Microsoft

Make Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop

Greg Shultz walks you through the steps required to make Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop using a scheduled task.

Would you prefer to have Windows 8 bypass the Start Screen and boot straight to the desktop? If so, you can do so using a technique that takes advantage of a feature that is built right into the operating system - no third-party tools required. All you have to do is create a specially configured task that is scheduled to run at log on.

In this post, I'll walk you through the steps required to make Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop using a specially configured scheduled task.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

Some background

If you were working with/testing Windows 8 during the Preview/Beta period, you may know that a similar trick allowed you to make Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop and that the loophole that allowed that trick was closed when the Windows 8 code was finalized.

As you may recall, in previous versions of Windows, a special shortcut called Show Desktop appeared on the Quick Launch menu. This shortcut was a standard text file that contained five lines of code and was saved with the file extension SCF. The fifth line of that code was Command=ToggleDesktop.

During the Preview/Beta period, it was discovered that if you recreated that shortcut in Windows 8 and set it up as a scheduled task that ran at log on, the operating system would run the SCF file and boot to the desktop rather than the Start Screen. Once the Windows 8 code was finalized, that particular shortcut was no longer recognized by the operating system. Whether Microsoft did that on purpose or whether the contents of the SCF represented legacy code that was never intended to be a in the final code is unknown.

In any case, it seemed there would be no way to get Windows 8 to boot to the desktop without a third-party tool, such as Stardock's Start8 utility, which, once installed, bypasses the Start Screen as well as revives the Start Menu.

Convinced that there had to be another way to make Windows 8 boot to the desktop using a scheduled task, I began experimenting with different shortcuts and executables. Then, it dawned on me that explorer.exe is still the heart and soul of the Windows desktop. I figured that if anything could trump the Start Screen, it would be explorer.exe. So I tried it and found that it worked.

During my experimentation with this technique, I haven't found any serious side effects or other problems. However, that doesn't mean that sometime down the road, Microsoft might release a patch that will disable or even invalidate this technique.

Catch up with all of TechRepublic's Windows 8 tips on our focus page.

Getting started

To begin you'll need to launch the Task Scheduler tool. To do so, just press the [Windows] key, type Schedule, select Settings, and click Schedule tasks, as illustrated in Figure A. When you do, the Task Scheduler will appear.

Figure A

Accessing Task Scheduler from the Start Screen is easy.

Configuring the task

Once you have the Task Scheduler up and running, you'll begin by clicking the Create Task command in the Actions panel, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Once Task Scheduler is up and running, you can create a new task by clicking the Create Task command.
When the Create Task dialog box appears, you'll see that the General tab is selected and will first assign the task a name in the Name text box. As you can see, I choose Show Desktop @ Start. Then, towards the bottom of the page, select Windows 8 from the Configure for drop down menu, as shown in Figure C. You can leave the Security options set to Run only when user is logged on.

Figure C

Make sure that you select Windows 8 in the Configure for drop down menu.
To continue, select the Triggers tab to access that page, as shown in Figure D. Now, click the New button towards the bottom of the page.

Figure D

When you see the Triggers page, just select the New button.
When you see the New Trigger dialog box, select the At log on item from the Begin the task drop down menu, as shown in Figure E. As soon as you do, the New Trigger page will refresh and display the settings for the At log on option, as shown in Figure F.

Figure E

From the Begin the task drop down menu, select the At log on item.

Figure F

You can just leave the default settings on the At log on page.
By default, the Any user option in the Settings panel and the Enabled check box in the Advanced Settings are selected. Just leave them as they are and click OK to continue. When you return to the Create Task dialog box, select the Actions tab, as shown in Figure G. Then, click the New button towards the bottom of the page.

Figure G

When you see the Actions page, just select the New button.
When you see the New Action dialog box, you'll find that the Action setting is by default set to Start a Program. So, in the Settings panel, you can just type c:\Windows\explorer.exe in the Program/script text box, as shown in Figure H. You can also use the Browse button to locate and select the explorer.exe program. At this point, just click OK to return to the Create Task dialog box.

