By default, Windows 10 comes with a Start menu. However, you can change back to the Start screen. This post explains how to enable the Start screen through the Taskbar Properties and in the Registry. I also wrote a little PowerShell script that allows you to switch back and forth between the Start menu and the Start screen.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

Why a Start menu? ^

In 2010, I posted my Windows 8 wish list. Excuse me for citing myself:

Hence, Microsoft should rapidly give up some Windows features we grew fond of over the years. My wish is that the Windows Start menu completely disappears.

Honestly, I didn’t believe that Microsoft would be so courageous and get rid of the Windows Start menu. Thus, I was somewhat surprised that Redmond was really willing to stop the evolution of Windows and introduce some radical changes in Windows 8. What didn’t surprise me was the outcry of the Windows community. I think those people who don’t like change and want to stick with what they know are those who shouted the loudest. Reminds me of Windows Vista. In Windows 7, the new user interface was suddenly great.

Windows 10 Start menu

Windows 10 Start menu

It is quite possible that I am missing something here. Perhaps the Start menu has some real advantages. I just don’t understand how it can be helpful to reduce the size of the Start screen to a little portion of the screen. Why would anyone want to see the desktop when he is about to start an application? Feel free to respond to my complaints in a comment below. In a few days, we will have an article by Tim Warner who is pro Start menu. He will explain in detail how you customize it.

Windows 10 Start screen

Windows 10 Start screen

The good news is that Microsoft still supports the Start screen in Windows 10. If you deployed Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 and your users are already used to the Start screen, you might consider centrally replacing the Start menu with the Start screen on all machines in your network. I didn’t find the corresponding Group Policy setting in Windows 10, but I am sure Microsoft will support this in the final version. In the meantime, you can change to the Start screen via GUI, Registry, and PowerShell.

With the GUI ^

To restore the Start screen through the GUI, you have to right-click the Taskbar and then navigate to Properties.

Taskbar Properties

Taskbar Properties

The Taskbar and Start menu Properties (as they called in Windows 10) have a new Start menu tab. The switch “Use the Start menu instead of the Start screen” is enabled by default.

Restore Windows 10 Start Screen

Restore Windows 10 Start Screen

After you disable the Start menu, you have to sign out and sign in again to change this setting. Of course, you know that you first have to save all your documents.

Change Start settings

Change Start settings

In the Registry ^

If you already have a little test network with Windows 10 computers, you can use the Registry feature of Group Policy Preferences to centrally configure all machines to use the Start screen. The Registry key is:

The default value of EnableStartMenu is “1”. To enable the Start screen, you have to set the value to “0.”

As with the GUI method, you have to sign out and sign in again to change the setting.

Switch back and forth with PowerShell ^

If you are testing a desktop configuration and want to switch back and forth quickly between the Start screen and the Start menu, the above methods are a bit cumbersome. I didn’t find a way to access the Windows 10 Start screen without disabling the Start menu first. If you know how this can be done, please share your wisdom.

You can change back and forth between the Start menu and the Start screen with two mouse clicks (right-click, Run with PowerShell) if you copy the little PowerShell script to your desktop. Or if you prefer a double click, you just have to create a batch file on your desktop with the line “powershell –File YourScript.ps1.”

The solution also allows you to change the configuration without signing out. Note this only works because the script restarts Explorer. Thus, you had better also save all your work before you start the script.

The script first checks if the Start menu is enabled; if it is, the script disables the Start menu (enables the Start screen), and if it is not, the script enables the Start menu. In the last line, the Explorer process is stopped. Windows will restart Explorer automatically.

Please share your opinion about Microsoft’s decision to re-introduce the Start menu!

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24 Comments
  1. Carl 5 years ago

    The problem with removing the Start menu is that it forces a context switch every time you start an application. I almost always run with five windows open, tiled across two monitors. As a web administrator and sometimes designer/developer I have 85 end-user apps installed on my machine.

    With the Start screen, every time I want to start a new app, I get a full screen popup that hides all my open windows. Then the app starts and takes me back to my open windows. It's a completely unnecessary context switch. I realize I could pin stuff to the Taskbar, but I have 85 apps installed. I use five to eight all day, and probably another dozen once per day. Pinning 20 apps to the Taskbar is cluttered and messy. I prefer to just hit the Start button and type the one I want, WITHOUT the context switch to the Start screen.

