Start Menu, How I Miss Thee: 4 Ways To Make A Start Menu On Windows 8

Matt Smith 30-11-2012

start menu on windows 8Windows 8 brought down the axe on the Start Menu Best Alternatives to Windows Start Menu Read More . This is a feature that no one paid special attention to for years but its untimely demise has caused all sorts of despair. Not only because it’s gone but also because its replacement is the Windows 8 Start Screen.


I have good news. The official Start Menu is dead, but there’s a number of ways to re-create a start menu on Windows 8, making it possible to enjoy a normal Windows desktop experience once more. There are even multiple options. You can use some UI trickery, pay for a robust replacement or try one of several free alternatives.

Fudging It With The Windows 8 Taskbar

The Windows 8 taskbar no longer includes the Start Menu but it does still include a system tray. That tray can be customized and one of the customizations lets the user point to a specific folder. Point to the Start folder and, tada! You have a sorta-kinda Start Menu.

Here’s how it works. Right-click on the Taskbar, select Toolbars, and then go to New Toolbar. You’ll be prompted to choose a folder. Instead, type the following.

%ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

start menu on windows 8

Then open that folder. You will now see a new entry on the taskbar called Programs.


Now right-click the taskbar again and this time un-check Lock The Taskbar. Then click on the New Programs entry and drag it over to the left side of the Taskbar. This will shove your pinned programs over to the right, so re-size them to put things back to normal.

windows 8 start menu

Now you have a Start Menu stand-in. It’s free of charge and doesn’t rely on any third-party software. It will show installed programs but doesn’t include any of the other features common to the Windows Start Menu like frequently used software.

The Paid Option: Start8

windows 8 start menu


Stardock, a company well known for its Windows modifications like Fences and ObjectDock, has quickly released a paid Windows 8 Start Menu. It’s only $4.99, however, so it’s not as if this option will put you in the poorhouse. There’s also a 30-day free trial.

Start8 isn’t hard to start using. Installation is painless and the interface used to control the software’s modest selection of options is intuitive. This is its main leg up on free alternatives. It’s not exceptionally functional but it is exceptionally easy to use.

windows 8 start menu

Most of the options relate to customization. Stardock has included not only classic Start Menus but also a new Metro-style Start Menu with blocky edges and a Windows 8 start icon. Users who are more interested in the details can specify colors, add/remove translucency, change icons and change what the menu shows.


Pokki For Windows 8

windows 8 start menu hack

Pokki is not a traditional Start Menu alternative. It roughly replicates the functionality of the Start Menu and can be used to open programs or search your PC. Yet it also includes new features, like social network connectivity, that were never found in the Start Menu.

Your opinion on this option will likely depend on how you feel about simplicity. Pokki manages it’s many options well, but it’s far from simple. Users actually install apps into it to increase functionality and the default menu takes up about one third of a typical 1366×768 laptop display. It’s big, it’s functional and it’s complex.

windows 8 start menu hack


If you’re into this sort of app, however, it should be perfect for you. Pokki can transform your Start menu into an online portal, a social networking hub or a productivity launch pad. Or you can just install a bunch of games and procrastinate.

If you want to know more check out our Pokki full review Pokki Brings The Start Menu Back To Windows 8 (And Apps To The Desktop Mode) Bring back the start menu in Windows 8 – and then some. Pokki is a simple app for re-adding the start menu to Windows 8, but that's not all it does: it also gives you... Read More .

Classic Shell

windows 8 start menu hack

Now it’s time to go old-school. Classic Shell is a remake of the Windows Start Menu that lets you sit in the wayback machine. It includes customization options that let you go all the way back to a Windows 95/98 style Start Menu if that’s your thing.

Under the hood there’s wealth of options. Users can change the columns in the start menu, how (and if) user picture/name is displayed, the size of icons and the skin used. Start8 allows for more customization of color but Classic Shell goes into more fine-grain detail.

start menu on windows 8

This software goes beyond the Start Menu. It also can be used to change Explorer and revert it back to an older style. Or you can simply change the current interface so that some features are disabled or more prominent. It’s great for UI grognards.


There’s something for everyone in this list. Using the toolbar trick is simple and quick yet limited in functionality. Start8 is intuitive and attractive but costs $5. Pokki is flexible and complex. And Classic Shell provides the fine-grain detail some geeks demand.

