Two good free programs that add a start button and start menu to Windows 8

By | July 28, 2013
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EB insists that Windows 8 is easy to use with a mouse and keyboard — she likes to be contrary. TC, on the other hand, the kind, old soul he is, agrees — this time — with the masses: Windows 8 can be a labyrinth to navigate with a mouse and keyboard. And those of you who are holding out for Windows 8.1 — forget about it. As of now, clicking the Windows 8.1 start button takes you back to the place you were trying to avoid in the first place — the start screen.

Let’s stop right there. Right-clicking the start button in Windows 8.1 does bring up some useful things — but not your programs menu. If you right-click the start button in Windows 8.1 you see things like Control Panel, Windows Power Shell, File Manager (formerly called Windows Explorer), search, and other things, including one called Programs and features…but this is the old Control Panel’s Programs and features — where you can uninstall a program. Right-clicking the new Windows 8.1 start button also gives you typical shut down options. It’s better than nothing, but it would have taken MS an extra minute or two to make the start button like the one on Windows 7. Why not give people what they want? Who knows? Only Microsoft knows.

There are two good, free, start button programs for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. The other good one, Stardock’s Start8, is not free.

#1. Classic Shell (Free)

This is EB’s favorite. It installs a reasonable facsimile of Windows 7’s start button and start menu. EB says it’s exactly the same, but her eyes are old – she can’t see the minute differences. Still it’s pretty close — and all you Windows XP lovers will love the fact you can make it look like the Windows XP start button and start menu too. I guess I’ll admit Classic Shell is the best, but #2 isn’t too shabby either.

You can get it here:

#2 Start Menu 8 (Free)

We are not fans of IOBIT software. In fact, for the most part, we dislike everything IOBIT makes. But, as of now, they make one of the best free start buttons for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 . Who knows when they’ll start gumming it up and giving it that nice IOBIT bloat. But as of today, July 26, 2013, it’s still a really nice start button. If it weren’t for EB’s love of Classic Shell, and our mutually dislike for IOBIT software, Start Menu 8 might be #1. As it is, it’s #2. I’d like to keep my job. And besides, if you’re reading this a year from now, IOBIT might have work its usual bloatmagic on it. So get it now, mateys, before the tinkering begins.

As of this writing, both are free from malware and do not come bundled with other stuff. But Caveat Emptor — let the downloader beware: things can change in a heart beat, and white-hatted cowboys have been known to trade in the white hats for black hats with Jolly Rogers on the front.

You can get IOBIT’s Start Menu 8 (Start button for Windows 8) from

No EB, I don’t want your Jolly Roger flag from the yacht you keep on Lake Michigan. I’d like a boat ride though.

2 thoughts on “Two good free programs that add a start button and start menu to Windows 8

  1. Crysta T Lacey

    An Alternative to MOST Things Start Menu…..

    Hi EB and TC,

    As the subject line says I have been using a different approach to access since all those Icons were drownding my Desktop and TaskBar in Windows 7. I have never been a big Start Menu user or “Searcher” at anytime but I did find a solution to the drownding and my propensity for .lnk with pretty Icons. I have found that if one looks at the “same item” on windows from enough different angles and ways one will fine a “short cut”, .lnk, for anything windows or 3rd party. Windows 8 and 8.1 are no exception, if not more so. It is true some of the editing I do does shows up on the Start Menu because I also use the same folder:

    C:>Program Data>Microsoft>Windows>Start Menu>Programs

    in my solution but I have found much more flexability than being resticted to the Start Menu. I too tried the Classic Start Menu, with all the talk about it and riped it right back out again on Windows 8. W 8.1, Right Click in the very bottom or on the button in the bottom left hand corner of the screen has most everything I have ever used from the OLD Start Menu. The NEW Stock W 8.1 Start Menu is only missing “Properties” which is easily gotten.

    My solution is a combination of a “.” Library and a “New Toolbar” available in Taskbar “right click”. Traditionally a “.” at the begining of a filename, means hidden which I don’t mind because I don’t want to use it from anywhere but the Taskbar. There a “.” takes up the most MINIMAL amount of “realestate” because all I really what to see is the 2 UP Arrows that I can Left or Right click on giving me a menu of of menus all in aphabetical order. All one has to do is put which ever folder they want to see in the “.” Library like the folder above, available in most “Right Click” Context Menus.

    C:>Users>%username%>AppData>Roaming>Microsoft>Internet explorer>

    Has several folders that I use including one called “Start Menu”. In this one I create addition folders to group all of the .lnk(Icons) that installed software, created, on the Desktop. I make Short Cuts of these folders for the lower perimator of the Desktop Screen. I can than just Drag and Drop the Icons from the installation of software on to the one of those new perimator Icons that is appropriate and is linked to the Start Menu’s Folders and Wolla, they go right in and are available in my “.” Library and Taskbar. My most used folder is the “Quick Start” which I only put in Icons .lnk(no additional folders) in that, that I want a very direct and quick access to. It is a kind of a short list and I often Copy and Paste directly to the “Quick Start” entry(folder) in the Taskbar’s New Menu. Those of you whom are Vista and older users will recognise the older folder names which this method makes useful once again and some software still stores entries into, at the time of installation.

    I also put Administrative Tools, MS Systernals, NirSoft and a varity of Portable Software Tools, folders in the New Taskbar menu as well. Look under Microsoft>Internet Explorer OR Windows under various system folders to find many usefull folders, however one may need to turn “Hide Folders” off in “Folder Options”. IF you do, BE CAREFUL, about what you delete or change and it is advisable to create Restore Points and disk Images untill one learns what they are doing.

    Because of the quantity of System Tray Icons that I have, my “.” Taskbar is about center screen, right where I like it. I agree with EB, Windows 8.0 is very easy to navigate. W 8.1 is even easier and the expanded Stock Start Menu is even nicer!!! It took me months to warm up enough to W 8 to install it(I bought it at the beginning when it was really cheap) but I figured out what was putting me off. No, it was not the “Different Start Menu”. When ever I saw W 8 on TV, in stores or on the computer screen, it was Very, Very Cold and UGGGGLY!!!! Hey Microsoft, the fastfood resturants learned how to attract people, maybe you could get some leasons from them???? Even with the Desktop Wallpaper under the Start Screen in W 8.1, it doesn’t change the fact that TILES are UGGGGLY!!! My Android Icons are much easier on the eyes……

    Hope this gives somebody an alternative way or idea……


    1. infoave Post author

      Wow… that’s quite a lot of work for a start menu — boggles my mind!


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