Make Windows 8 Suck Less With Classic Shell

Justin Pot 07-02-2013

classic shell for windows 8Make Windows 8 usable for people who think it’s not. Add a start menu to the desktop and tweak the way Explorer and Internet Explorer behave, all thanks to a piece of software called Classic Shell. If you like tweaking your user interface, and miss the options provided by previous versions of Windows, you’ll love this software.


To say Windows 8 is controversial would be an understatement. While many love the new security and speed of Redmond’s latest offering, some wish there was an optional way to avoid the Metro interface – including most of the MakeUseOf staff We've Actually Used It - What Does MakeUseOf Think Of Windows 8? If you haven’t installed Windows 8 yet; don’t worry, we’re technology writers - it’s our job to test these things out for you. Quite a few MakeUseOf staff including myself have taken the plunge and... Read More . Forcing a touch-based interface on a mouse-and-keyboard loving populace probably isn’t the smartest thing Microsoft’s ever done – even if it could help them sell a couple of phones someday.

So I’m glad there are ways to make Windows behave a little more like the operating system we know how to use properly. Classic shell gives you exactly the start menu you prefer, whether that’s the one from Windows 7, XP or even older versions of the OS. It also lets you tweak Windows Explorer, adding a customizable toolbar and letting you make other changes to the classic shell in Windows 8.

The Start Menu

Install Classic Shell and you’ll see it immediately – a start menu! The button will stick out like a sore thumb at first but you can configure it to blend in with Windows 8 quite nicely. Here’s how it looks on my computer:

classic shell for windows 8

Once you install Classic Shell, Windows automatically boots to the desktop – nice if you’d rather avoid Metro’s distractions and get right to work.


Do you want to change that, or anything else? Right-click the start menu and you’ll find a “Settings” button. From here you can change the style of start menu you want:

classic shell windows 8

You’ll find a wide variety of options; just be sure to hit the “All Settings” options so you can see all tabs. You can make your start menu work exactly the way you want, so check it out.


Many people like the new Windows Explorer, but if you’re not one of them Classic Shell is here for you. With it you can make the file manager behave just the way you remember. When you launch it you’ll see a new toolbar in Explorer. Click the Classic Shell button on it and you can configure things, including what does and doesn’t show up in your toolbar:


classic shell for windows 8

Again, you can configure just about anything here. Explore the options and you’ll be blown away.


My wife – a brilliant physicist who is also very computer savvy – recently had cause to replace her computer. The new machine came with Windows 8, with which she was initially frustrated.

“I’m just not sure how I’m supposed to use this,” she said. The Metro apps, which she accurately deemed “Internet stuff”, didn’t seem that useful for most of the things she spends her time doing: crunching data, preparing presentations and taking notes while reading at the same time.


Her plan was to install Windows 7 until I pointed out Classic Shell. It provided the means to get used to Windows 8 without throwing old workflows away completely.

I think Microsoft made a mistake in not making more of their Metro features optional. People love Windows and have workflows worked out using it. Why try to change everything in one swift blow? Classic Shell helps, at least. Install it if you’re feeling the way my wife did.

If you want more help, be sure to check out Chris’ piece on resolving Windows 8 niggles 7 Windows 8 Niggles Resolved Windows 8 has a number of features that can be annoying to experienced users of the traditional Windows desktop. From adding a Start menu to disabling the bulky ribbon, noisy live tiles, and unnecessary lock... Read More or his piece on making Windows 8 faster How to Make Windows 8 Go Faster: 8 Tips For Improving Performance Whatever you think of Windows 8 (at MakeUseOf, our opinions are mixed), it’s certainly speedy. Windows 8 boots faster than previous versions of Windows, has lower memory usage, and has a desktop that feels nice... Read More . Or, if you want to learn more about Microsoft’s latest operating system, be sure to check out our full, free manual for 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 . It goes over all of the new features, teaching you how to use the Metro interface and get the most out of the new configurations.

Thoughts? Leave them below, as always. I’ll be around for the after party.


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  1. ME
    March 9, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    what blows me away is your physicist wife using windows to begin with? if shes a physicist then she would be rocking some **nix system like Unix or Linux, not windows LMFAO. A computer savvy physicist cant get anything done on Windows lets face it. Real Nerds Rock Linux systems.

    I just found this page because I just started using Windows again after 7 -9ish long years of not using windows at all and basically you can do everything without windows, Unless, Unless your a gamer!!! Which I was and want to be again. So back to windows, but wtf did they do to it? Coming from a very complicated Operating System, Debian Based Linux OS's this windows 8 make's Linux look very easy to operate. God Dam someone over at Microsoft needs to be brought out back and shot over this atrocious OS. Not even kidding about that!!

