This may be heresy to many Windows users, but a small and vocal minority prefers Windows 8.1 and isn’t too happy about the changes Microsoft made to Windows 10. Thankfully, the new system can be customized in ways that weren’t previously possible. And through this, I think we can reach a compromise that will be acceptable to most.
And, really, that’s the nice thing about Windows 10. It doesn’t feature the unilateral, “my way or the highway” design philosophy of Windows 8, but rather lets you tailor it to the way you want to work. No, not every single feature from Windows 8 can be resuscitated in Windows 10. But again, there is a middle ground that should answer most complaints.
First, the Start menu.
Windows 7 users aren’t the only ones who may not be that excited by the new Windows 10 Start menu: Many Windows 8.1 users have grown accustomed to the full-screen Start experience and may miss that when they upgrade to Windows 8.1.
Before going full-screen, consider simply building out the existing Start menu so that it resembles the full-screen Start experience from Windows 8.1, but in windowed form. You can do this by adding tiles and tile groups to the Start menu, and by expanding its size horizontally. (You can resize Start in both directions, but by somewhat matching the aspect ratio of your PC’s screen, you can create a menu that visually resembles the old Start screen.) To do so, just grab and edge of Start and drag.
If that’s not good enough, go full screen: Navigate to Settings (WINKEY + I), Personalization, Start and enable the option “Use Start full screen.” Now, when you tap Start, the Start experience will always be full-screen and not menued.
Still not good enough? Those with tablets may wish to use Windows 10 in tablet mode too. This more closely mimics Windows 8.1 by ensuring that all apps—including desktop applications, something that wasn’t possible in Windows 8.1—run full screen. You can enable and configure tablet mode by navigating to Settings, System, Tablet Mode.
You will want to pay attention here. Tablet mode enables a full-screen Start experience, but it also hides all taskbar app icons by default too. That may be fine for tablet users, but if you’re using Windows 10 with a mouse and keyboard, you may find that tedious. So consider how things change if you toggle the “Hide app icons on the taskbar in tablet mode” option.
You can also toggle tablet mode at any time by using the Tablet Mode quick action tile in Action Center (WINKEY + A).
Finally, if you’re using a 2-in-1 PC (like Surface) or transformable PC (e.g. HP Envy Spectre x360, many others), you can use a feature called Continuum to switch between tablet and normal displays modes based on which hardware is attached to a device. For example, if used like a tablet, you might want the PC to automatically work in tablet mode. But when you attach a Type Cover to your Surface, or use a transforming PC in laptop mode, you may want tablet mode off. Windows will prompt you in these cases, but you can configure Continuum in Tablet Mode settings, too: the option “When this device automatically switches tablet mode on or off” is the key.
What you can’t do, of course, is bring back Charms or Switcher. But maybe an enterprising third-party developer will fill those gaps in the future.