Windows

How do I customize the Windows 7 Start Menu?

Microsoft Windows 7 allows you to customize the Start Menu in many different ways. Mark Kaelin shows you how this relatively simple process works.

The Start Menu in Microsoft Windows is the first place most users go when they interact with the operating system. But the way the Start Menu is configured is not set in stone. Windows 7 allows users to change which applications will be listed in the menu and how they will be presented. This customization process is relatively straightforward and simple, and you don't even have to use regedit.

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Customization

Figure A shows a typical Start Menu with application links down the left side and library and folder links down the right. At the bottom of the left side of links is the All Programs link.

Figure A

This is the basic Start Menu.
Figure B shows the typical list of All Programs. With a few clicks of the mouse, we can customize these menus.

Figure B

This is the basic All Programs list.
To start the process in Windows 7, right-click the Start Button in the lower left corner (Figure C) and click the Properties entry.

Figure C

Click the Properties entry.
Click the Customize button (Figure D) in the Properties window to get to the Customize Start Menu window, shown in Figure E.

Figure D

Customize the Start Menu.

Figure E

These are potential customizations.
As you can see, there are many ways to customize the Start Menu. For our example, we'll change three things. First, let's add the Network entry to the right-hand side navigation window of the Start Menu. Find the Network checkbox in the list and check it (Figure F).

Figure F

Put a check in the Network checkbox.
Second, we'll add the Run command to the Start Menu (Figure G) by adding a check to the appropriate checkbox.

Figure G

Put a check in the Run command checkbox.
Third, we will add Administrative tools to both the Start Menu and the All Programs list by clicking the appropriate radio button (Figure H).

Figure H

Add Administrative tools.
Click OK twice to put the changes into effect. Now, when we go back to the Start Menu, you can see several new items in the list (Figure I).

Figure I

New additions are on the Start Menu.
Likewise, the All Programs list now has an entry for Administrative tools (Figure J).

Figure J

Administrative tools is on the All Programs list.

Choices

The examples in this document are just three of many customizations you can make to the Windows 7 Start Menu. I am sure if you look through the Customization list you can find some changes you'd like to make to personalize your Windows experience.

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

27 comments
paultomasi
paultomasi

what utter rubbish. why not show how to REALLY change the START menu like adding a new Group folder or a new link for example?.... why the hell is this so difficult to do out-of-the-box? what a shit operating system !!!

BRS
BRS

I am sorry but I cant get on with the windows Start Menue so tried this free programe which works fine in Windows 7 64 bit there is a pro version but the freebe does everything I want. http://www.vistastartmenu.com/index.html

WCarlS
WCarlS

To really customize the Menu, first you must unhide it. Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced] "Hidden"=dword:00000001 "HideFileExt"=dword:00000000 "ShowSuperHidden"=dword:00000001 Once the edit is done, click on the desktop or inside Windows Explorer and press F5 to refresh the registry. Then, navigate to C:\Users\All Users\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and create, delete, rearrange folders and shortcuts as you wish. Next, navigate to C:\Users\(Your name)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and rearrange that user-specific menu also. Take note that things which run under All Users need only be in the All User menu, whereas things which run under the User need to be in the user's menu. Some items can be in both All Users and each User, if you want to make the program avaialable to all but the program saves user-specific preferences, paths, etc. Finally, after customization is complete, hide system files yet again with this reg edit: Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced] "Hidden"=dword:00000002 "HideFileExt"=dword:00000001 "ShowSuperHidden"=dword:00000000 F5 to refresh the registry and click Start to see your rearranged menu.

mpotratz
mpotratz

I was expecting more out of this article then "open the options window and change the radio buttons". How about changing the button itself to a custom icon? How about a transparent background? I guess when you work with multiple operating systems and you see what you can do in them, the options provided by MS are totally underwhelming...

hariks0
hariks0

Is there a hack to display the icons of Computer, Documents etc beside the text in start menu. I know that the icons appear at the top of the menu when I hover mouse over in item.

PESK, mbcs, mcse, mcitp, sts
PESK, mbcs, mcse, mcitp, sts

...but I'd still like to be able to put my own shite on the Start Menu, like different folders, shortcuts, etc, etc... However, I do like the new 'Jump Lists' and the fact that this new Start Menu is a lot more configurable and it's far quicker than any before it (even after 'the' 400ms tweak of previous OSes to speed up opening the Start Menu programs). For those of you who don't know what 'Jump Lists' are, remember the movie from a few years ago by the same name, Jump? Well, the icons on the taskbar are not just for quick opening of their associated programs, oh no! Right-click one of these babies and you get a list of docs, websites (IE, Opera, etc), spreadsheets (Excel), etc, that that particular program has recently opened and you can click on one of those items on the 'list' and 'jump' to it... Clever, huh? Actually, there are many new 'innovations' in Windows Se7en that I doff my hat to. Memory management being one of them. My laptop (my life-blood, extension of my soul on this here ethereal plane) was on its way out, but after Se7en was installed 2 yrs ago, I still have 3 or so more years on it. Know what I'm sayin'?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That daisy at the top right of the menu? Click it and browse for a replacement photo. I believe the dimensions displayed are 32x32, but the interface will automatically reduce larger ones to fit. It's a great place to put a TR flag (hint, hint) or company logo. Then right-click some of those default Start Menu entries you know you're never going to use and delete them. Then right-click the ones you know you're going to use all the time and 'pin' them so they stay at the top of the list.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you customized your Windows Start Menu? Did you realize that you could?

