10 Ways to Customize Windows 10 With Classic Shell

Joe Keeley 09-08-2017

Windows 10 is great out the box, but there’s so much customization you can do to make it even better The 8 Best Tools to Tweak and Customize Windows 10 Want to give your PC a unique look? Learn how to customize Windows 10 with these powerful tweak tools that cover your every need. Read More .


We’re going to show you how to use Classic Shell, a third-party program that focuses on tweaking the Start Menu, Taskbar, and File Explorer. From changing the Start icon, making the Taskbar fully transparent, to checking for Windows updates on shutdown, there’s so much that Classic Shell can do.

If you have your own Classic Shell tips and tricks to share, let us know in the comments below.

Download Classic Shell

First things first: head over to the Classic Shell website and download the program. Launch the installer and progress through the wizard. You’ll be asked which elements of Classic Shell you want to install. For the purpose of this guide, select everything except Classic IE.

This will install Classic Start Menu Settings and Classic Explorer Settings, both of which you’ll find doing a system search. We’ll refer to them as Start Menu Settings and Explorer Settings.

classic shell


By default, on both settings windows, you’ll only see a small number of tabs and customization options. Tick Show all settings so that you can see all of the tabs because we’ll need them for the upcoming tweaks.

1. Start Menu Skins

If you miss the Start Menus from Windows past The 7 Best Windows Start Menu Alternatives and Replacements The Windows 10 Start Menu is a great improvement over Windows 8, but you can make it even better. Here are the best tools for working around or replacing the Start Menu. Read More , Classic Shell makes it very easy to turn back the clock. Launch Start Menu Settings and go to the Start Menu Style tab. Here you can choose between Classic style, Classic with two columns and Windows 7 style.

Once selected, click Select skin… beneath and use the Skin drop-down to change between the different styles. For example, you could opt for the classic Start Menu using the XP colors.

start menu skin


Each skin also has its own options, customizable using the radio buttons and checkboxes below the drop-down. For example, some let you set the size of the icons, fonts, and whether to show your user picture.

2. Start Menu Shortcuts

There are lots of different ways to open the Start Menu. With Classic Shell, you can customize each to set whether it does nothing, opens the classic Start Menu, or opens the default Start Menu.

Launch the Start Menu Settings and go to the Controls tab. Here all the shortcuts are listed out, like Left Click, Shift + Click, and Windows key. Use the radio buttons to adjust each setting.

start menu controls


For example, you could have left clicking the Start icon open the classic style, but hovering open the default Windows style.

3. Start Menu Button

The default Start button with the four window panes is serviceable, but it’s not particularly exciting. Let’s change that.

First, it’s time to choose the image you want. Technically you could use any image, but the best are those which have been specifically designed to show different image states in normal, hovered and pressed modes.

start menu angry birds


The Classic Shell forum has lots of different buttons to choose, ranging from Angry Birds, the Superman logo, or a retro XP look How to Make Windows 10 Look Like Windows 7 or XP Here's how to make Windows 10 look like Windows 7, Windows XP, or Windows 8 so you can restore a classic look and feel. Read More . Browse through the threads and once you find what you want, right-click the image and save it somewhere on your computer.

Launch Start Menu Settings, go to the Start Menu Style tab and tick Replace Start button. Click Custom > Pick image…, navigate to where you saved the image and double-click it.

If the image is too big, click Advanced button options… and click Button size. Here you can input the pixel width for the button. 0 is the default, but 48 or 60 will often work best. Feel free to experiment with different values.

custom button size

You’ll need to click OK each time to save the change.

4. Musical Start Menu

If you search Windows for change system sounds and select the relevant result, you can change what sound is played for various actions, like a low battery, message notification, or error. All well and good, but what if you want to add some sound to your Start Menu?

Open Start Menu Settings and go to the Sounds tab. Here you can set a different sound for when you open Start, when you close it, when an item is executed, when something is dropped, or when you hover your mouse over the icon.

start menu sounds

Select what you want to set a sound for and click to browse to the audio file on your computer. It has to be in WAV format, so check out a site like WavSource for some to download.

5. Enhanced Start Menu Search

The search on the Start Menu is good, especially with the addition of Cortana, but you can make it even better. Open Start Menu Settings and go to the Search Box tab. There’s a bunch of useful settings that are worth enabling here.

start menu search

Track frequency of use will see how often you open programs and place them higher in search results. Enable Auto-Complete will automatically detect full folder or file paths. Enabling both Search programs and settings and Search files is perhaps the most useful feature here and basically means that your Start Menu search becomes a one-stop-shop for finding absolutely anything on your system How to Search File Contents in Windows Windows 10 search is better than ever. Try these tips and third-party tools if you want to have a better search experience. Read More .

6. Windows Updates on Shutdown

With Classic Shell, you can choose whether Windows checks for any updates when you’re shutting down. To adjust this setting, open Start Menu Settings, go to the General Behavior tab and tick Check for Windows updates on shutdown.

check windows updates on shutdown

It’ll also show you whether there are updates to install by displaying an icon next to the Shutdown button. If you always need to shut down as quickly as possible, this option might not be the best, but it helps overcome Windows’ forceful updates How to Turn Off Automatic App Updates in Windows 10 how to stop the auto-update function for apps in Windows 10, if you don't want the latest versions of apps for any reason. Read More .