Figure H

You can type the path and name in the Program/script text box or use the Browse button to select it.
Now, IF you are running Windows 8 on a laptop, select the Conditions tab and in the Power panel, clear the Start the task on if the computer is on AC power check box, as shown in Figure I.

Figure I

You only need to change this setting if you are running Windows 8 on a laptop.
There is nothing that you need to change on the Settings tab so, at this point, you are done and can just click the OK button to complete the scheduled task operation. When you return to the Task Scheduler window, you'll see the new task that you just created on the Task Scheduler Library, as shown in Figure J. You can now close Task Scheduler.

Figure J

When you finish, you'll see your new scheduled task

Booting to the desktop

As soon as you have created your scheduled task, you can test it out. You can either Restart your system from the Power Charm, as shown in Figure K, or you can just log off and then log back on. While the Log off command used to be located with the other power options in previous version of operating system, in Windows 8 it now resides on the Start Screen and has been renamed to Sign out. When at the Start Screen, right click on your user picture in the upper right. When you do, you'll see a menu and will select the Sign out command, as shown in Figure L.

Figure K

The Restart command can be accessed from the Power Charm.

Figure L

Right clicking on your user picture on the Start Screen reveals the Sign out button.
When Windows 8 restarts, you'll immediately see the Desktop with a File Explorer window targeted on Libraries, as shown in Figure M. You will not see the Start Screen at all.

(Keep in mind that when you see the File Explorer window targeted on Libraries, the Documents Music, Pictures, and Video icons may shuffle around a bit. The reason for this is because when the File Explorer window appears on the screen, the operating system is still doing a bit of housework in the background.)

Figure M

When Windows 8 restarts, you'll immediately see the Desktop with a File Explorer window targeted on Libraries.

Depending on how you launch your applications, you can now launch them right from the desktop. For example, if you chose to pin your application icons to the Taskbar, then they are readily available.

What's your take?

Would you prefer to have Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop? Will you use this technique to make Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

110 comments
ScorpiusBlue
ScorpiusBlue

I recently did an update on my laptop and now for some reason it opens directly to my desktop instead of the start menu. I want it to change back, I like seeing the start menu first so I can choose what to do. How do I make it go back to the way it was?

Dragos Marinescu
Dragos Marinescu

@ScorpiusBlue 


Open the Windows Registry Editor (Win + R, then type regedit) and go to:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StartPage


In the right pane there should be a value called OpenAtLogon, set that to 1 if you want to show the Start Menu instead of the Desktop.


If there's no such setting on you PC then look for some application that is doing this, like Classic Shell or StartIsBack.

ShawBoy1
ShawBoy1

We just purchased a new Dell PC for my Dad, upgrading from XP to Windows 8; it is a lot cleaner, and much more functional than what I was accustomed to. That said, I think if I were using a Windows Phone, or Windows 8 Tablet, perhaps the new computer start screen would make more sense (ie syncing across devices) but seeing as how I'm just using the OS on my desktop, I'd prefer it to boot straight to the old desktop. He and I are a lot more familiar with this layout; while I understand there is a bunch of cool and useful tools within the new start screen, there is a learning curve. Were it for me, I would take it upon myself to learn it, but this is HIS computer and I think it will work for him better if it just boots straight to the desktop, as even that is cleaner and nicer! I am impressed.

I myself, am primarily an apple guy, tho I was brought up using Windows (started with 95!). I use an iPhone, iPad and a MacBook Pro. I love their ease of use, and feel like Windows 8 really closes the gap between the two systems, but there are still some things missing.

In any case, thanks for posting these instructions! Much appreciated!

arlyssFR
arlyssFR

If you want to show dektop at logon without opening a window,
you can't use autoit3 to simulate the keyboard "Window key" (which switch to desktop).

script:

#RequireAdmin
Opt("SendKeyDelay", 1000)
Send("{LWIN}", 1)

This au3 script wait 1 second and send the window key.

