Slideshow: A Taskbar trick to revive the Classic Start Menu in Windows 8

Access the Toolbars submenu and select the New Toolbar command

Lots of people have asked me whether I think Microsoft will put the Start Menu back in Windows 8 before the final release. Of course, I'd like to believe that Microsoft would come to their senses and say that it was all a mistake to remove the Start Menu, but I don't think that's very likely. In fact, not only is the Start Button gone from the Desktop, but when you click in the place where it used to exist, you get the Metro Start screen. Windows 8 is designed with Metro as the starting point and we'll just have to get used to it - or will we?

Fortunately, I have discovered an Achilles' heel in Microsoft's evil plan to do away with the Start Menu. They may have been able to remove the GUI part of the Start Button/Menu, but they can't remove the underlying structure of it without crippling the operating system's backward compatibility support for pre-Windows 8 applications.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to take advantage of this chink in the armor and revive a classic version of the Start Menu.

Note: Keep in mind that this technique is being written for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and the features I will discuss here may very well change between now and the time the operating system is actually released.

The underlying structure

When you install any standard Windows application in Windows 8, the operating system redirects the installation procedure to create a tile in Metro. Even so, the installation procedure is designed to create folders and shortcuts to the application in the directory where the Start menu lives. In the case of Windows 7 and Windows 8, that directory is C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu. Since that directory still exists in Windows 8 for the sake of backwards compatibility, you can take advantage of that fact along with the Taskbar's Toolbar feature to revive a classic version of the Start Menu. Let's take a closer look.

The Toolbar

In order to create your own Classic Start Menu in Windows 8, you'll use the Toolbar feature. This feature has been a part of the Windows operating system for a long time and it allows you to create Toolbars right on the Taskbar.

To begin, right click an empty spot on the Taskbar, hover over Toolbars, and select the New Toolbar command, as shown. (Take note of the Lock the taskbar command, you'll need to use it in an upcoming step.)

This gallery is also available as TechRepublic Microsoft Windows Blog post.

Images created by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic.


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.