Although some months away from full launch, a couple of versions of Windows 8 are already available. The Developer Preview was released in September 2011, while the beta or Customer Preview version was made available for download in February 2012.
One of the most striking things about the new Microsoft operating system – beyond the Metro user interface – is the lack of a traditional Start menu in favour of tiles. However with a desktop view available for running legacy apps, it seems likely that users will appreciate the ability to use a Windows 8 computer in much the same way as they have used each version of Windows since the mid-1990s.
Of course, this means manually switching from the Metro view – or does it? A useful registry hack can be used to disable Metro, restoring the classic Start menu and desktop view as the default user interface. Sadly this fix will only work with the Windows 8 Developer Preview, rather than with the new Windows 8 Consumer Preview, due to tighter integration of the Metro UI with the various Windows screens. However Microsoft has indicated that there will be a method to disable Metro or set the desktop view as the default for corporate users, so those of you looking ahead shouldn’t be too concerned just yet.
Finding The Desktop View In Windows 8
If you have already seen Windows 8 in action it might come as some surprise to you to learn that there is a desktop view at all. This is found by clicking the tile in the lower-left corner of the Start screen. When you do this, you will see the Metro desktop vanish to be replaced by a classic-looking Windows desktop, complete with a Start button in the corner.
However it will become apparent that all is not as it should be. While you can use the classic desktop for running legacy apps and installing software (and hardware) its features are somewhat limited, as you will see by clicking the Start button, hidden in the very bottom-left corner of the screen.
Where you might have expected to see a list of applications and links to the Control Panel, you should see that this stripped-down Start button has been “metroed”.
Restoring The Desktop
With a Start menu already present, it is clear that Microsoft still wants you to have access to that useful collection of tools in the corner of the screen. So why not “go large” and restore it to its former glory?
This can be done in one of two ways. The first is to hack the registry, disabling Metro which is little more than an overlay, an additional user interface sitting on top of the traditional Windows desktop (and the real Windows 8). Alternatively, you can take advantage of a single-click utility that does the job for you.
Not Enough? Why Not Disable Metro?!
In order to discard the Metro desktop and restore the classic option – thereby starting Windows 8 with the traditional desktop view – you will need to make an adjustment to the Windows registry.
Warning: If you have no experience changing the registry, you should read this section very carefully and perhaps find a friend or colleague who can provide assistance.
- Begin in the Metro view by typing regedit, which should launch the app search box and find the utility. If you’re already in desktop view then pressing the Windows Key + R combination will open a Run box, so type regedit and click OK.
- The first thing you should do at this stage is open File > Export and create a backup of the system registry in advance of making any changes.
- Once this has completed, navigate to:
- Find the RPEnabled key and right-click, selecting Modify. Here, change the key from 1 to 0. Click OK to confirm, and you will find that Metro has been disabled.
Should you wish to restore Metro at any time, simply reverse the above change, switching the key back from 0 to 1.
Toggle The Windows 8 Start Menu
Does the idea of tinkering in the Windows registry fill you with fear? You’re not the only one, which is why there is a useful alternative, courtesy of DeviantArt user Solo-Dev. With the Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle tool, the above registry hack is automated into a small single button interface.
Head to this page and click on the Download link to get your copy of the small 15.1 KB utility. Save it to your Windows 8 computer and then open the ZIP archive and run w8smt.exe. Installation requires that you will need to enable the .NET Framework, so spend a few moments waiting for this to update on your system. Once complete, the w8smt.exe tool should install.
You will then see a box with a Use Classic Start Menu button (and little else) displayed. Simply click this to disable Metro and enjoy Windows 8 in the classic manner!
Whether you agree with the implication of the Metro UI on desktop and laptop computers or not, it cannot be denied that this particular registry hack is likely to turn out very useful to a lot of people unless Microsoft acts and adds its own Metro toggle switch into Windows 8. Of course, this is unlikely to happen as it will completely undermine the Metro UI!
However if you’re someone who requires access to legacy apps or simply prefers the traditional desktop view then this hack can be used to deliver the classic Windows UI with the modern Windows 8 functionality.
What do you think? Will you be disabling Metro when you get your copy of Windows 8?