    It's not that I don't like change. I use the Start screen on my touch screen device and my HTPC. But the Start screen is in the way on a desktop PC where I do productivity work. Microsoft has made the EXACT right decision here.

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  2. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Carl, thanks for sharing your opinion. I've have heard the context switch argument before, but I must admit, I don't really understand it. What information of the open windows do you need to start an additional app? And since you work with so many apps, did you try to work with small tiles and groups? You can easily get all your apps on one screen and once you are used to the positions, you can start an app quickly with just a click.

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  3. Melvin Backus 5 years ago

    I don't think the issue here is "What information of the open windows do you need to start an additional app?", but more "Why do you need to obliterate everything else on my screen to start a new app?" I suppose this is probably the same argument regarding whether or not UAC should hide/dim the desktop or just pop up the window. What is the perceived benefit of forcing a loss of focus for the user? Think about it as if you're driving down the freeway to work in the morning. You reach down to the button on the steering wheel which changes the volume on the radio, and when you press it there is a fabric curtain which covers the windshield for 500 ms, then disappears. You didn't ask for that, and while it might not obstruct your vision long enough for anything critical to happen, it takes some time for your mind to refocus, rescan the road ahead, etc., and it really served no particular purpose. Well, OK, maybe it discourages you from changing the volume on the radio. Is that really useful?

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  4. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Melvin, I think your comparison falls short. When you change the volume of the radio, you still need to know what's going on on the street. On the other hand, when you start a new application you usually no longer need the information on the desktop or from your previous application because you do something new. It is like when you turn into a new road, you no longer need the information of the previous road. It just doesn't make sense to only use a small portion of the screen if you have to choose from a large number of applications.

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  5. Randy Schmidt 5 years ago

    Why not give users a choice of shells (start menu theme or no start menu at all)? Linux has been doing that for years. That would silence all critics.

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  6. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Randy, this is what Microsoft is doing in Windows 10. What worries me about this decision is that it will only delay the end of the conventional Windows desktop. If Microsoft wants to seriously compete with rival operating system makers, they have to get rid of the old UI as fast as possible.The Start menu is an essential component of this archaic GUI.

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  7. Grant Swinger 5 years ago

    My company was an early adopter of Windows 8 and it has not been popular with the users. One complaint I heard over and over went like this: "We have shelves and closets for a reason. This Start Screen is like dumping everything you own on the floor and sorting it into piles." In the end we had to license the Start Menu replacement from StarDock and make it available to anybody who wanted it. That turned out to be nearly everybody. And this was after all the training we did on Windows 8! Everybody knew how to use the Start Screen. They just flat out hated it with a passion.

    You might as well face it. The desktop is here to stay, at least until something better comes along and so far it hasn't. Trying to replace what most people view as a tool to get work done with what they consider a useless toy just isn't going to work.

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  8. Randy Schmidt 5 years ago

    In the end, who cares? We have several options to have a Start menu with third party apps (some free). We all use third party apps anyway. Microsoft cannot do everything. But Microsoft must not lock down the OS so tight we cannot do it (like Apple does, although it has worked for them).

    The desktop will not go away for many years. My wife uses a banking app on her iPad, as an example. But it does not (yet) have all the options that the browser version has. True, she could use the browser on the iPad (there are several available beside Safari and Chrome) but that defeats the need for a tablet versus a desktop/laptop. And the browser is not optimized for smaller screens on most sites.

    Personally, I do a lot of server work. And iPad and Android and Mac make terrible server operating systems (just kidding). And it usually takes a desktop app to manage a server.

    I love my iPad mini very much. I can do ALMOST everything with it. There is an app for just about anything I need (RDP, Chrome admin, MS Office, Maps, email, Teamviewer, etc.). But I CANNOT do my IT job without some use of a laptop/desktop. And putting Windows on a tablet is like taking a key off my king ring and putting it in my pocket. Yes, it takes up less space, but it only does the same thing it did when it was on the bigger key ring. And wouldn't you know it, I forgot to put the house key in my pocket, too, so I am locked out of my house (but I can drive my car!). That analogy is like a Windows tablet without a mouse and keyboard. Most do not come with either (including Surface).

    So yes, Windows on a desktop will be around for many more years. I have worked with Windows since Windows 3.1 and it has lasted around 30 years so far with no competitor (sorry OS/2). And the Windows 95 interface (which is still pretty much the same today on 8.1) has been around for close to 20 years. And when Microsoft tried to change it, the users balked. After all, you need to sell something that people will buy. Whether it is good for them or not!