WCarlS
WCarlS

Go back and read post # 21. It tells you exactly how to make the changes you want.

mckinnej
mckinnej

Great post WCarlS! Many thanks!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

always back up the Registry BEFORE you start making changes.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Radio buttons, custom icons, transparent backgrounds sound like 'eye candy', pretty but not as useful as instructions on adding or removing features. Given a choice, I'll go with the second one. But I'm a support type and like being able to work on any machine in the building without spending ten minutes figuring which app is which because the user has changed all the icons to Simpsons' characters. Just this twit's opinion.

TG2
TG2

I wouldn't say that the options are underwhelming, I would say its the fact that microsoft to this day is underwhelming. Its in what they think would be useful rather than lay the options before the users, to allow the *users* to truly choose their options.. that's what's always bothered me. Microsoft seems and appears to think of greatness in some cases, but then in others its like they've forgotten everything they should've learned in any "101" course for computer programing (design, functionality, choice).

john3347
john3347

Where does one find the word "Se7en" in a dictionary? I want to look it up and learn what it means and how to pronounce it.

TuneUp Utilities
TuneUp Utilities

Hey Mark?thanks for the tips. It?s always fun to find new tricks for customizing your PC and personalizing Windows is pretty simple with Windows 7. I?ve actually been experimenting with new Windows themes over the past few months and found that Microsoft?s gallery has a lot of choices. Window7Theme.com is also a great website. Here?s a list of my favorite themes, if you?re interested: http://bit.ly/9FTqze.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

LOL - because it is my test machine I have not really paid attention. I have to wipe it and/or restore it from time to time so those things often revert to defaults. Good idea on the TR Flag - I have an image floating around somewhere.

mckinnej
mckinnej

This one is obviously targeted for beginners. Most folks could probably figure this out for themselves if they clicked around a bit, but this is good for folks that are afraid to poke around. The one that has me stumped is the Right Click (aka Context) menu in Win7. I can find no way to edit it. On top of that applications that supposedly add a right click option don't. Not one single app has made an appearance in my right click menu. What's the deal with this? What am I missing? Any idea why M$ would lock down such a useful part of the OS?

TG2
TG2

Honestly, there should be a way to mark such articles as "for newbies only". Mark, you've covered this basic stuff fairly well, kudos for that (seriously). However, anyone that's used a windows PC from Win95 on up should, by now, realize you can change options for the Start Menu with a right click along the start bar, and selecting properties. It would only be those who've never used a windows pc in the past 15 years, that wouldn't know there are options there. Knowing the details of those options, well, that only takes a trip into the properties to look at them and experiment. Anyone that *has* been using windows based PC's for the past 5 years that doesn't know that options existed, never really looked. ie. google "change start menu" and you get a plethora of stuff, including Microsoft's own help/KB pages. What's really amiss is that microsoft still requires people to choose one menu form, or the other (ie. vista/7 default or the XP Basic style).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

1) Noun: "one is obsessed with minor grammar and spelling errors at the expense of ignoring the message content." 2) Noun: "a silly way of referring to the Windows 7 operating system."

PESK, mbcs, mcse, mcitp, sts
PESK, mbcs, mcse, mcitp, sts

I know all that. Just that you cannot change the default Start Menu items. I do not watch Recorded TV, so why do I need an item on the Start Menu for it? Nor do I play Games on my laptop, or use the Network, Control Panel, Help and Support, Connect To, Default Programs, Downloads or HomeGroup icons. That is space that can be well spent for other shortcuts that I use regularly, such as compmgmt, gpedit or dsa, for instance. I do not want to have to traipse thru' 4 levels of menus to get to proper admin tools... O, the chagrin...

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

We have considered categorizing blog posts along these lines, but the question then becomes: What constitutes a newbie article? What does advanced mean? We decided to let the TechRepublic Community decide these things for themselves - that is what the Thumbs are for. Soon we will have other community tools that members can use to indicate such distinctions.

PESK, mbcs, mcse, mcitp, sts
PESK, mbcs, mcse, mcitp, sts

Also... 3) Adj:"to needlessly ignore quirky ways of naming nomenclature only to expose one's age." 4) Pron:"Possessive pronoun used by the writer anaphoricaly resolving to the OS antecedented by the numeral VII and preceded by the Microsoft trademark name, Windows." 5) Open-Class Word derivation of the OS released by Microsoft in the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. Regarded by many as the best OS, it reigned supreme until overthrown by their next OS, which was known simply as Singularity. Open-class words are not considered part of the core language and as such they can be changed, replaced or dropped from the common lexicon, which can encompass many thousands of them. For living languages, this change is noticeable within an individual lifespan, and usually faster. You'll find that even M$ themselves refer to it as 7even... http://cid-3ad17774969f41be.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Window7Theme/7even%5E_by%5E_Delta%5E_Nine.themepack Ha! Take that!

roderic.parker
roderic.parker

This term was used for a car (auto) by the manufacturers (?British Motor Corp.?) of the 'Austin Se7en' version of the Mini back in the early 1960s. The name didn't last long. The car (auto) did.

TG2
TG2

first.. I thought thumbs were to help us with our other digits. ;) As to the "newbie" and "advanced" .. a sliding scale. I think even the newbie's would be able to recognize more "new" to the world techie stuff, and so it could be open for a vote / or for survey ... ie. 1 to 5 on level of knowledge/difficulty, etc.. people read the article and at the end select one of 5 levels for the content.. 1 newbie material 5 jedi mastered stone cutters handshake uber techie advanced. :) ".. no hom-erssss.."

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If it were at the end of the article, I'd remember to click it more often. Frequently when I read a useful article I dive straight into the discussions, forgetting to go back to the top and hit the button.

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