2 options :
1- with autoit3, compile teh script as an executable (and you don't need autoit3 anymore)
2- use the au3 script directly (but you need autoit3)

In the two cases, put the file (exe or au3) in your user startup folder.

et voilà !

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm glad you saved me the 'effort' of testing it again. The only place it ever worked was the initial 'Developers' beta.

costarich86
costarich86

This worked just fine. Is there any other program that can be executed other than explorer.exe Once I get to the desktop I have to close explorer.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...in time, explorer.exe is the only program that can be launched that will get you to the desktop. However, once you get to Windows 8.1, boot to desktop will be a standard feature.

blindtiger
blindtiger

How utterly ridiculous that you have to go through all this just to boot to the desktop. Why does Microsoft makes things so difficult? Inexperienced users have enough difficulty with the simpler things. Experienced users have to get a road map. How much did they pay the idiot that came up with this?

JWH226
JWH226

Now if you could just invent a scheduled task that would create a "Start Button" I would actually think about keeping Windows 8. But as it is, I just purchased a new copy of Windows 7 and I'm headed back "Where Everybody Knows My Name". I've tried hard, but I just can't get comfortable with Windows 8. And I've been a Microsoft guy since MS-DOS came on 5.25 in floppies (still have my original MS-DOS disks and my IBM PC-XT). I've weathered all of the iterations of Windows, Windows 3,0, Windows for WorkGroups, Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, VISTA, and Windows 7. I never thought I'd ever be thinking of buying an Apple, but If I have to start all over and learn something new, it is darn sure going to be something proven. Windows 8 looks to me like it won't be with us long. Unfortunately for many of those of us who get out of bed every morning and then log on while the coffee is brewing, it appears that Microsoft may not be a part of our future either. And, did I mention, I am a stockholder.

cybelemoon
cybelemoon

For those who want to open a specific file upon log on, ( I was one of those people) you can use the same technique. Create a task following the steps above but in Step/Figure H - in the program/script box you direct it to the executable file of the program that need to run the file you want to be open on your desktop. ie: "C:\Programs Files\Microsoft Office 15\root\office15\EXCEL.EXE" Then, in the box below that is labeled Add Arguments you enter the path to the file you want opened. ie: "C:\users\John Doe\my documents\schedule.xlsx" Then to test it log off and back on, when you click on the desktop it will have loaded the program and opened that file. Just thought I would throw that out there for those who are like me and have a spreadsheet that is always in need of being opened on the desktop. (and for me, keeps me on track and I don't forget to look at it because it's not in front of me and opened) LOL

jefferson.harris
jefferson.harris

make a bat file with the exit command in it and launch that with the task scheduler, it does the same thing but leaves nothing behind like launching explorer does. Also if you have things you want to do with automation at startup then you could do it with that batch. I'm sure this would work with power shell as well....but I'm old fashioned.

AdaptiveDervish
AdaptiveDervish

This looks like a way to boot to a "clean" desktop (no Explorer window visible) Sourced from http://superuser.com/a/433444 Create an ahk text file with the two lines below, compile it with Autohotkey and add the compiled application as a scheduled task using the method above. WinWaitActive Start menu ahk_class ImmersiveLauncher WinMinimizeAll I don't have access to Win8 right now, so any AHK users please test to let us know if this works!

MicroEyes
MicroEyes

Nice Article... Learning a lot here..

inertman9
inertman9

you can put the same short cut right in the start up menu. however, windows 8 has made this harder than it's ever been and harder than it has to be. even tho we can easily find the start menu in task manager now, it's impossible to place anything there. you must find the start menu and add a new shortcut there.

gladlenise
gladlenise

I just purchased the SONY VAIO w/Windows 8, as that was the only operating system on all of the brand new PCs on the shelf??? Anyway, after playing around with this for a day, it seems to me that the Windows 8 interface was created with the view that people have nothing better to do than 'play' and 'socialize' all day -- I really don't get it. Your instructions allow me to auto-bypass all the Windows 8 non-sense, and go right to my desktop for my work on WORD, OUTLOOK, etc. Hopefully, Microsoft will not sneak in some sort of update to cripple this wonderful fix of yours. Great work and thanks!

