and have been using computers since 1983. My first was a Commodore 64 followed by a 128, AMIGA 1000, AMIGA 500, a Mac, and then several named and generic brand PC’s. I have suffered through every single Windows OS. Some versions were good and some not so, but at least I didn’t have to bang my head against the wall or research the internet to be able to grasp the basics. I’m getting older and tired of Microsoft. For several years I have had a MAC and a PC on my desk at work and at home. Funny, in the last 10 or 20 years MAC has not had such a drastic make-over. When the time comes that I am unable to use Windows 7 on my PC, then there will only be one computer remaining on my desk. Anyone taking bets as to which one will go? Thanks for the info though. I will pass it on.

  • Russ

    This is amazing. Now I can again be in something and pull up something as simple as a calculator, or note/word pad and add notes or do some math. I was hating this new OS, this solves everything! Thank you!

    Some days I still miss the old dos days where you had to know how to operate a computer and my old BBS… sigh… the “simpler” they make it the more they screw things up at times

  • Brian Sturgill

    To really get rid of metro, it takes a bit more than just installing Classic Shell. For example, trying to view a photo with explorer will launch the “Metro” Photos app. I made a step-by-step guide of what to remove and change on my blog:

  • mac2

    I have downloaded classic shell many times. I hit the start button and it takes me to metro. What am I to do? Thanks

    • Justin Pot

      That’s odd. Try right-clicking the stat menu and entering the settings. You should be able to find an option to switch the default behavior if you explore.

  • MikeVertx

    Great find and post, thanks for the share! Works perfectly and helps resolve the frustration with windows 8 (and it’s useless metro-tile screen)… now back to work

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.