How to bring back start menu classics to Windows 10

Classic Shell for Windows 10
Credit: Petr Kratochvil

Rock to the oldies running Classic Shell on Windows 10


With Windows 10's release imminent, Microsoft will soon be able to leave the debacle known as Windows 8 behind. As many of us know, one of the chief complaints about Windows 8 was the ill-fated decision to remove the traditional start button menu in favor of a tile based start screen.

Thankfully, Microsoft's new leaders listened to user complaints, rallied the troops, and eliminated many of Windows 8's deficiencies from its new Windows 10 OS. And much to the delight of Windows 10 preview users, Microsoft restored the start menu, even adding long requested features like virtual desktops. Sampling feedback from over 1.5 million preview build testers, Microsoft kaizened Window 10's start menu, striking a balance between old and new: Users can open desktop programs like they did in the "old days" and see the live tile and badge updates of "modern" (AKA Metro style) apps.

However, there are users that still prefer the simple, no-nonsense utilitarian nature of the "classic" Windows start menu. For these users, Classic Shell is just what the doctor ordered.  

Classic Shell

Classic Shell was originally designed to address Windows Vista deficiencies, and over the years has been steadily updated to be compatible with each new version of Windows. It was also used by many Windows 8 users to restore the "missing" start button. The latest versions support Windows 10, I recently tested beta version 4.2.2 -- a version touting enhanced Windows 10 support.

 After installing, you can customize Classic Shell's start menu by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Settings.

Wndows 10 Classic Shell start button settings

I recommend clicking the Show all settings checkbox, this allows customization of virtually every aspect of the start menu. On my test machine, I selected the Classic style option seen below, then changed a few settings in the Skin and Search Box tabs.

Windows 10 Classic Shell Show all settings checkbox

As its name implies, folders, apps, and other menu features can be tweaked in Customize Start Menu:

Windows 10 Classic Shell Customize start menu tab

Using Classic mode, the Apps folder replaces modern app live tiles with traditional style static icons:

Windows 10 Classic Shell apps folder small icons

Last but not least, Classic Shell allows users to easily switch back to the standard Windows 10 start menu with a click of the Start Menu (Windows) option.

Windows 10 Classic Shell start menu-windows

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