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  9. Melvin Backus 5 years ago

    As this will obviously devolve if we let it I'll simply say, like so many before... While you ask "Why?", I ask "Why not?" Do I need something that's on the screen. I don't know, but then again neither does anyone else. If I have realtime monitor of some sort running on a 2nd, 3rd, 4th screen, and I start a new application, what function is served by forcing an update of all those screens, removing my ability to see what's on them, and then returning that data later. Would I miss something during that window? Probably not, but it takes time to refocus. When I was in my 20's doing this, refocus was nearly instantaneous. As I get older, (and more specifically my eyes get older) it takes longer to refocus. If I'm going to walk from my house to the neighbor next door, would I cross the street, walk down a few yards, cross back over the street, then knock on the door? I certainly could do that, and if there was a big puddle in the way I might even consider it. It does take longer however. Even at the speed of light, it takes longer. A context switch takes time. That's acceptable if it serves a purpose. You opinion seems to ask the user "What is it hurting?" I'll ask you, "What is it helping?" Neither position is right or wrong, but I'm trying to understand why you feel the way you do, and explain why I feel the way I do.

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  10. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Grant, how many apps does an average user in your organizations need? Are you sure your users have so many apps that they have to organize them into folders?

    Randy, I think Windows UI hasn't really changed since Windows 95 because there was no real competition. Things have changed now. It will take a year or two until the competition is ready for the enterprise, however, if Microsoft doesn't react now, it could be too late. Things will change rapidly now and I think this is good.

    Melvin, refocus on what? The new app that you just opened? Why is it harder to refocus on the new new app if you open it from the Start Screen?

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  11. Melvin Backus 5 years ago

    Refocus on whatever I was doing before. Sorry if I wasn't clear. That new app that I'm opening up takes about 20 seconds to load and actually be ready to do anything, so while I'm waiting for it I've gone back to check the status of all the monitors I've got running, answer an email, respond to the IM that came in while I was temporarily blind because of context switch, and probably a couple of other things too. 🙂

    All this said, I can honestly say that I worked with the native Windows 8 interface for the better part of a year before I finally surrendered and loaded Classic Shell. I figured I would get used to the new way, but it just never happened. It wasn't that I *couldn't* work that way, it was just that it slowed me down. One more probably slightly off analogy and I'll call it a day. If you're right handed and you get injured, you can eventually learn to do everything left handed. Depending on the level of injury and your persistence, you may even get to the point that you are almost as good left handed as you were right handed. But even after that, you'll still run into things that you used to do without thinking right handed, but you have to pause and force yourself to do it left handed. You may even have to analyze *how* you did it before to figure out how to do it well. That start menu has been in Windows for a very long time. It's tough to cut off an arm just so you can learn to use the other one.

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  12. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Melvin, it's amazing what things you do during an app starts. Perhaps your problem is not the Start screen but that you are working on outdated hardware. Do yourself a favor and get an SSD. When I start an application it appears in an instant on my screen.

    But I think you expressed the real problem in your last two sentences:

    "That start menu has been in Windows for a very long time. It’s tough to cut off an arm just so you can learn to use the other one."

    Many people are used to the Start menu like an extra arm. As far as I am concerned, I would easily give an arm, if I would get telekinesis in return. 😉

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  13. Grant Swinger 5 years ago

    How may apps do my users have? It depends. Some have Office with a few other apps and the rest have a lot of them. But few or many, it didn't matter. Just about everybody hated the Start Screen. I think that if Microsoft had included an option to group apps into folders they would have liked it or at least tolerated it. Plenty of times I heard about how the iPad lets you do that and that MS were idiots for not including that feature.

    There's an old marketing joke about a new brand of dog food that is launched with great expectations but has abysmal sales. Everybody tries to figure out what went wrong until finally someone speaks up and says "Maybe the dogs just don't like it". That's the case here. The dogs didn't like it and they barked about it good and loud. Given the way the desktop and Start Menu are back in Windows 10 front and center it would be safe to say that Microsoft has heard a lot of barking and snarling over the last two years.

    It's good that the Start Screen is still there for people who want it but they're going to have to accept that as a consolation prize. The market has spoken and their side lost.