Tony Ray
Tony Ray

I found that article very useful. Just one question - the final step in the procedure says that when Windows 8 restarts, the Desktop with a File Explorer window targeted on Libraries appears. Will this happen every time I log on or only the once following the successful procedure. If it happens every time then its just as bad as at present. I'd like to know before making any changes.

gclarkox
gclarkox

This is my first experience with Windows 8. Glad you shared some of your tips. Thanks so much for the tips to Boot Directly to the Desktop and Shutdown Menu. I would like to bypass the Library pop up in the Boot Directly. Is there a way to accomplish this within the task? I found a program "RoboForm" that is really good for automated log ins and bookmarks.

dougotte
dougotte

Thanks for the solution. Instead of setting the task to start explorer.exe, could I substitute any program such as firefox? My mother just bought a new laptop w/ Win 8, and it's too confusing for her. She primarily just uses Firefox to check e-mail, etc. So, if I can set her machine to boot to the desktop and start Firefox automatically, I've killed two birds w/ one task! Thanks.

texruss
texruss

I tried the tip because I am not a big Metro fan (but I am a Windows 8 fan just for the increased security defenses alone). It seemed to boot rather slowly compared to without the Task is one concern and even more of deal killer for me is the open Libraries window. Any way to avoid that? Thanks, Texruss

SilvurCat
SilvurCat

Greg, You are wonderful! I do a lot of computer consulting and repair for members of various organizations like the Moose Lodge, American Legion, etc. This being said, most of my work is for older people, who had FINALLY learned windows XP/Vista/7 and were comfortable with it. Microsoft's drastic change to Windows 8 has left many people (including me) scratching their heads and wondering how to use it. The Desktop mode isn't easy to find, and there's no real documentation unless you go online and search for tutorials or blogs such as yours. Thanks again for your wonderful insight and tips! Would you mind if I re-post this article on my blog (with proper attribution, of course)? This is DEFINITELY information I feel that needs sharing. Sincerely, Christian

mistercrowley
mistercrowley

Any way to suppress the launching of the explorer process like that?

jaydee75
jaydee75

Worked like a charm with Windows Server 2012 and made me feel more at home :) Cheers Greg! Br. Janne

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Get Linux. With Linux you can have any GUI you want with a couple of clicks.

richard.warren
richard.warren

I too typically start Windows 8 in desktop mode, but I did it through the little app you mentioned from Stardock called Start8 (more details at http://stardock.com/products/start8/). For only $4.99, I can avoid all the the task scheduling issues and go right to the desktop. I've also been using their Fences (for many versions) and have recently started also using their Decor8, which lets me customize the lock screen, Start screen, as well as desktop. Cheap, and it does the trick...;-) Thanks, Richard

good2bpete
good2bpete

The more I use Windows 8, the more I am enjoying working from the Start screen. I am visiting the desktop less and less (unless taken there by a program I am opening). I now have the great majority of programs and folders that I use regularly pinned to the Start screen. It's just flick of the scroll wheel to locate the item I want and a click and I am where I want to be. I find I am using the Start screen quite dynamically, pinning what I am working on to Start for ready access and unpinning it when the project is done. No, I have no desire to go direct to the desktop.

jose.medeiros
jose.medeiros

Thank you for the posting this step by step guide to boot straight into the desktop on Windows 8. Why Microsoft did not build an option into to Windows 8, with out such a procedure is beyond me. As smart as Steve Ballmer is, being a Harvard Graduate, does he visit with the average consumer and ask their opinion prior to releasing a new Operating System? The Ipad operating system and a Mac computer has a different desktop, why doesn't Windows 8? The key word here, is giving Microsoft customers a choice on what they want. Jose F. Medeiros, San Jose, Cal. MCP+I, Former MCSE and Microsoft Certified Trainer http://www.linkedin.com/in/josemedeiros

inertman9
inertman9

if you store enough on your desktop that this is preferable you still have to minimize the explorer window to see most of it. why is it any harder than to click the desktop tile on the start menu? i pin many items to the taskbar, but some of my shortcuts on the desktop i dont want in the taskbar, so they're on the desktop. most if the users i support have so much crap on their desktop that this is fairly pointless, and trying to get them to change is so much harder than showing/ telling them to simply click the desktop tile...

