5 Windows 8 Apps to Bring Back the Start Menu

You don’t have to live with Microsoft’s flawed decision to kill the Start menu in Windows 8. Some 15 – and counting – software companies have brought the Start button back from the digital grave with add-ons that in many cases have more versatility than the versions found in Windows XP and Windows 7.

We tested five Start apps on a Windows 8 notebook, measuring the quality of each based on how well they meet certain criteria. How much does each add-on look and feel like the Windows 7 Start menu? Can you drag and drop shortcuts? Does the search box work as well as Windows 7′s? And do they have features that improve on the old Start? All the apps we reviewed are free with one exception. Read on to find out which Start solution is right for you.

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  1. Jarrett Zerkowski Says:

    No Startisback???

    Startisback is the only legitimate real Windows Start menu and you didn’t review it!?!?!?

  2. John Says:

    With all the interest to bring back the ‘start button’, Microsoft just needs to admit they screwed up and release an update to Windows 8 with the start button option. Where is Bill Gates when you need him?

  3. Lindsay Says:

    What makes it the “only legitimate real Windows Start menu” Jarrett?

  4. Kevin Flynn Says:

    It’s VERY simple. Microsoft would have had a much better reputation to date with ONE very simple, very FREE to implement policy.

    MAKE ALL CHANGES A DEFAULT DISABLE O P T I O N.

    Instead they default all things new ON and half of them are NOT optional.

    i.e. The UAC. Widely rejected. Made Vista wear the shame of ME.
    Vista would have fared much better with a SIMPLE change. NO DIFFERENT EXCEPT UAC IS DEFAULTED OFF.
    I can go on for the rest of my life with examples of how Microsoft is their own worst enemy.
    METRO!! yes, disabled at install. OPTIONAL not forced… on and on and on….

  5. GF Says:

    Where is the review? All I see is link to Classic Shell Review.

  6. Jerry Lumpkins Says:

    Everybody at Microsoft involved with the decision to remove the start menu should be fired. The company should offer a rebate to all users for the inconvenience that their idiotic mistake has caused, and they should be forced to pay top dollar to any company that produced a substitute for it. And then, reinstate the start menu!

  7. Bob from Ardmore Says:

    Microsoft- Please let me know when Jerry’s fix will be implemented. LOL

  8. John NMI Hancock Says:

    Startisback advertises that it is the only application that uses native code from deep within Windows 8. All other applications are apps, and some are evidently difficult to remove. One advantage is that native code won’t require a rewrite/reissue when MS issues an update changing some feature an app depends on. On another topic I wonder if MS is curing its own arrogance/desperation. They’ve bet the company that their Windows 8 interface will survive and compete with Android and Apple, because their cell phone adventurism hammered their former support base, the PC.

  9. John Kelsch Says:

    Nobody wants Windows 8 because of Windows 7! Windows 7 made so hard to access files that everyone that doesn’t have to upgrade won’t! Creating files such as spreadsheets is done with a PC, using those files can be achived with most devices such as Touch Screens. You can’t build files efficiently with a touch screen! I personally have thousands of files in hundreds of folders and it is imparitive that I be able to access any one of those files without opening and closing a bunch of folders! All version up until Windows 7 allowed you to drag and drop a shortcut from the address bar of any folder and drop it on the Start Button and instantly create a drop down menu for that folder and since it is just a short cut, it can be deleted when you are finished with it. That pertains to any folder on any drive which has endless possibilities!

  10. James Says:

    XP Pro SP3 is the best OS ever made. I don’t want a touch-screen whatever they call them. An XP 2nd Edition is needed, REAL bad.

  11. Rob Says:

    I understand MS wants to push their Metro UI to help push their Phone and tablet market. I don’t blame them too much, it’s just that Metro doesn’t do it all so they had to include Desktop as well. I have tried to “get it” but it just seems disjointed to me. They need desktop but want to push the Metro. I don’t mind the Metro being there, I just think they should have left it as a “if you want to use” addition to a standard Win7 UI WITH a start button.

  12. Rob Says:

    I agree with James. I skipped over Vista and appreciate some of the features of 7 but XP was and still is fantastic. Does everything I want.

  13. Al Chukitus Says:

    Having worked over 20 years in software development I can tell you that user tasks and the average non-computing person’s ability to do work-defined tasks is the prime consideration. Many of the sophisticates in the computer business have forgotten this as they add “features” which turn out to be unnecessary in the workaday world. Even in engineering, most of what is done on a day to day basis doesn’t require more than an office suite. Complex computational problems that require massive computing power are still done on the big machines.

  14. Bob Says:

    James, the best OS ever made lost the battle with Windows. It is OS/2. I ran it for years – never crashed. IBM had the best technology but the worst consumer marketing.

  15. Patrick Says:

    Don’t worry Windows users. Apple has introduced something called the “Launcher” which replaces the easily used “Applications” folder. Sort of like t*ts on a boar. Other changes are not easily comprehended and I’ve used Macs since introduced in the 1980′s. So it would appear Apple is joining Windows in being difficult. Thankfully I never updated to Windows OS8 from 7 which is the first Windows that I’ve liked since DOS 3.3.

  16. Smart Says:

    Instead of updating and adding functionality in existing working products, Microsoft keep releasing new version each two year so they can keep selling their product and keep making money. And on other side, people also keep running behind it to buy it, even they have perfactly working XP or Windows 7 machine, they run behind new version of Product, as soon as it comes in the market. This is how money keeps rotating in the market, and Microsoft keeps taking benefit of it. Who says, America is facing financial trouble ? Where is it ? I do not see that…

    Windows XP was built for around 1.0 GHz to 2.00 GHz machines, so it means, if you put same XP on new latest faster machine, XP is going to outperform even better and more faster. I still use Office 2003, as its very simple, less footprint and it does whatever I have need, then why should I care for extra unnecessary UI.