  2. Joe Rupe
    April 13, 2013 at 9:14 am

    I tried windows 8 for the first time today. I am glad to say that it was not on any computer of mine. I was asked to help my 28 year old niece, as I actually have a degree in information systems management and have been using computers since 1983. My first was a Commodore 64 followed by a 128, AMIGA 1000, AMIGA 500, a Mac, and then several named and generic brand PC's. I have suffered through every single Windows OS. Some versions were good and some not so, but at least I didn't have to bang my head against the wall or research the internet to be able to grasp the basics. I'm getting older and tired of Microsoft. For several years I have had a MAC and a PC on my desk at work and at home. Funny, in the last 10 or 20 years MAC has not had such a drastic make-over. When the time comes that I am unable to use Windows 7 on my PC, then there will only be one computer remaining on my desk. Anyone taking bets as to which one will go? Thanks for the info though. I will pass it on.

    • ME
      March 9, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      My first was in 1979 with Atari 400 and 800. I was 5 years old and my dad taught me the CLI and Atari Basic. I'm a natural on any computer or OS, EXCEPT this Win 8. Holy Crap did they ever screw the pooch on this one..

  3. Russ
    April 13, 2013 at 12:46 am

    This is amazing. Now I can again be in something and pull up something as simple as a calculator, or note/word pad and add notes or do some math. I was hating this new OS, this solves everything! Thank you!

    Some days I still miss the old dos days where you had to know how to operate a computer and my old BBS... sigh... the "simpler" they make it the more they screw things up at times

  4. Brian Sturgill
    March 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    To really get rid of metro, it takes a bit more than just installing Classic Shell. For example, trying to view a photo with explorer will launch the "Metro" Photos app. I made a step-by-step guide of what to remove and change on my blog:

  5. mac2
    March 3, 2013 at 6:48 am

    I have downloaded classic shell many times. I hit the start button and it takes me to metro. What am I to do? Thanks

    • Justin Pot
      March 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      That's odd. Try right-clicking the stat menu and entering the settings. You should be able to find an option to switch the default behavior if you explore.

  6. MikeVertx
    February 22, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Great find and post, thanks for the share! Works perfectly and helps resolve the frustration with windows 8 (and it's useless metro-tile screen)... now back to work

  7. thebomb
    February 13, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    this is pathetic the world so addicted to ms products soon they will make you typing with your toes. As for the server side ms has been a joke since day 1

  8. Nevzat Akkaya
    February 11, 2013 at 7:22 am

    Everyone who use Windows 8 should install such an app.

  9. Bilal
    February 8, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I will suggest everyone to try iobit's start menu. It feels like embedded in the operating system.

    • Justin Pot
      February 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      Cool, perhaps I'll look into that one next.

  10. Alan Wade
    February 8, 2013 at 8:05 am

    So basically its a case of upgrade to Windows 8 then make it look like your previous version of Windows???????

    • mister.teche
      February 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      For a desktop environment, why, YES! Especially when there is little choice when purchasing computers now-a-days. The "Modern" GUI is out of place on a desktop. It is, nevertheless, great on the tablet!

    • Justin Pot
      February 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      People who buy a new computer don't have much of a choice: use Windows 8 or by a copy of Windows 7 to install yourself and hope the drivers don't work out. And just because you want a start menu doesn't mean you don't benefit from Windows 8 various changes, including Metro – you simply want a usable desktop mode as well.

      • Alan Wade
        February 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm

        I bought the Windows 8 upgrade, installed it, created an image and then uninstalled it.
        I just couldnt get use to the new UI.
        Its just not for me.

    • susendeep dutta
      February 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      This article only emphasizes on installing a start menu rather than transforming it into other OS.People like start menu so thus this article suggests.

      • Alan Wade
        February 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm

        I like the Windows 3.1 UI do you think there is a program to make my Windows 8 look and act like it?

        • susendeep dutta
          February 10, 2013 at 9:51 am


        • Mike Blais
          April 12, 2013 at 4:31 am

          progman.exe is needed

    • mister.teche
      February 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      Jason, excellent article. One question, how did you replace the Classic Shell start button to the Windows 8 logo? Was it a custom skin?

      • mister.teche
        February 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm

        Never mind, I figured it out. The setting is located in Settings --> Start Button tab.

      • Justin Pot
        February 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm

        It's funny how many people mistakenly call me Jason. Happens in person all the time, but never online until now. Anyway, glad you figured it out.

  11. Raazan Malla
    February 8, 2013 at 4:43 am

    I've tried so many free Windows 8 start menu applications. The best one amongst all.

  12. Daniel
    February 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I think Start8 is better than ClassicShell, although you have to pay for it (around 3,6€), you get the option to get the menu to fit well in the OS providing you a "built-in" feel to your OS.

  13. salvador hernandez
    February 7, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    been putting this on the new win 8 computers we got for the company i work for