Make It Your Own: 8 Useful Tools For Customizing Windows 8

Chris Hoffman 15-03-2013

Windows 8 isn’t quite as configurable out-of-the-box as previous versions of Windows, lacking such seemingly important features as the ability to boot to the desktop and run “Modern” applications in windows. For all its problems, Windows 8 is still Windows, and Windows is a very configurable operating system. These third-party utilities allow us to do things Microsoft has made impossible by default or easily change settings Microsoft has hidden.


Whether you want to run Modern apps in windows on your desktop, use a Start menu, create custom tiles for your Start screen, or tweak every little part of the system, there’s a developer out there who has worked hard on overcoming Windows 8’s limitations What's Missing From Windows 8? Windows 8 has seen the removal of many features that have been key to Windows over the years, including the Start button, Start menu, and Windows Aero. We tend to focus on the new features... Read More .


OblyTile allows you to create your own custom tiles for desktop applications, websites, folders, and anything else you like. You can download pre-created tile images, so you don’t have to make your own. Your custom desktop shortcuts can look much nicer than the dull desktop shortcut tiles Windows 8 uses by default.

customizing windows 8


Windows 8’s new Modern environment doesn’t allow you to run Modern applications in windows on your desktop. Microsoft doesn’t seem to think this is a problem, but Stardock has fixed this with their ModernMix application. ModernMix allows you to run Modern apps in a window on your desktops, even having multiple Modern apps on your desktop at the same time. Like other Stardock applications, it’s free for 30 days and will cost you a one-time fee of $5 afterwards. ModernMix is currently the only application that offers this feature.

customize windows 8



By default, you can’t choose your own Start screen background image. (Windows 8 does allow you to change your lock screen image Make Windows 8 Sexier With These Background & Theme Tweaks Does your Windows 8 system look too bland with the default settings? You can customize it in a variety of ways, changing a variety of backgrounds and colors -- whether on the Start screen, lock... Read More for some reason, however.) Stardock’s Decor8 allows you to set a custom background image and color scheme for your Start screen. It’s free for 30 days and will cost you $5 afterwards.

If you’re looking for something that’s permanently free, you can try Windows 8 Start Screen Customizer, although it hasn’t worked properly for us in the past. Decor8 seems much more polished and less buggy.

customize windows 8

Start Menus, Boot to Desktop, and Hot Corners

Windows 8 replaces the Start menu with the new full-screen Start screen. If you’d rather have a traditional Start menu, there are quite a few third-party Start menus available for Windows 8. Manufacturers like Samsung and Lenovo are even creating their own Start menus and shipping them with their new Windows 8 PCs.


We’ve covered several start menus for Windows 8 Start Menu, How I Miss Thee: 4 Ways To Make A Start Menu On Windows 8 Windows 8 brought down the axe on the Start Menu. 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... Read More in more detail, including Stardock’s polished (but paid) Start8 and the free Classic Shell. IObit also offers a free, polished Start menu for Windows 8.

These Start menus also allow you to boot straight to the desktop and disable the hot corners that activate Windows 8’s charms and app switcher 18 Essential Touch Gestures in Windows 10 Touch gestures are like keyboard shortcuts for your touchpad and touchscreen. And with Windows 10, they have finally become useful! We'll show you how to access the full potential of touch gestures. Read More when you move your mouse to the corners of the screen. You can still access these features with the appropriate Windows 8 hotkeys Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Keyboard shortcuts can save you hours of time. Master the universal Windows keyboard shortcuts, keyboard tricks for specific programs, and a few other tips to speed up your work. Read More , even if you opt to disable the hot corners.

customize windows 8


Windows 8 automatically selects window border colors by default, but you can also select a color from a short list of provided colors. With Aero8Tuner, you can select any custom border color and color balance you like. You can also enable an Aero Glass-like transparency effect with this tool, although the transparency is very buggy and you probably won’t want to use it for long.


customize windows 8

Win+X Menu Editor

Windows 8 has a special “power-user menu” that appears when you press Windows Key + X or right-click at the bottom-left corner of your screen. It’s full of links to things like the Control Panel and Device Manager.

If you want to add your own custom program shortcuts to this list or modify the existing ones, you can do easily customize the menu with Win+X Menu Editor.

how to customize windows 8


Alt Tab Tuner VIII

The Alt+Tab dialog Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didn't Know About There’s more to Alt+Tab than just pressing Alt+Tab to switch between windows. There are a variety of hidden keyboard shortcuts that make the Alt+Tab switcher quicker and easier to use. There are also ways to... Read More is extremely customizable. In addition to adjusting the thumbnail, icon, and margin sizes, you can also opt to use a class-style Alt+Tab dialog. However, these settings are buried in the Windows registry What Is the Windows Registry and How Do I Edit It? If you need to edit the Windows registry, making a few quick changes is easy. Let's learn how to work with the registry. Read More . Alt Tab Tuner VIII allows you to adjust these settings without using the registry.

how to customize windows 8

Start Screen Animations Tweaker

You can tweak the Start screen’s animations Rearrange The Windows 8 Start Screen With Registry Tweaks & Utilities As befits a new operating system, over the past few weeks we’ve featured many articles about how to use and tweak Windows 8. With the focus largely on tweaking. After all, when so many developers... Read More , but these settings are also buried in the registry.Start Screen Animations Tweaker allows you to tweak these animations without looking up registry settings.

customizing windows 8

You can still customize the desktop’s animations through the Control Panel How To Tweak The Visual Effects In Windows 8 Well, my upgrade from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 8 Pro hasn't been the smoothest one, but at least I'm slowly figuring things out. One thing that should be considered criminal is that Windows... Read More . To learn more about Windows 8, consult our free guide to Windows 8 The Windows 8 Guide This Windows 8 guide outlines everything new about Windows 8, from the tablet-like start screen to the new "app" concept to the familiar desktop mode. Read More .

Do you have any other favorite Windows 8 tweaking applications? Share them in the comments!

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  1. Pooky Joralyn
    May 30, 2013 at 8:37 am

    The "Play Start Screen animations every time you see it" in Start Screen Animation Tweaker always crashes explorer.exe.

  2. Jonathan Goodpasture
    March 21, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Microsoft needs to get off their ridiculous attempt to creating some social crap out of a very nice otherwise OS. FIX Windows please and release it asap. Windows 8 is a joke at best!

  3. somu1795
    March 17, 2013 at 8:31 am

    its awesome collection

  4. Tech
    March 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm


  5. hazem elsaiegh
    March 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    what a great tools , in this topic i see some tools i haven't before , thanx

  6. Alan Wade
    March 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Another one worth looking at is Start Charming Chris.

  7. Gordon Hay
    March 16, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I can certainly recommend Oblytile - simple to use, and I especially like being able to change the default Modern UI tiles.

    I also recommend this site -

    to get ready-made icons from.

    • Alan Wade
      March 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Thats a terrific site Gordon. I get most of my icons from there.

  8. Lim3Fru1t
    March 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Nice :)

  9. Cik Amai
    March 16, 2013 at 8:04 am

    This is amazing collection, so basically ModernMix will allows you to open Metro apps in windowed mode? It's annoying sometimes when I need to preview some music using full screen apps.

  10. Kamran Mackey
    March 16, 2013 at 2:23 am

    Thanks for all the tools! I will surely check them out! :)