Image: Microsoft

You’re running Windows 11 on a personal PC or test computer but maybe you’re not keen on the new Start menu, Taskbar and other changes in the new OS. There’s not much you can do in Windows 11 to get past all the constraints, but there are utilities you can use to enhance Windows 11 and compensate for some of its weaknesses. One free tool worth trying is ExplorerPatcher.

SEE: Windows 11: Tips on installation, security and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Created by Valinet Solutions, ExplorerPatcher can change the Start menu, Taskbar, File Explorer and other elements to more closely work like their counterparts in Windows 10. You can switch to the Windows 10 Start menu with the Apps list and tiled screen. You’re able to populate the Taskbar with the usual icons and settings and even change its location to the top, left or right, just as in Windows 10. And you can disable the Windows 11 command bar and context menu in File Explorer. Here’s how ExplorerPatcher works.

On your Windows 11 PC, browse to the GitHub page for ExplorerPatcher. Scroll down the page to the How To section and click the link for “Download the latest version of the setup program.” Run the downloaded ep_setup.exe file. After the program installs, click the Start button. In the Recommended section, look for a shortcut named Properties (ExplorerPatcher). Otherwise, click the All Apps menu and scroll down the list until you see the Properties (ExplorerPatcher). Click that shortcut to open the ExplorerPatcher Properties window (Figure A).

Figure A

Taskbar style updates
Figure A

The first setting controls the Taskbar. Click the link for Taskbar style and you can change it between Windows 11 and Windows 10. Other settings on the Taskbar screen allow you to switch its position to the top, bottom, left or right. You can also enable or disable the Search button, Task View button and Desktop button. Plus, you can opt to hide the Taskbar when not in use. If you make a change here or at any of the other settings screens, click the link at the bottom for Restart File Explorer for those changes to take effect (Figure B).

Figure B

Taskbar to the top
Figure B

Next, click the setting for System Tray. Here, you can control the appearance and behavior of the System Tray. You can also determine what happens when you click on one of the default icons in the System Tray (Figure C).

Figure C

edit system tray to windows 7 settings
Figure C

Click the setting for File Explorer next. Select the different options to disable Windows 11 features in File Explorer, such as the command bar, the context menu, the navigation bar, and the modern search bar. You can also hide the search bar completely and control whether the title bar shows an icon, a title, both or neither (Figure D).

Figure D

Next, click the setting for Start menu. To switch to the Windows 10-style menu, click the option for Start Menu Style and set it to Windows 10. Then click the option for Position On Screen and change it to At Screen Edge. You can also decide how many apps appear in the Frequently Used section, disable the Recommended section and pin apps to the Start menu from File Explorer (Figure E).

Figure E

The next setting for Windows Switcher lets you control the behavior of the task switcher that runs when you press Alt+Tab. If you use more than one monitor, you can show all open windows on the primary monitor or show windows only on the current monitor. You’re also able to apply a theme, color scheme, size and other attributes for the Task Switcher (Figure F).

Figure F

Next, the setting for Weather allows you to enable, disable and customize a Taskbar icon for weather. The setting for Other Offers options for miscellaneous features and commands in Windows 11. The one for Updates controls how and when updates are applied to ExplorerPatcher. Finally, the setting for Advanced lets you configure more advanced settings in Windows 11, though you’ll want to exercise some caution here (Figure G).

Figure G