The 7 Best Windows Start Menu Alternatives and Replacements

Ben Stegner Updated 06-12-2017

You probably interact with the Windows Start Menu dozens of times a day. It’s the hub for all the apps, settings, and utilities on your computer. Shouldn’t you love working with it?


While we’re glad that the proper menu is back after an absence in Windows 8, you can always make default Windows features better 7 Best Apps to Enhance Default Windows Features Windows has plenty of great default features, but some of them could be better. Here are seven awesome utilities to enhance anything in Windows. Read More . If you’re looking for something new, here are the best apps you can download to replace or circumvent your Start Menu.

The End of Classic Shell

You’d expect to see Classic Shell on a list like this, as it’s one of the most popular Start Menu replacements. However, in December 2017, Classic Shell’s developer announced that he will no longer actively develop the software.

Citing a lack of free time and the frequent update cycle of Windows 10 as major issues, he’s made the last version of Classic Shell open source 8 Free Open Source Windows Apps That Used to Be Proprietary The open software movement is still going strong. When companies released source code for once-proprietary projects, they usually benefited from it. Here are eight notable examples you'll probably recognize. Read More . You can view the source code on GitHub and even fork it Open Source Software and Forking: The Good, The Great and The Ugly Sometimes, the end-user benefits greatly from forks. Sometimes, the fork is done under a shroud of anger, hatred and animosity. Let's look at some examples. Read More if you’re a developer looking to keep the project alive.

What does this mean for you as a user? Classic Shell isn’t going to disappear; you can still download it from the official website and SourceForge for the time being. Your copy will continue to work, but the software won’t see any updates in the future. This means that if the next big Windows 10 update breaks something, the developer isn’t going to issue a fix for it.


So if you love Classic Shell, stick with it for now. Hopefully, a team of new developers will take up the project and create a successor that’s a suitable replacement. If you’re willing to try something new, check out one of the similar alternatives below. We’ve included our section on Classic Shell for people who still want to use it.

Start Menu Replacements

If you aren’t happy with the Start Menu as a whole, these apps serve as total replacements.

0. Classic Shell (No Longer in Development)

Classic Shell made a name for itself when Windows 8 left users in the cold with its full-page Start Screen. Until its retirement, it was the app of choice for anyone looking for a Start Menu that’s closer to that seen in Windows 7 or even Windows XP.

You can choose between three styles of Start Menu with this tool. Classic style is like the ancient Windows 98 menu and only has one column. Unless you’re really feeling nostalgic, we can’t imagine this being useful to anyone in the modern age. The Classic with two columns adds Windows XP-styled links to My Documents, the Control Panel, and the like. Finally, the Windows 7 style menu will be most familiar if you’ve used that version of Windows.


No matter which one you pick, Classic Shell supports lots of customization options. You can replace the Start icon on your Taskbar with a custom image, change the quick links, and more. If you don’t care about Modern apps or don’t prefer the new Programs list, this is a good way to get the old Start Menu. Just know that the developer has dropped support for it.

DownloadClassic Shell (Free)

1. StartIsBack

StartIsBack is a clean Start Menu replacement that’s a great option for people coming from Classic Shell. It offers several looks for your Start Menu and Taskbar icons. These include Windows 10 and Windows 7 styles How to Make Windows 10 Look Like Windows 7 or XP Here's how to make Windows 10 look like Windows 7, Windows XP, or Windows 8 so you can restore a classic look and feel. Read More for the Start Menu and Taskbar buttons, plus a few different Start Button looks.

You can also modify the Start Menu’s colors, increase Taskbar icon margins, and use larger icons.


The 7 Best Windows Start Menu Alternatives and Replacements StartIsBack Visual Options

On the Start Menu itself, you can decide whether to show Modern apps in your recent items, highlight new programs, and what search includes. You can also fine-tune the menus and links you want to appear, like Documents, This PC, and Control Panel. This is a nice touch, as the power user menu doesn’t include the Control Panel Why Microsoft Is Killing the Windows Control Panel The Control Panel is being decommissioned. In Windows 10, the Settings app has adopted most of its features in a more stylish and mobile-friendly interface. Is that really necessary? Read More in the newest versions of Windows 10.

The Plain10 menu, combined with some of the above links, lets you re-create the Windows 7 Start Menu with some modern enhancements. And if you ever need to access the standard Start Menu, you can use a keyboard shortcut (WIN + CTRL by default) to open it.

The 7 Best Windows Start Menu Alternatives and Replacements StartIsBack Start Menu


StartIsBack offers a fully-featured 30-day free trial. After the trial, you can continue to use it at no cost, but you can’t customize it and will have to deal with nag screens every time you reboot.

Download StartIsBack (Free 30-day trial; $2.99 for full version)

2. Start10

Similar to StartIsBack, Start10 aims to bring back the familiar Start Menu with additional functionality. It can mimic the Windows 7 Start Menu, but also offers its own Modern Style Start Menu that fits with Windows 10’s aesthetic. If you really like the default Windows 10 Start Menu, you can keep that skin and still benefit from Start10’s enhancements.

