One of the loudest, and most persistent complaints about Windows 8 has been the fate of the Start button — and along with it, the Start Menu. With Windows 10, Microsoft brought the Start button / Menu functionality back and then some. Now, you have the power to customize the Start experience as you see fit.
The Windows logo existed on the taskbar at the bottom left of the desktop mode in Windows 8 as well, but tapping or clicking it would just toggle back and forth from the desktop to the tiled Modern UI Windows 8 Start Screen. Right-clicking the Windows logo "Start Button" in Windows 8.1 also provided access to many functions found in the pre-Windows 8 Start Menu.
For many disgruntled Windows users, that simply wasn't good enough. Faced with less-than-stellar adoption of the Windows 8 OS, Microsoft tweaked much of the experience for Windows 10, and now that old-fashioned Start button / Menu functionality is back.
In the Windows 10 Technical Preview, tapping or clicking the Windows logo opens a Start Menu. The Windows 10 Start Menu, however, is a sort of Frankenstein mashup of the traditional Start Menu and the Windows 8 Start Screen all at once.
The left panel looks and acts like the Start Menu in older versions of Windows — with shortcut links to favorite and recently used applications, plus a link you can click to surf through all of the installed applications and launch whatever you like. The right side of the Start Menu, on the other hand, is comprised of tiles like those from the Windows 8 Start Screen. You get both worlds merged together.
That's where things start to get fun, though, because you can actually make the Start Menu look and act just about any way you like. In fact, if you actually like the Windows 8 Start Screen (which I do), you can choose to revert to the Windows 8 method.
First of all, you can drag the top of the Start Menu up or down to control how tall it should be. You can stretch it to the top of your display for a tall, thin Start Menu — or squish it down toward the task bar for a stocky, wide Start Menu. This is particularly useful if you'd like to stretch the Start Menu up so that more application shortcuts are displayed in the left pane.
When it comes to the tiles on the right pane, you have a number of options. First of all, if you really just want the old-fashioned Start button / Menu experience, without any of the Modern UI live tiles, you can just unpin all of the tiles from the Start Menu. Boom. No more tiles.
Conversely, you can pin as many tiles as you like (within the limitations of the screen real estate you have to work with), and the right pane will automatically expand to accommodate them. Just as you could in the Windows 8 Start Screen, you can also resize the tiles — small, medium, wide, or large... depending on the tiles — and choose whether or not live tile-capable tiles should automatically refresh with live content.
Finally, you can switch back to the Windows 8 method if you prefer. Right-click the task bar and choose Properties, then select the Start Menu tab. Just uncheck the box that says "Use the Start menu instead of the Start screen" and voila! You're back to the Windows 8 Start Screen way of doing things.
Personally, I never understood the whining about the Start button or the Start Menu, and I think the Start Screen works just fine once you get used to it and arrange the tiles the way you want them. Even so, it was a bit of a one-size-fits-all — or more precisely, an our-size-fits-all — approach, and I can see the benefits of the Windows 10 system.
The power is in your hands now. Configure the Start button / Menu / Screen any way you like to maximize your productivity and efficiency. What do you think of the changes and customization possibilities in Windows 10? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.