Windows 8: Three Ways to Get Back the Start Menu and Start Button — If you love the stability of Windows 8 and some of its new features but you lament the loss of the Start Menu, don’t fret.

Several third-party utilities are available online that let you bring back the old girl. Here are three of the best.


Start8 from Stardock

Stardock’s Start8 became available within days of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview beta unveiling at Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona. It was first to the party. By now, it’s quite mature.

Start8 gives you many choices. Select either a Windows 7 or Windows 8 style. For the former, you get not just an accurate reproduction of the familiar Windows 7 Start Menu, but you’re still able to customize it.

It even lets you circumvent the new tiled Windows 8 Start screen altogether. With Start8, you’re even able to boot directly to the Windows 8 Desktop.

The ability to pin the new Windows 8 Start button to the taskbar is another well thought out option here.

Start8 isn’t free, but it is affordable and worth it if you’ve really been jonesing for the full return of the Start Menu. It costs $4.99 after a 30-day free trial. Find it here.

Classic Shell

Classic Shell is a free open-source program that does a good job of replicating old Windows Start Menu in various iterations. It returns three choices of Start Menus: Windows 98 Classic, a Windows XP version or the Start Menu you recall from the most recent versions of Windows 7 and Vista.

Classic Shell has a ton of customization settings. The default settings are excellent, but totally tweakable.
Classic Shell

Besides providing an onscreen Start Button, Classic Shell also captures the keyboard Start key so that it sends you not to the Windows 8 tiled Start Screen but to directly to the Desktop.

Classic Shell will also change Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer to a more classic menu. Check out its many other features here. Classic Shell versions 3.6.0 and later officially do support Windows 8, Windows 8 RTM and Windows Server 2012. Versions from 3.3.0 to 3.4.1 support the Developer Preview. Versions 3.5.0 and 3.5.1 support the Consumer Preview and the Release Preview.

It’s freely freely available open source software. Nice.


Like Classic Shell, Pokki is a free utility. But rather than try to replicate previous Start Menus. Pokki instead creates its own Start Menu for use with Windows 8.

To this end, Pokki lets you work with apps from within its menu system. And it even supports apps like Gmail and Facebook, giving you the option to pin them to the taskbar. On the taskbar, you’ll see the number of incoming email or status updates. Or you just download apps directly from the Pokki menu.


Pokki isn’t as configurable as the others I’ve mentioned here, but it is straightforward and well designed. Select check boxes to boot straight to the Desktop, disable hot corners or decide what outhe Windows key should bring up. There are enough options here to satisfy you and probably most of your users.

Again, Pokki doesn’t give you back the Windows 7 Start Menu, it brings you its own Start Button and Start Menu that has more capabilities as a result. And the utility does a better job of integrating with Windows 8 than most others.

Find download links for these utilities below:

Classic Shell

Based in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Sandy Berger is a veteran tech journalist and senior reviews editor at , where she covers tech tips and tricks, apps and gadgets alike. Email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sandyberger, +SandyBerger on Google+, and via her Facebook page.

Jeremy Lesniak
Based in Vermont, Jeremy Lesniak is managing editor at and founder of Vermont Computing, Inc. and Email him [email protected]
Jeremy Lesniak
Jeremy Lesniak
Tags: Software,Technology