Start10 has other perks to make it worth a try, though. Since it comes from the same developer as Fences (which lets you clean up your desktop How to Clean Up Your Windows Desktop Once and For All Do you look at your Windows desktop and wonder how to clean it up? Here are some decluttering tips that can make you productive. Read More ), it includes similar organization tools for the programs in your Start Menu. You can filter searches to find what you’re looking for more easily, and view all installed Modern apps in one place.

Whether you want a simpler Start Menu that still blends in with Windows 10 or have your eye on the advanced features, Start10 offers a compelling package. It’s only available for Windows 10, so check out Start8 if you’re still running Windows 8.1.

DownloadStart10 (Free trial for 30 days, $5 to purchase)

3. Start Menu Reviver

The above tools exist because people want to use the classic Start Menu. But Start Menu Reviver is different. It creates a Start Menu not like anything you’ve seen before. It combines traditional Windows menus and app lists with the tile-based format of Windows 8 and 10.

You can pin tiles to anything you like — drop your top apps, websites, or files onto the menu for quick access. Click one of the category tabs on the left to jump to the appropriate menu or pop out a list of items. Of course, you can also use it to search your PC. Start Menu Reviver also stands out as it’s the only tool on this list that’s optimized for touch use — perfect for hybrid laptops.

If you don’t like the Modern tile interface, this one isn’t for you. But for those who don’t have an attachment to prior Windows Start Menus and want to try something different, you should really enjoy Start Menu Reviver.

DownloadStart Menu Reviver (Free)

Start Menu Alternatives

These apps let you perform much of the same functionality of the Start Menu. If you want to keep the Start Menu around but use it less often, give them a try. While they don’t affect the Start Menu and therefore aren’t the focus of this post, replacing your Taskbar with a dock 3 Multifunctional Docks To Replace Your Windows Taskbar Docks take what the taskbar does and make it better: beautiful, effective, and fun to use. Once introduced for the Mac, docks have long been available on Windows. Let me show you the best ones. Read More is another option for launching programs.

4. Launchy

Launchy has been around for a while, and it still does its job as well as ever — letting you launch programs with a few keystrokes. Once installed, just press Alt + Space to bring up the program window. It indexes everything in your Start Menu, so typing fir will auto-populate the window with Firefox and a quick tap of Enter opens it right up. Of course, you can do the same by pressing the Windows key and typing a program’s name, but Launchy beats this in two ways.

First, Launchy will pick up the name of apps no matter how you type them. Typing fox will confuse the Start Menu, but Launchy will match the text as best it can. Second, you can expand Launchy to do much more than just launch programs. Using the Catalog tab inside its settings, you can choose additional directories for Launchy to index. Add your most-used folders Creative Ways to Launch Software & Open Folders in Windows Tired of searching for shortcuts on your desktop? In Windows, you can quickly access anything you want, you just have to take the time to set it up. We have compiled your options. Read More , music, or browser bookmarks, and you can search for them like programs.

If that’s not enough, Launchy also has a collection of plugins that add extra functionality like a calculator, task switcher, and quick power options. Give it a try and everything on your computer will never be more than a few key taps away.

DownloadLaunchy (Free)

5. MaxLauncher

Like the idea of Launchy but hate typing out program names? MaxLauncher is for you. Instead of indexing all the programs on your PC, this tool lets you create your own quick menu full of the programs you use most often. After installing it, you can drag and drop your favorite apps, folders, and files to the various buttons.

maxlauncher windows

The default keyboard shortcut Ctrl + ` (the tilde key on the far left of the number row) pops open the launcher. You can keep several tabs in each MaxLauncher window, allowing you to separate programs and files by type. Pressing a number key switches to a particular tab, then you can press the corresponding letter or symbol key to open that program. With a bit of muscle memory, this is a speedy way to open anything on your computer.

DownloadMaxLauncher (Free)

6. Everything Search

The Start Menu can search much of your computer in a short time. But it’s not great for specific searches, or finding all files that match a certain query. For those, you should utilize Everything. Once you open it, it indexes your entire file system and produces instant results whenever you enter some text. You don’t have to worry about incomplete results from the Start Menu or Bing suggestions getting in the way.

everything search windows 10

If Everything doesn’t suit your needs, check out other awesome free search tools The 13 Best Free Search Tools for Windows 10 Windows Search is only good for basic and casual use. If you search Windows often, you may be better off with an awesome third-party search tool. Read More .

DownloadEverything (Free)

7. Don’t Forget Keyboard Shortcuts!

While we’re focusing on downloads to replace the Start Menu, it’s worth mentioning that many keyboard shortcuts work in combination with the above tools to make the Start Menu unnecessary if that’s your goal. Windows holds hundreds of keyboard shortcuts. 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

And a few pertain to functionality of the Start Menu:

  • Press the Windows key to open the Start Menu.
  • Windows key + S opens Cortana, ready for keyboard input.
  • Use Windows key + I to instantly open the Settings window.
  • Windows key + X opens the Quick Access menu (aka Power User menu), containing shortcuts to many Windows utilities.
  • The Run menu opens with a quick tap of Windows key + R.

