When Microsoft first revealed that it would be taking out the Start Button and Start Menu in Windows 8 the response was loud. Either users wanted to hold onto the old and focus on using Desktop applications with the Start Button and Start Menu, or they were perfectly fine embracing the new, and learned how to use the new Start Screen.
Though Microsoft has made it clear that it’s heard feedback on both sides of the aisle and is ready to make concessions (most notably the return of the Start Button to its place on the taskbar) it hasn’t indicated that it will do anything of the sort when it comes to the Start Menu.
Instead, even after the Windows 8.1 update, users who want to avoid the Start Screen completely will still be in need of a way to make Windows do what they want. Thankfully, there are more than a few solutions out there: we’ve covered a few like Start Menu Reviver, and our favorite so far been Classic Shell.
Here’s how to use Classic Shell to get back both that Start Menu and Start Button right now, without having to wait for Windows 8.1 or pay for pricy alternatives.
Download the Classic Shell. As it’s free you won’t be prompted to present credit card information or payment methods of any sort though you can donate to the project.
Once you’ve finished the download, run the application by double clicking the file you’ve downloaded, or use the Run button that pops up in your web browser of choice. Remember to read and agree to the Terms of Service. You’ll be prompted by Windows to give the application permission to install. Do so by clicking ‘Yes.’
Once the installation is finished you’ll notice two things. The first is that you’ll now find a colorful new Start Button on your taskbar. The second is that clicking that button will trigger with a blank Start Menu that matches the color of your computer’s Aero interface. Don’t worry if it’s blank. As you use more apps it’ll auto populate with the apps you frequently open, whether they are Metro applications or desktop applications.
You can still access the Start Screen by holding the Shift button on your keyboard and clicking on the Start Button at the same time, or by bringing up the Charms in the right, top corner of your screen.
You can choose between different skins that are based on older versions of the Start Menu by right clicking on the new Start Button and then clicking settings. These include everything from a version that is inspired by the Metro design language to one that’s as barebones as the version included in Windows 98. From here you’ll also find options for adjusting text size and so forth.
In Basic Settings there are also options to completely control your experience so that you’ll never have to look at the new Start Screen again, including an option that will enables the Start Menu whenever you press the Windows key on your keyboard. There is also the option to boot directly into the desktop so that you never have to use the Start Screen ever again.