How To Tweak The Visual Effects In Windows 8

Craig Snyder 13-11-2012

windows 8 visual effectsWell, 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 no longer offers the Classic or Standard themes. You know, the flat gray taskbar with the fading, blue window titles? I need my Windows looking like 98. I’ve never been a fan of XP’s glossy default style, and don’t get me started on Aero. On 8, Metro (as I’ll always call it, though the name has since been retired) isn’t exactly my cup of tea either.


So, on a version of Windows where practically every noticeable change is a tweak to the visual style, how do we throw it back a few years? In this post, I’ll help you figure out where you can find those visual options. Let’s start by introducing what’s missing.

Why Windows, why?

In 7 and 8, Windows is beginning to show that it’s developed an awful habit of removing even the option of having old features that we loved. One example is the Quick Launch bar. Out of the box, you won’t find that in Windows 7. We’ve shown users how to get it back though. Although the toolbar still exists, going out of your way to have to manually add it isn’t cool. I feel like it’s a key feature of the taskbar.

windows 8 visual effects

In Windows 8, they’ve taken it a step further. The Start menu has been completely butchered and replaced with a shortcut to get to that awful home screen. There are ways to restore the Start menu, as a toolbar, but it’s a very messy process. The easiest and most true-to-7 way to restore your precious Start menu is with Start8. I’ve tried every other alternative and it doesn’t do the job correctly. Start8 isn’t free, though you can try it for 30 days.

visual effects in windows


Windows 8 has become so much more functional and familiar to me after installing the trial of this software. I’ve got my fingers crossed that a free alternative will come along. Being the best we’ve got right now, Start8 has a lot to offer. More than just replacing the Start menu, you’re also able to automatically skip the home screen and go straight to your desktop after a restart. You can also disable certain visual elements that Windows 8 won’t let you (for some reason), like translucency. Finally, my taskbar can look normal again.

Windows, please stop removing features that we’ve known for so long!

Uncovering The Extras

I immediately noticed that the text size for the window title bars was grotesquely large. It really stood out on Firefox. This can easily be fixed by right-clicking anywhere on your desktop, clicking Personalize and then clicking Display in the bottom left-hand corner.

visual effects in windows


It’s all personal preference, but I think everything looks nicer if you bring them down a peg or two. Play with the text sizes and see what you like. Just to show what a glaring difference it makes, here is a title bar in size 8:

visual effects in windows

Here is size 10:

windows 8 effects


Finding where to enable and disable visual effects in 8 is in the same spot as you’d find it in 7. Let’s review though.

You’ll need to go to your System properties (it can be done by right-clicking Computer and clicking Properties). On the left menu, you’ll want to click Advanced system settings.

windows 8 effects

From there, go into the settings under the Performance header.


windows 8 visual effects

These are all up to you. If you don’t care about visuals, just let Windows adjust the options for best performance. You can manually just uncheck everything, too. That works just as well. Unchecking these can show an improved performance on lower-end machines. For me though, it’s all about preserving the classic look.

What do you guys think about the look of Windows 8? Is it right for Windows to be forcing us away from features that we’ve grown so close to, like Quick Launch and classic Start? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Raunak Jyotishi
    November 14, 2012 at 8:56 am

    use pokki start menu for win 8 it is also nice option to bring start menu back on win 8

  2. Chris Christodoulou
    November 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Tech journalists stuck in the past. What a sad thing...

    And, Microsoft, come on now... You need to reinvent yourself and become better—just don't change ANYTHING while doing it.

    P.S. If you really like Windows 98 style interface there's a great software that makes everything look and feel like Windows 98. It's called Microsoft Windows 98.

  3. Boni Oloff
    November 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    This is cool, everything you need to migrate to the Windows 8.
    I already using Windows 8 in virtual box, and i dont like it. Especially the annoying way to start program, and the side now have some not useful stuff, that i think a little annoying. But with the start8 it will at least makes it feels like the old Windows 7.

  4. Umair Adil
    November 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I totally agree. it should've had support for the classic menus.

  5. ha14
    November 13, 2012 at 9:15 am

    perhaps Stardock is becoming urgent for Windows 8

  6. Alae Hatoum
    November 13, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I find the lack of consistency in Windows very disturbing , in a matter of less than ten or so years they have switched between almost three completely new and unrelated themes going from the XP fake 3D look with bevels to the glassy aero and now the metro UI ... They seem to be always chasing trends rather than setting them visually and that is a problem that developers in particular will feel gutted by

    • Craig Snyder
      November 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      That's where Apple tops them. I'm personally a fan of Microsoft over Apple, but Apple's consistency in design should really be admired.

  7. Rahul
    November 13, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Craig i agree with your viewpoint on classic look..but there are few things which i think is more better than windows 7

    1. The start menu - i have heard so many criticism, but when i moved to windows 8 i did not felt the need of it, its just win key + search and all apps are in your hand, while i am still figuring out the use of windows 8 UI, its completely different
    2. I am very happy they ditched aero theme, it was battery hungry and performance eater, i feel they retained some classic feel to windows 8, without bothering transparency and glassy feature
    3. The most annoying part is the accidental appearence of charms bar, while i have disabled it, i dont know what microsoft was thinking, whenever i click close (X) button it appears, the downright appearence is enough

    Well those have windows 7, its really was not necessary to upgrade, i was a bit hesitant to, but now i think that i am a happy user

  8. Douglas Mutay
    November 13, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Thanks for sharing. Good article.

  9. Arron Walker
    November 13, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Interesting article, but windows 7 has no quick launch bar? In older versions of windows, I never actually liked the quick launch bar. Seeing those icons appear when I didn't ask them to always annoyed me, and removing them was the first thing they did, In Win7 though, you can 'pin' programs to the taskbar, which I much prefer. The key difference is that the icon which launches the program, also becomes the programs... presence, on the taskbar. It just feels tighter somehow, like it was always meant to be this way. Don't know the word to replace presence, but you know what I mean. As for windows 8, 7 is doing fine for me, I currently have no reason to upgrade.

  10. Malkhaz Abuladze
    November 13, 2012 at 6:51 am

    many interesting things. thanks

  11. Daniel Ooi
    November 13, 2012 at 5:57 am

    I have just installed windows 8 on my netbook and found that metro app will not launch on the resolution.

    To downscale, a quick registry hack is needed. Run "regedit". Find(Ctrl+F) Display1_DownScalingSupported. Change value to 1.

    • Craig Snyder
      November 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      Good tip!

  12. Alex Downs
    November 13, 2012 at 4:53 am

    good article

  13. Michael Ungerman
    November 13, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Good article, but, come on, Craig, you tried all Windows 7 Start substitutes for Window 8? I'm using Classic Start Menu from SourceForge. Works absolutely great, is free, and adds additional features including the ability to edit the ribbons in IE and Windows Explorer and puts a link on the new start menu to Windows 8 apps if you want to get to them quickly.

    • Craig Snyder
      November 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      I tried Classic Start and honestly hated it. The Start button itself was actually cut off near the top of the graphic and the background color behind it was darker than the rest of the taskbar and it just looked messy and bad on my Windows. While Start8 is gonna cost you $5, it simulates the classic Windows Start menu a lot better IMO.

      Maybe I didn't spend enough time customizing it, but Classic Start felt like the Windows XP start menu on a system that I was trying to tweak to look more Windows 7. I can see it being a good deal for some people, but didn't pan out for me.

    • Easton Wiki
      November 15, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Ive been using Class Start Menu and have come close to uninstalling so often. To me it is pretty bad and slow but i dont want to pay for anything lol