7. Fully Transparent Taskbar

Windows offers limited transparency options, enabled via Settings > Personalization > Colors > Transparency effects. But that’s no good if you want to have a fully transparent Taskbar.

taskbar transparent

In Start Menu Settings, go to the Taskbar tab and tick Customize taskbar. Select Transparent if you want the taskbar to be entirely clear or Glass if you want a blur effect. Then click Taskbar opacity and change the value to 0.

taskbar transparent

You can set this value anywhere on the scale of 0 to 100 if you don’t want the Taskbar to be entirely transparent.

8. Taskbar Colors

Windows lets you set a color for your Taskbar Windows 10 Taskbar Customization: The Complete Guide Here's how to customize the Windows 10 taskbar with built-in settings, handy tricks, and third-party software. Read More .

To do this, go to Settings > Personalization > Colors, select a color and then tick Start, taskbar and action center. However, as the label suggests, this color isn’t just for the Taskbar.

taskbar color

Classic Shell lets you independently change the color of the Taskbar itself and the font. To do this, open Start Menu Settings, go to the Taskbar tab and tick Customize taskbar. Select Taskbar color and/or Taskbar text color and click to set a color. Click OK on the color window, then OK again to save your changes.

9. File Explorer Status Bar

The status bar on the standard File Explorer is more simple than it used to be on older versions of Windows.

To get more information at the bottom of the screen, open Explorer Settings and go to the Status Bar tab. Once here, tick Show status bar and use the options beneath to customize to your liking.

status bar file explorer

All of them are useful, but particularly Show detailed info for single selection. This will display metadata about a file once you click on it without having to go to the Properties section.

10. File Explorer Breadcrumbs

Near the top of the File Explorer window is the address bar, which shows you what folder you’re browsing. By default, this doesn’t show you the full file path unless you click into the address bar.

You can change this. Open Explorer Settings and go to the Title Bar tab. Tick Disable breadcrumbs to see the full folder path in the address bar.

title bar

For example, what would have previously said This PC will now display as C:\Users\Name. You can also adjust how it appears in the Address bar history, along with being able to Hide Search box at the same time.

Come Out of Your Shell

Classic Shell has existed in various forms since 2008, but hopefully, you’ve learned something new from this guide that you didn’t know was possible to customize on Windows. Whether it’s switching the Start Menu icon, adding sounds, or spicing up your Taskbar Your Windows Taskbar Should Be Vertical, Here's Why The default position of the Windows Taskbar is at the bottom of your screen. But a vertical Taskbar might be better for you. Let's find out why. Read More , Classic Shell offers great customizability.

If you’re looking for even more ways to spice up your Windows machine, check out our tips on customizing the Windows 10 taskbar 7 Tips for Customizing the Windows 10 Taskbar The taskbar remains a staple feature in Windows 10. It's been given a fresh look and new features, including Cortana. We show you all the tweaks to make the taskbar your own. Read More and how to get the most out of File Explorer How to Get the Most Out of the Windows 10 File Explorer Windows File Explorer is one of the most underrated features of Windows 10. Here we demonstrate how to manage and control the Windows 10 File Explorer from the bottom up and reveal features you never... Read More .

What is your favorite feature of Classic Shell? Is there a particular tip that we’ve missed out?

Related topics: File Explorer, Start Menu, Windows Customization, Windows Taskbar, Windows Update.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ivan
    August 15, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Right click an app and uninstall Metro crap - best feature of Classic Shell. It can remove stuff that Windows 10 restricts.

  2. Lisa
    August 13, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    My favorite feature of Classic Shell is the customizable search providers. You can set it up to pass the search box's query to other websites or other programs installed in your Windows. I have defined search providers for my favorite search tool, Voidtools "Everything" and for Wikipedia, Google, Amazon, eBay and YouTube. I type the name of a song and select YouTube, it finds it on YouTube. I type a product I wanna buy and click Amazon, it finds it on Amazon.

  3. joseph
    August 13, 2017 at 8:03 am

    The file and document search in Classic Shell is superior to Windows 10. Also the flyout menus with links to useful folders is something the Windows 10 menu will never have. Classic Shell is how they should have designed the 10 Start menu.

  4. TianlanSha
    August 11, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    I like how it can turn the All programs part of Windows 7 style menu into the flyout/cascading/xp style without changing the rest of the 7-style menu. That is pure genius! Gives me the best of both worlds - 7's search and XP's superior presentation of All Programs in multiple columns.

  5. Nina
    August 11, 2017 at 10:00 am

    My favorite feature of Classic Shell is how the menu opens with the Win key smartly on the monitor where I have my mouse pointer.

  6. Martin
    August 10, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Speaking of customization, also check out Winaero Tweaker - especially useful for Windows 10 but works on Windows 7 and 8 too.

  7. Jeff
    August 10, 2017 at 1:44 pm