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Here’s how to bring the Start button back to Windows 8

Updated 4 years ago
Published Aug 24th, 2012 11:45AM EDT

When users found out that Microsoft’s (MSFT) next version of Windows wouldn’t have a Start button, they panicked. Replaced in Windows 8 by the user interface formerly known as “Metro,” that tiny button is apparently so important to long-time Windows users that they can’t imagine life without it. Rest easy, neophobes — adding the Start button back to Windows 8 is easy and free, and we’ll show you how.

Microsoft spent a lot of time putting together a fresh new user interface for Windows Phone and Windows 8, and we can likely expect some form of the tile-based UI to carry over to Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox as well when it launches next year. Change isn’t always easy though, and lucky for those unhappy with the idea of ditching the Start button, third-party developers have you covered.

Windows developer Ivo Beltchev has created a utility called Classic Shell that works with Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. In Windows Vista and 7, the utility allows users to bring back the classic Windows Start menu layout and customize it in a number of ways. In Windows 8, Classic Shell adds the Start button back to a user’s desktop and provides the same classic customizable Start Menu it does in older Windows builds.

A full list of Classic Shell functions from the developer’s site:

  • Drag and drop to let you organize your applications
  • Options to show Favorites, expand Control Panel, etc
  • Shows recently used documents. The number of documents to display is customizable
  • Translated in 35 languages, including Right-to-left support for Arabic and Hebrew
  • Does not disable the original start menu in Windows. You can access it by Shift+Click on the start button
  • Right-click on an item in the menu to delete, rename, sort, or perform other tasks
  • The search box helps you find your programs without getting in the way of your keyboard shortcuts
  • Available for 32 and 64-bit operating systems
  • Has support for skins, including additional 3rd party skins
  • Fully customizable in both looks and functionality
  • Support for Microsoft’s Active Accessibility
  • Converts the “All Programs” button in the Windows menu into a cascading menu (Vista and Windows 7)
  • Implements a customizable Start button (Windows 7 and 8)
  • And last but not least – it’s FREE!

Classic Shell is available as a free, donation-supported utility that can be downloaded directly from the app’s Sourceforge page — and even if you’re afraid of Microsoft’s new UI, be sure to check out our full preview of Microsoft’s post-post-PC platform, Windows 8.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.