If these don’t do what you need, it’s easy to make your own keyboard shortcuts 12+ Custom Windows Keyboard Shortcuts for the Geek in You Windows includes hundreds of keyboard shortcuts, but you can create your own shortcuts to nearly anything you'd like. Here's how to customize your Windows shortcuts. Read More .

How Do You Use the Start Menu?

If you don’t like the default Windows Start Menu, you don’t have to deal with it! We’ve shown you alternatives that let you perform the same functionality without touching the Start Menu itself. Full replacements let you customize the Start Menu so it’s just right for you. Try a few out and see which boosts your workflow best!

Want to get more out of the vanilla Start Menu without downloading anything? Check out the best customizations and hacks 6 Ways to Hack & Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu The Windows 10 Start Menu combines classic elements with modern tiles. Tiles can add a lot of creative freedom. We'll give you tips and reveal tricks for customizing the entire Start Menu to your preferences. Read More and how to create custom menu tiles How to Create Custom Start Menu Tiles in Windows 10 Microsoft hasn't made it easy to personalize the Start Menu tiles. Here's how you can go about customizing tiles in Windows 10. Read More .

If you’re using a Start Menu alternative or replacement, tell us about it! Share your alternatives, replacements, and shortcuts with us in the comments below.

Related topics: Keyboard Shortcuts, Start Menu, Windows 10, Windows App Launcher, Windows Search.

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  1. N
    January 20, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    Start Menu X is the one I rely on. There is a free version also. Closest thing to the old Windows 7 menu that I have seen. And you can change the look of the Start Menu button.

  2. TPB
    January 19, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    I'm firmly with the Classic Shell crowd. I've been using it for 2 years (since I started using Win10). I can't understand why Microsoft doesn't offer the same functionality. What could be faster than simply scrolling to open pop-up menus of EVERYTHING? And it's far faster than trying to find files via File Explorer. Combine Classic Shell with simply pinning your most used apps to the Taskbar. I hope somebody picks it up to continue it's functionality with future Win10 "upgrades."

  3. jo
    December 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm
  4. McHiddles
    December 7, 2017 at 7:52 am

    This was INCREDIBLE, THANK YOU! I've been struggling with 100% disk usage for months and I would wait up to 10 minutes just to boot up my computer (I thought I had a virus but my malware insisted otherwise), and now I'm down to just 1%! This was really brilliant, I can't thank you enough.

    • Doc
      December 7, 2017 at 3:20 pm

      I think you may have replied to the wrong article. :)

  5. MP
    April 23, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Listary should be definitely added to the list. Once you try it you are hooked. It's available at

  6. DrMoisheP
    April 19, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Classic Shell is my choice for remedying the flaw with Windows updates: continually changing the GUI. Despite upgrades from XP to Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, I've been able to keep my customized desktop and start menu, increasing productivity as well as improving appearance.

  7. vferg
    April 19, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Since Windows 8 went this route they basically trained you to finally use the taskbar the way they intended for it to be used which is basically pinning everything you need to it for easy access. After doing that and adding the address bar I found everything was always right there and very convenient. I got so used to not using the start menu by the time they brought it back in Windows 10 I really don't use it at all. Microsoft was right the first time, we really don't need that at all as long as you do things there way. Of course everyone is different so here we are. I took a look at some of these applications listed here just to see what's out there and honestly I would rather just use the regular stock start menu over any of these. I still wonder why everyone got so upset over the changes they made to it, its not that bad in its current form at all.

    • Doc
      December 7, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      I don't really want to do things "there way" [sic]. I prefer to do things the way **I** want to.

    • Cyber Nautilus
      August 15, 2019 at 12:42 pm

      Extending your rationale to it's logical extreme, I "wave" this article "in front of the noses" of those trying to convince me to "upgrade" to Windows 10. The **only** argument "they" can offer, after slaying all the (dis)advantages of Windows 10 over Windows 7, is about "staying secure" esp. online. Well...

      I say, why couldn't MicroSoft keep Windows 7 secure since neither 8(.1) nor 10 offer any __other__ advantage over it -- in fact they are downright disadvantaged!

      Because? G R E E D !

      They saw Apple and Google "raking in the moolah" with their app-store and play-store and copied that "business model". For their OWN BENEFIT! Not for YOU the USER!

      Well, if you, Doc, don't want to do things "there way" (sic) then why did you "upgrade" to Windows 10?! Moot point.

      Concluding, the best start menu is to **continue to stay with Windows 7** !! Ha!!!

  8. Skyfox
    April 19, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Have to hand it over to Classic Shell, the best app for Windows 10.

  9. Learjet
    April 19, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I have made it a long-time practice to have no shortcuts or icons on my desktop, so to remedy that, I am a big taskbar pinner. All my frequently used programs are pinned to the taskbar.

    Also, instead of populating my desktop with shortcuts and newly downloaded files, I created a single folder to keep all the stuff most people keep on their desktop. I assigned it a simple black drive icon and keep it on the upper-right corner of my desktop to keep things clean and tidy looking.

    I use the Start 10 program for my start menu, but rarely use it since I keep everything on my taskbar and on the folder I created for my desktop. Tried Launchy, but got tired of typing. I'd rather click.