February 23, 2013, 7:05 AM — In a world exploding with tablets and touchscreens, Microsoft's decision to saddle Windows 8 with the finger-friendly Modern interface formerly known as Metro makes a lot of sense--for Microsoft. But if you're among the majority of Windows users who aren't using a tablet or a touchscreen, the focus on Live Tiles and mobile-centric apps is more of a frustration than a feature. Vexingly, Windows 8 is riddled with sneaky ways to drag you out of the desktop and dump you on that shifting, shiny Start screen.
Windows 8 and its controversial interface will come preinstalled on practically every computer sold over the next few years, but fear not! Die-hard desktop jockeys don't have to learn to stop worrying and love the Live Tiles.
Here's a step-by-step guide to banishing the Modern interface from your Windows 8 life. Once it's gone, you might just come to appreciate Windows 8 even more than you do Windows 7. I have.
Set the stage
Given the Modern interface's deep hooks in Windows 8, it's hardly surprising that cutting the cord isn't an instantaneous one-snip process. Every major program you might need for everyday use--from Mail to Messaging to Video--shows up in Modern app form, rather than as a proper piece of desktop software. So before you can excise Modern, you have to find some desktop alternatives for the default apps.
Your critical mix will undoubtedly differ, but I found that I could satisfy my basic needs with Thunderbird, a free email client that blows the pants off the Windows 8 Mail app; Digsby, a versatile IM client that works with a cornucopia of chatting services (unlike the Windows 8 Messaging app); the Spotify desktop app, to replace the sultry streaming tunes of the Windows 8 Music app; the SkyDrive desktop app, which is far more flexible than its Modern app counterpart; and Google Chrome. (Sure, Windows 8 includes a desktop version of Internet Explorer, but I prefer Google's browser.) If you want to be able to play DVDs on your Windows 8 machine--something that Windows Media Player doesn't do by default--I recommend picking up VLC along with the other things you're busily downloading.
Once you've compiled a hefty stash of desktop programs, you'll want to make the most-used ones readily accessible, since Windows 8 lacks a Start button. Cluttering up your desktop with shortcuts is one approach, but I prefer to pin icons for my most-used programs to the taskbar. Right-click a program and select Pin to Taskbar to do just that. I use the same trick to pin a Control Panel icon to the taskbar.
Diddling with defaults
Next, you'll want to make those programs the defaults for opening their associated file types--to prevent Windows 8 from opening files with the Modern apps that ship with the system. When you launch them for the first time, many programs will ask whether you'd like to make them the default; just say yes!
Now either search for 'Default programs' on the Modern Start screen (we haven't banished it yet!) or select to Control Panel > Programs > Default Programs > Set your default programs. (That's why I like to have access to Control Panel from the taskbar.) You'll see a list of all of your PC's programs. Click each of your new desktop programs in turn, enabling it as the default option for its associated file types. If you didn't download VLC, be sure to enable Windows Media Player as the default for video and audio files, or you'll be dumped into one or the other of the Modern interface's slick, vapid Video and Music apps, whenever you open a media file.