Windows 10 presents an interesting challenge to upgraders for a number of reasons. Looking just at Start, yes it has a Start menu, but it’s different from the version in Windows 7, and quite a bit different from the Start screen in Windows 8.1 as well. Fortunately, Windows 10 Start is quite customizable. Here’s what you can do to make the Start experience more comfortable for you.
As you may know, Microsoft has provided a Start menu in its desktop OS since Windows 95 in 1995. In Windows 7, the Start menu wasn’t changed dramatically from previous versions, as Microsoft had instead added program launching capabilities in the taskbar.
Windows 8, of course, was a big change. In that and the subsequent 8.1 release, Microsoft substituted a full-screen Start experience—the Start screen—for the previous menus. This was confusing for users—and unwanted by many, especially those who worked primarily with desktop applications—and led to a flourishing cottage industry for Start screen replacements like Stardock’s Start8. But Microsoft did at least help matters somewhat by letting users boot directly into the desktop in Windows 8.1.
In Windows 10, Microsoft is offering a hybrid approach to Start. On PCs with an attached keyboard, you will boot into the familiar desktop environment and Start will display as a menu, as with pre-Windows 8 versions of Windows. However, that menu will include elements from the Windows 8.1 Start screen, including live tiles that can provide “at a glance” updates from the underlying apps.
If you’re using a touch-based Windows 10 device—a mini-tablet perhaps, or a full-sized tablet or 2-in-1 without a keyboard—Windows 10 will instead display Start as a full-screen experience, much like the Start screen in Windows 8.1.
If you’re upgrading from Windows 7 or 8.1 on a traditional, non-touch PC in particular, and in many other cases as well, the default Windows 10 Start experience may not be ideal for your needs. So here are a few things you should know.
Windows 8.1 fan? Run it full-screen. If you used Windows 8.1 and became familiar with the full-screen Start screen, you can configure Start to always run full-screen. To do so, open Settings (WINKEY + I), Personalization, Start and enable the option “Use full-screen Start when in the desktop.” It’s a bit different than Windows 8.1, of course, and All Apps is now available on the left of the screen, under the Menu (“≡”) button, and not at the bottom.
Windows 7 fan? Try this. While you can’t really enable the same two column layout found in the Windows 7 Start menu, you can at least get rid of all those tiles you’re never going to glance at, resize the Start menu, and make it more efficient. (Just pin apps you use all the time to the taskbar.) It takes a while, but when you’re done, it can look like this. (You can also use the “Customize List” option to add items like Documents and Downloads to the list at the bottom of the Start menu.)
Serious Windows 7 fan? Then try this instead. If you really can’t live without the Windows 7 Start menu, consider Stardock’s Start10 utility. It costs just $5 and will give you back a nearly identical Start menu.
Don’t forget the Power User menu. As with Windows 8.x, Windows 10 has a secret Power User menu that includes many of the tasks you used to access from the Windows 7 Start menu. To access this menu, type WINKEY + X or right-click on the Start button.
Cortana replaced Start Search, but it’s OK. The Start Search feature from Windows 7 and 8.1 is still available in Windows 10, and it works exactly the same way: just access Start and start typing. In Windows 10, this feature is called Cortana—and it can do much more, and be controlled by voice—but don’t be confused. It works like Start Search did too. (And WINKEY + R still works if you just need the Run dialog.)
Make the Start menu prettier. If you navigate to Settings (WINKEY + I), Personalization, Colors, you can choose a color for Start (and taskbar and Action Center) and configure transparency. And if you’re using a rotating desktop background, you can have this color—called the accent color—change to match that wallpaper automatically.