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  14. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Grant, did it ever occur to you that the reasons you heard from your users were not the real reasons why they disliked the Start screen? I don't mean that they lied to you. What I mean is they simply don't know why they don't like the new UI and since they are supposed to rationalize their feelings they start making things up. This a well-known psychological phenomenon. I have seen this kind of behavior countless times. The first time I remember is when Microsoft replaced DOS with Windows. There were fewer users at this time, and thus their barking was not as noticeable as today.

    I like your pictures with the dogs. Yes, there is a lot of barking and it intimidated Redmond. Dogs usually bark when they feel uncomfortable and when they are afraid of something. I never saw a dog barking when the food wasn’t good. But let’s stay in the picture. Do you think if dogs could speak, they were able to always give you the correct reasons for their barking? I think they just react to their feelings. They are in a better position than humans. They don’t have to explain their barking.

    Maybe I write a blog post that explains where these bad feelings about the Start screen come from. In my view it has nothing to do with productivity.

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  15. Piet 5 years ago

    "This Start Screen is like dumping everything you own on the floor and sorting it into piles."

    That, for me, describes the desktop, which is where most casual users dump their downloads and other files. It drives me crazy. One of the reasons I like the Start screen is that even if it doesn't eliminate the mess, it hides it. It's also very disingenuous to claim that most users organize the Start menu.

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  16. Dave Nicholls 5 years ago

    I've got to side with the start screen, since I previously found very little use in the start menu to begin with. Once I knew i could pin items on the taskbar in windows 7 that was it...favorites in my explorer window get me to the network shares i need at times, and pinned items on my taskbar handle 90% of my most used apps and documents. Other apps i tapped winkey and searched for the app, which is what i do now. I pin a handful of items to the start screen for things i use once every 3 or 4 weeks, i find it easier to get to them with a pinned start screen icon rather than searching for the app.

    I didnt like windows 8 that much at first, but it wasn't a big adjustment for me to handle. Windows 8.1 is better, and we rolled out 50 windows 8.1 PCs with minimal training to users and they are having no problems with things, and very little griping or complaints come our way.

    You see, what we did in XP was set the shortcut bar on the taskbar to open office and their common apps, so they had very little adjustment going to 7/8.1 since we also put their apps on the taskbar. Nobody needed the start menu much in our environment to begin with.

    When we deployed 8.1 i created a customized start screen [this is easy to set and use and has been covered on this site recently]. They get a GIANT desktop icon, one for outlook, panels for news and weather, and windows explorer. They arent overwhelmed at that point, and i show them how to pin/unpin, resize and search for applications.

    Most users have gotten used to it. Some are fine with what i pinned by default to their taskbar, a few pin 3 or 4 things to the start screen, some pin several items. Following up with users nobody has complained about the start screen, just a couple of other things windows 8 does different that they have had to adjust to.

    Honestly, I wouldn't go back to windows 7 at this point. We deployed about 50 windows 7 PCs at the same time, but as we are a manufacturer, we have some vendors that won't support software on windows 8, and that software is critical to manufacturing production. Some of the apps arent "supported" period, they are so old, but so far everything runs on windows 7 so we can get by.

    I spend a little time teaching users how to get off the "dump things on the desktop" mentality and get them into using pinned items and documents, recent lists, taskbar shortcuts and the search.

    I have one start menu lover holdout, but she is the oddball IT person who hates change. IT is hard to get along with if you have that sort of mentality, IMO. Things always change in life, in IT, they change faster. To me, that's sort of the point of the job.

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  17. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Piet, totally agree. My desktop is always a mess and I tried some tools to get this under control. Without success.

    Dave, I think most users who want to keep the Start menu don't really use it as a menu. They use it as search tool by typing the name of the program. I still do this sometimes on the Start screen if I want to run a program I rarely use. However, the apps I use every day are at the beginning of the Start screen, and I am certainly much faster with the Start screen than with the Start menu to launch them. I also agree with your view about change. Someone who doesn't like change shouldn't work in IT.