Your preference will depend on what you value most. Or you can try to use them all. These alternatives re-create the start menu on Windows 8, but they are still just programs. That means you can run Pokki alongside Classic Shell if you’d like.

Explore more about: Start Menu, Windows 8.

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  1. Praise
    May 13, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Thank you but i didn't work fine with my hp envy m6

  2. Jim Spencer
    December 9, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    While I am not rushing to jump on-board with Windows 8, this is more resource material to use toward possibly trying this new offering from Microsoft. Personally, I am very satisfied with my Windows 7 Ultimate 64BIT. When I feel like it can at least live up to that, I may take the test drive. I don't know about other techies out there, but I am not as fast to jump on things Microsoft tends to dump on the public.

  3. Giggity Goebbels
    December 8, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Classic shel FTW!

    December 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Pokki is a great alternative for Start. I even like it more than the traditional ones we had before.

  5. Shahbaz Amin
    December 4, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    It is just not right having to install another program to get features which you would normally expect from a PC. There should be an option with SP1 of Windows 8 whether one wants to turn Start menu on or off.
    I use Start8 now.

  6. Douglas Mutay
    December 4, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Wow! genius!!! thanks for sharing this. Thumbs up!

  7. Ole Funch
    December 4, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Pokki sounds like a great alternative which I sure want to try out, as soon as I get my Win8 up running with a WiFi, but also like Classic Shell - this because its free, even $5 not is the most expensive app I've sen so far.

  8. Ron
    December 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    This is great. It will help to speed things up

  9. Paul Hays
    December 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I am less than favorably struck by W8. W7 is a great product that I believe will be a standard for quite a while. That said, I love to tinker with different operating systems, including W8. In this article, I see a ray of hope of keeping some "legacy?" features around for a little bit. Thanks.

  10. Chris Hoffman
    December 3, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Start8 is probably the slickest, but IObit StartMenu8 is similar (though not as slick) and simpler than ClassicShell. It's free, which is a big advantage over Start8:

    • Matt Smith
      December 5, 2012 at 12:03 am

      I didn't even know IObit was in this business as well!

  11. Junil Maharjan
    December 2, 2012 at 4:30 am

    I try to move on without the start button but I keep going to the corner where the start menu used to be and clicking IE instead. have to really do something about that.

  12. Jim Chambers
    December 1, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Why not find your way around the new interface. If you can learn to navigate around Office 2007/10 after using xp or 2003, you can do almost anything.

    • Chris Hoffman
      December 3, 2012 at 10:18 am

      People can learn to do almost anything. The question is whether it's worth relearning on a non-touch computer or whether it's just change for change's sake, which is a waste of everyone's time.

  13. Anonymous
    December 1, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Hi There,

    Great article....

    I found another "Shell Start Menu" at the following URL: It is free and works pretty well......



    • Sebastian Hadinata
      December 2, 2012 at 3:01 am

      It's number four in the article -.-

  14. WilhelmR
    November 30, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Pokki with Boot to Desktop checked seems like the best bet.

    I'd ignore all the add-ons and social plugins they offer though.

    • Sebastian Hadinata
      December 2, 2012 at 3:03 am

      Yes.. I like the interface that pokki has to offer, but I dislike their add-ons and social plugin, not necessary IMO.

  15. Md Nur-Un-Nabi Tutul
    November 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    if anyone wants to customize their desktop themes then can use windows blinds though they have to purchase it..but it can be used for a month for free's allows to installs various type of theme to install's really a nice software.. i have used it several times...

  16. Matjaz Mirt
    November 30, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Thank you. I've been looking for something like this.

    • Matjaz Mirt
      December 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      It's exactly what should be Windows 8 for desktop computers. You can even select to go directly to desktop after boot. Totally worth of price.

  17. Anonymous
    November 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    I use RetroUI. It puts the start menu back and lets you access it when you are in the new UI, these other ones you all have to go back to the classic desktop just to use it. It also runs the new metro apps in a window on the desktop.

    • Sebastian Hadinata
      December 2, 2012 at 3:04 am

      RetroUI looks interesting. have you try it out? Is there any option to make the start menu looks like the one in start8 (theme or something).