    I love XP and as a service provider and if any of my clients complains for Windows Vista, 7, or 8, I just set them with XP for their office work. and they come back saying…Its very fast :)

  17. Derek Says:

    I’m still angry that Windows 8 doesn’t have Aero, which was available in the Beta version for free, then removed immediately at launch of Windows 8 (probably so they could sell it as part of Windows 9).

    I hate you now, Microsoft… for many reasons. Die a slow death.

  18. MrDschr Says:

    Windows xp service pack 3 rules! The only thing a newer computer offers
    that is remotely intriguing is HD graphics,but then your stuck with a lemon
    operating system called windows 8

  19. MrDschr Says:

    Can XP PRO support HD Graphics?

  20. Adam Stranger Says:

    Hopefully Android becomes the future. Microsoft never cared what its customers think, period! their phones are great though…

  21. Len Wilson Says:

    I have used Win 7 for years, but our latest laptop came with Win 7. I can’t imagine why you would need WIn 8 in the workplace. So far we hate it.

  22. Tom R. Says:

    I usually am up for things like this. So I upgraded two of desktops to Windows 8 thinking I was going to upgrade to the new windows phone 8. I got one of the phones and can’t stand it. tried it, but way too hard to move around so much to apps you use. I returned it and returned to Android (where I came from). Now I’m left with two utterly useless windows 8 machines. I have never used software that feels so fragmented in my life. My wife just about refuses to use her laptop now. Not that she doesn’t try. She does and I’m proud of her for that. Crazy program! Honestly, I can’t even imagine using a touch screen with a desktop or laptop computer. Only with a pad or phone. I have to give Microsoft an “D” on this OS. I agree with just about everyone on here that some things just need to be an option. If that was the case, then I would be ok with it. Desktop for a desktop or laptop is the only way to go. This Tiles thing is rediculous.

  23. Cameron T. Says:

    Windows 8 – number one reason for a PC user to buy a MAC!

    This from a PC user since 1990! I recently bought a new laptop for a family member with 8 on it, I HATE IT! Very counter intuitive! I have used ALL of the MS OS’s since 3.1 and have never had any major issues. Each new version was an improvement over the previous until Vista. Vista was still good, not necessarily a major improvement over XP, in my opinion, but it is still very good. 7 is on my wife’s laptop. It’s different, but still no issue moving around to get things done. 8 is entirely different. I have spent hours on this thing trying to get it useable. It seems that MS was trying to get the computer to feel like a smart phone. I don’t want a smart phone, I want a PC!

    A computer is a TOOL and not something one should have to spend hours trying to figure out how to run the OS! Soon I will have to replace MY laptop that has XP on it because it is 6+ years old. I swear to you, as sure as I am sitting here, I will NOT but a PC with 8 on it! If I am FORCED, I will buy a MAC instead. And if I am made to go down the MAC road, I will one by one replace all of my PC’s with MACs!

  24. Raul Z Says:

    There is also Start Menu Reviver for Windows 8. It’s more intuitive, more functional and more customizable than any other product on the market. It is also touchscreen-friendly and absolutely FREE.

  25. Anna Attkisson, LAPTOP Managing Editor Says:

    Raul – In fact, we reviewed that particular app today. http://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/apps/start-menu-reviver.aspx

  26. smartcatxxx Says:

    It’s not only the start menu. It’s also the fact that windows 8 ties you a lot more into MSFT and its cloud computing. Eg office 365 is now sold on a subscription basis. So then why not getting a Chromebook instead? It’s much cheaper. I do have a paid Skype account without having a msft account, and I cannot use skype anymore unless I make up a msft account; or I couldn’t figure out how to make shortcuts to any of the metro applications on to the desktop view of windows 8, as I don’t want to use the metro side of it cuz it’s inefficient for my work. If you do internet browsing, online movies watching, social media or some casual emailing and chatting, windows 8 is for you. For professional needs it’s not, it does reduce your productivity quite a bit. And it’s a lot more restrictive than the previous windows versions.

    If you want a more sane operating system, with a start menu and a lot more freedom, just get linux. E.g. Ubuntu is one of the best distros out there. If you want more windows 7 like OS, try Kubuntu (or any KDE based distro), if you want something more like windows xp (which by the way it is the best OS for computer workers / power users) try XUbuntu (or any XFCE based distro). There is a distro called Zorin, which can mimick really well Windows 7, XP or even MacOS. Most applications which we usually spend lots of money on (like Microsoft Office) have equivalents which are completely free (e.g. LibreOffice).

  27. jpbarren Says:

    The problem becomes deeper and more painful when the market of PC does not offer the freedom to choose. If you need to buy a notebook/desktop (no touch screen) running Windows… there is no chance: It comes with the crazy UI Windows 8. What is in the brain of Microsoft ? Is there anybody thinking in the millions of users that have been working with office, keyboards, pointers, folders, spreadsheets, common files… and so on? Why they don´t allow consumers just work the way they like? No , MS just need to sell the new product, so swallow it PC-prisioners ! Advice: Maybe this sort of decisions force consummers to piracy, i.e., installing “old” Windows 7 over the pre-installed W8, just to re-gain the lost control of the PC… It’s a ridiculous nonesense that you’d need to pay for third part apps to re-build the cluttered UI of W8… Spain

  28. CEOB Says:

    To tell the truth, I don’t miss the Start Menu that much. I can find everything in my Windows 8 right from my desktop with minimal effort. It’s all a matter of how you configure it. If you suck at desktop management, stick with Windows 7. Free advice.

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