What is the best Start menu replacements for Windows 8

It think we all agree that Microsoft has made a huge step forward with windows 8. However, many users, including myself, are still missing the classic start menu button. I don’t hate the new metro interface, but I do feel that it doesn’t really work on a desktop pc. Luckily for us there are a lot of option to get our beloved start menu back! Unfortunately, there are so many options that it would take ages to find the best fit. But don’t worry, I have done all the work for you and created a section of what I think are the best options to get the old windows 7 start menu back!

From windows 8 to windows 7

Before you continue to the section of the start menu replacements, we will need to make windows 8 work as the old windows 7. We need to make it start into the desktop view, skipping the metro interface as much as possible. Start by going to your desktop, right mouse button, properties, navigation and select the option ‘When I point to the upper-right corner, show the charm’.

Taskbar and Navigation properties
Taskbar and Navigation properties

You can also disable the charms bar from his menu if you don’t like it. Just deselect the according option. You can keep accessing the charms bar from the bottom corner (only the top will be disabled).

windows 8 charms bar
Charms windows 8


The first start list option on our list is Start8. This program will set you back 5 dollars, but for that price will give you your old windows 7 start menu back. The program seems to be very stable and for the price, it’s a great buy. The installation is light and fast, and setting up takes almost no time at all. Setup will ask whether you prefer the original Windows 7 style Start menu or the Windows 8 style, which is the incorporation of the Metro user interface into the menu. From then on, everything is optional and customizable. You can change the Start menu behaviors, font, icon sizes, color, style, and which shortcuts you want Start8 to display. Documents, Music, and Pictures folders are back to where they belong (pre-Windows 8) and so is the search bar. In addition of giving you wider control over the Start menu, Start8 lets you customize the Start button icon to any of the included icons or your own custom images.

Start8 startmenu
Start8 startmenu


Poki is a beautiful free option if you want something more than just the old start menu back. It does this via various Flash-driven apps, available for (among other things) many common social networks from Pokki’s own little app store. That is the only bad thing I can write about poki, it might be free, but does comes with a lot of software which you might not like. It will bring a lot of functions your windows installation and you can’t really go wrong for the price. It’s up to you if you can live with all the stuff poki is trying to sell to you.

Window 8 Start Menu by Pokki
Get your Start menu back and more.

Start Menu 8

Start Menu 8 emulates the classic Windows 7 start menu, both in style and function. Pressing the windows key will open the menu and display a list of folder shortcuts on the right, a search bar on the bottom, and a list of program folders for easy access to all your applications. For the most part, Start Menu 8 looks, acts, and tastes like the old Start button, but also comes with a few tweaks and enhancements. The program can also help you bypass the Start screen and boot to the desktop, and you can even turn off Windows 8’s “hot corners” with a click.

Start Menu 8
Start Menu 8

Classic Shell

Classic Shell does an excellent job of restoring the Start Menu to Windows 8. You also get useful extras, like a menu of your Windows 8 apps – so you can launch them directly from the desktop – and the ability to switch to the Start screen with a click. Classic Shell has a lot more to offer. It comes with a very detailed settings page that allows you to change almost every aspect of the menu to suit your preferences. It also allows you to tweak the File Explorer and Internet Explorer 9 to make their interfaces more comfortable for you.

Classic Shell
Classic Shell


As you can see, there are a lot of different options to choose from. They all do their job really well and it’s up to you to decide with one you like best. If you ask me, I will go with Classic Shell, as it’s the only opensource software in the list, but I would be just as happy to use on of the others.


[alert-warning]Always be careful when downloading software from third parties. Make sure your antivirus and Windows system are up to date.[/alert-warning]
About the Author

Pepijn has always been passionate about technology, but found his vocation in medicine. As of today he has focused it's experience on his new startup company PuurHost.nl and is therefore not an active participator of WindowsInstructed anymore.

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