arfneto
arfneto

Greg, I was wondering if the simple windows + R shortcut could not be sent from a scheduled batch file, since it does just this, open the desktop Anyway, I am so used to key this in that I am not sure I would bother to automate it Fact is that when I open a session on the desktop sometimes I stay for a while looking at the tiles, the live ones showing traffic alerts, wheather reports, headlines on the news, you know... Sometimes in 3 or 5 seconds I see something important there. And Win+R key sequence takes less than a second. Maybe I am buying the tiles idea after all :)

JJFitz
JJFitz

But somehow tapping the enter key seems easy to me. /sarcasm

iain
iain

Using the mentioned Start8 from Stardock is so much easier and I would think more long lived. not only does it remove the "Metro" start screen but used in conjunction with windows own "netplwiz" can remove the need to sign in as well (although you will need to sign in following any sleep or instances where the screen-saver comes into action - so safe there then). As the author states - Microsoft may alter the code in the future to eliminate the Explorer.exe scheduled event but I'm pretty sure that Stardock will keep Start8 up and running in the future!

Color me Gone
Color me Gone

Would it be possible to run explorer minimized?

rcfoulk9
rcfoulk9

unless there's a way to ensure that Windows doesn't revert back to that butt-ugly start screen, we don't care at all about apps-it's not a smart phone, and reinstate the start button to alleviate icon clutter Windows 8 will remain, deservedly, blocked from consideration. We're interested in getting work done in as streamlined way as possible both internally and for our clients. Windows 8 does nothing to help business as presently constrained. And we're betting that MS won't have the wisdom to relent with respect to the features we and many others require. MS will likely do okay with business given the downgrade rights to Open Licenses (that they will trumpet as Win8 sales), but as presented it's largely a business no-go.

roblightbody
roblightbody

I'm a big fan of Windows 8 and am really enjoying it on my non-touch desktop PC. However, on reflection, I think this is the correct default configuration for a non-touch Windows 8 PC.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Years ago when I worked at Microsoft all the geeks were lamenting the death of the client server model. The users however where cheering the fact that they didn't have to kow tow to some admin and could control their own digital destiny. How things have changed. Now microsoft wants to play me too with the smart (stupid) phones and tablets. With typical big corp group think they want to foist a one size fits all OS on all their users. Microsoft wants to jump on the pay for play, passive TV type, cud chewing "viewer". This GUI (graphic user interface) is stupid, vapid and clumsy. It seems to be that it has become a new geek game to twist the head of each one of these new "chickens" that microsoft makes and stitch back the old GUI. That should tell the idiots at MS that people don't want this junkware. Any thing for a buck, lets dance for the gum chewing, mouth breather, honey bo bo types. I think I will take a pass on Win 8 thank you, Win 7 will last long enough for me to move on and train on another OS. It seems that we are back to the client server model (by any other name), but at least the users can go to Mac X, BSD or Linux to avoid the crapware.

m@rcel
m@rcel

I was playing with it in a shop. With alt-tab from the tilescreen I got in the desktop. don't know if this is normal behavior.

jlhatch
jlhatch

Just go to download.com and look up "Classic Shell." It adds a start button back (in a clamshell shape instead of a circle) and boots to the desktop. Free little program that works great, and does all that behind-the-scenes work for you.

techrep
techrep

Bless you... don't know what Microsoft was thinking...

sarai1313
sarai1313

thats all good job and thank you.

da philster
da philster

.... is to simply stay with Windows 7 :-)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I don't mind seeing the Start Screen once a day, but I know there are more than a few who would prefer to boot straight to the desktop in Windows 8. Greg has described a way to do that without paying for a third-party application. Is this a solution you will consider?

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