I recently updated my laptop to Windows 8.1. Although I like how fast it boots in comparison to Windows 7, and how smoothly everything runs – it’s still missing one big thing.

THE START MENU.

Ah, but there are small programs – plugins, really – to Windows 8/8.1 that will bring back that Start Menu!

Windows 8.1 Start Menu

Microsoft, this is not a Start menu for a laptop. This is a tablet home screen.

 There are myriad options out there; a simple Google search with search terms such as “windows 8 start menu” will bring up dozens of options. Below I’ve covered only three – but these cover two opposite ends of the spectrum, from flexible but complex to simple and basic functionality.

And most importantly – they’re all free.

3. Start Menu Reviver (by ReviverSoft)

Start Menu Reviver

Pros:

  • Fully customizable
  • Mimics Windows 8’s Metro look and feel
  • Free

Cons:

  • Complex to figure out if you’re used to the Windows 7 look
  • Unless you take the time to customize it, isn’t much more useful than the default
  • Slight learning curve on using it

Start Menu Reviver is truly unique. It’s entirely customizable, complete with making your own custom tiles that link to a webpage or document and not just a program. Also, it’s one of the few out there that not only supports touchscreen devices, but is designed with both them and traditional mouse use in mind.

Unfortunately, for someone wanting their old Windows 7 experience, this isn’t going to meet their needs. It does have a bit of a learning curve, and unless you actually take the time to customize it with the programs, shortcuts, etc. that you use regularly… you might be better off with just the default Windows 8 Start Menu or one of the other options below.

Want to give it a try or find out more? You can download it here.

2. Start Menu 8 (by IObit)

Start Menu 8

Pros:

  • Mimics Windows 7 look and feel
  • Simple, easy installation
  • Free

Cons:

  • The installation asks you to install paid software
  • Only as customizable as the Windows 7 default Start Menu was

Not much to say about this one – what you see is what you get.

Quick, easy installation, and you’re up and running in minutes with a start menu that looks and feels just like your old Windows 7 one. However… watch that installation! One of the screens is marked by default to install paid software. Make sure to uncheck that option.

Want to give it a try or find out more? You can download it here.

1. Classic Shell

Classic Shell

Pros:

  • Mimics Windows 7 look and feel
  • Simple, easy installation
  • Free

Cons:

  • Only as customizable as the Windows 7 default Start Menu was… well, maybe a little more

This is the one I chose to go with, after trying out the two above. It’s a simple, quick install; it doesn’t try to trick you to download and install other software; and it mimics the Windows 7 menu almost exactly, while still keeping a hint of the Windows 8 Metro look with the flat edges and outlines. In addition, it allows you to choose a custom Start Menu icon if you want, and a dozen other easy-to-understand options.

Classic Shell Settings

In addition, it comes with two more add-ins: Classic Explorer and Classic IE9, for those looking to capture those classic interfaces as well.

Want to give it a try or find out more? You can download it here.

 

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