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Since the release of Windows 95, the Start Menu has been the primary way for users to access their files and applications. Microsoft attempted to move away from this setup with Windows 8, creating a serious backlash. Now the Start Menu is back and better than ever for Windows 10.
However, there have been a few changes since the last time we saw the Start Menu. There’s more functionality and customization options packed in than ever before, but the best way to take advantage of it might not be immediately obvious. Use this guide to get a firm grasp of the basics, and you’ll soon be using the Start Menu like a true Windows 10 expert.
The Start Menu in Windows 10 aims to offer the best of the classic Windows Start Menu mixed with the modern Metro interface introduced in Windows 8. To open it, simply click the Windows icon in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen, or press the Windows key.
As you can see, the leftmost column offers quick access to apps and utilities, much like the traditional Start Menu, whereas the rest is populated with Live Tiles. You can right-click an individual Tile to toggle whether or not it updates itself automatically when your Internet connection is active, resize it, or even remove it from the Start Menu altogether.
Access Start Menu Settings
You can customize some aspects of the Start Menu directly from your Desktop, but to go more in-depth, you’ll need to access the personalization options situated in the Settings menu. For easy access, just right-click anywhere on your Desktop and click Personalize, then navigate to the Start section.
This is the place to establish what content you want to see on your Start Menu. Make sure to click on the Customize list link to see the full array of options as to what appears there. You can also toggle between the standard Start Menu and its full-screen variant—most users will likely prefer the former, but Windows 8 devotees may want to try out the full-screen option to see if it’s more familiar.
Pin Commonly Used Settings Tasks to the Start Menu
You may find that you end up tweaking your Start Menu settings a lot as you grow accustomed to the way it works. It’s difficult to say exactly what you want to see on the menu, particularly if you’re upgrading from an older version of Windows. If this is the case—or if there’s any other aspect of the Settings menu you’d like to have on hand—you can pin it directly to the Start Menu.
First, navigate to whatever part of the Settings app you’re looking to pin to the Start Menu. I’m using the Start settings, but the method is the same whatever you choose. Right-click the desired section in the leftmost column of the Settings app, and select Pin to Start.
You should find a direct link to the appropriate section in your Start Menu. To remove it, just right-click the shortcut and select Unpin from Start.
Switch to Tablet Mode on Mobile
One of the biggest selling points of Windows 10 is its ability to offer a consistent user experience across a range of devices. That’s true for features like the Start Menu, which has a tablet-friendly mode hidden away in the Settings app.
To activate Tablet Mode, navigate to Settings > System > Tablet Mode. You’ll find a toggle for the mode itself, but the When I sign in option is just as important if you’re looking to set things up to your tastes. Using the dropdown, you can select whether you want to default to tablet or desktop mode, or simply keep the settings you had when you last logged into the device.
Add a Splash of Color
Live Tiles bring the Start Menu to life, but it might not feel personalized to your tastes until you’ve given it a fresh coat of paint. By default, the Start Menu is set to ignore the color you chose when you set up your Windows 10 user account, so the first priority is to amend that option.
To do so, navigate to Settings > Personalization > Colors. Scroll down to the toggle switch marked Show color on Start, taskbar and action center and make sure that it’s set to On. You’ll then be able to select from a variety of different swatches.
You can also opt to Make Start, taskbar and action center transparent with the appropriate toggle switch. These options cater to form, rather than function, so feel free to mix and match as you please until you find a setup that works for you.
Disable Internet Search
Windows 10 is full of novel features, and many would argue that its Desktop search bar is one of the more useful additions that Microsoft has made. However, the fact that it combines Internet search results with items found on your computer can often make things more difficult to find, rather than easier.
If you prefer to keep your web searches separate to the content stored locally on your PC, you can disable the online portion of the search bar quite easily. First, open up Windows Firewall with Advanced Security. You need to create an Outbound Rule for a Program, and specify the Program Path when the tool prompts you to.
The path you need to navigate to is Windows > SystemApps > Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy > SearchUI.exe. Once you’ve found it, make sure that you stipulate that all connections are to be blocked.
Once that’s done and the rule is in place, you should still be able to use the search bar, but it won’t deliver any results from the Internet. Your Firewall rule prevents it from making a connection, so all you need to do to reverse the process is disable that particular rule.
Do you have a great tip for customizing the Windows 10 Start Menu? Do you have a problem that’s not covered in this article? Let us know about it in the comments section below!