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  18. WBRubidge 5 years ago

    I find the comments here about users dumping items on the desktop and not organizing the start menu most interesting. For my part, the desktop metaphor has always worked well for me: I put files I am working with on the desktop, until I am done with them and file them. I do not put shortcuts to tools or apps on the desktop - instead, my "tools" go in the start menu, and frequently used tools get pinned or added to the taskbar for quick access. This separation of work content (files) and tools is logical for me, and easy to explain to other users. The appeal of the start menu is that it is an easy way to find the tools I need. And while the majority of my work is done with a dozen tools, there are others that I use less often but regularly. It is much quicker to get to these using the start menu that using the start screen. Since I also use keyboard commands as much as possible, and have no touch interface, the start menu is more efficient for me, and the start screen offers nothing of any real value. The start screen is certainly pretty, and great on a touch device like a smart phone or a table. But on my laptop/desktop, I have no use for the start screen, except that it would be a pretty screen to display when my computer is locked, if I could block the updates of selected tiles that might have confidential information, such as incoming e-mails. IMHO, as long as users are writing long documents, working with big spreadsheets or databases, or coding, an interface geared to the keyboard and de-emphasizing touch and mouse will be the most productive. Finally, it does seem that some of the comments here are underestimating the need for corporate IT to have dependable, tested systems. I cannot imagine our IT department allowing Windows to be updated automatically, such that versions were no longer tracked. There is far too great a risk that an update will break something, and prevent us from serving our clients.

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  19. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    WBRubidge, I wonder why you believe that the Start menu is more efficient than the Start screen to launch apps through the keyboard?

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  20. Craig Smith 4 years ago

    Frankly, I think you and Microsoft are missing the bigger picture. If all I had was a tablet the new design might be great. If I was somebody that never needed to add a printer, change network settings or a dozen other things we in the business industry need access to, it might be okay. I don't know why you and Microsoft are so convinced "old methodologies" are bad. I don't want my computer to run like an Ipad. If I want an Ipad all use it. I have a computer for a reason, and burying the tools I need or making it harder to find items or having to get bogged down with a bunch of big clumsy apps running all the time or just taking up space and having to customize the design to death to get it workable is just not user friendly. I like the start menu and find the Window 8 design to be the worst design ever. There is no reasonable need or use for it in the business world. The fact that you all but have to take classes to figure out how to use your computer from one windows version to the next is total ignorance on Microsoft's part. Changing things and designs for no practical or advantageous reason does nothing but frustrate people and send them running to the competition. The same can be said for newer version of Office. 2013 has more issues than resolutions and the design changes made make absolutely no sense much like the interface change of Windows as a whole. There is no advantage to their new design. And if you think it is beneficial to have multiple apps running automatically and also having to create a Microsoft account to take advantage of half of the garbage eating up bandwidth and processing, I say you are missing the boat too. I can't see how any of that makes you more productive.

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  21. MissA 4 years ago

    I have recently downloaded Windows 10 and wish to switch start up menu back to windows 8. However, when I attempt to follow your directions, my computer doesn't show a "start menu" tab under "taskbar and start menu properties." (There is only "Taskbar," "Navigation," and "Toolbars" as an option.) Why is this and what can I do?

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  22. Larry 4 years ago

    I have the same issue. No Start Menu Tab.

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  23. LadyElle2011 4 years ago

    Well, I hope you can help me. I am not an IT I am a user. I learn programs as I need to carry on my business. Therefore, when Windows keeps changing things like start menus etc., it gets really frustrating when one depends on one's system to make a living and one is spending more time looking and poking around than working. I am totally with either the start menu at this point. The old windows & list of programs from which to select is not there nor are the tiles which windows 8 and 10 had. The most recent upgrade in January left me with only the desktop with my icons but it removed the microsoft office icons I had in the task bar. I cannot locate the "settings" tab without searching for it and, when I finally find it - because I want to change to a start menu or tile or something that allows me to choose my program -- there is nothing in the taskbar/start menu to facilitate it. In order to open Word or Excel, I have to select an existing document, open it, hit the File tab and select New in order to create a new document. Tell me how this is any way an improvement over anything? I wanted to ask Microsoft Office support and I couldn't log in -- they said they were having trouble and I should try again later. This is absolutely the most frustrating situation!! I spend more time trying to find a way to open my programs than creating a document. I am a bookkeeper and find it difficult to bill out my time fairly because I am chasing around my system looking for a way to open a program. Any help to resolve this would be so much appreciated especially as I am feeling totally abandoned by Microsoft! Thank you for allowing me to rant and please, can someone point me in the right direction to a resolution, please? Thank you.

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  24. Nat 4 years ago

    Dear Mr. Pietroforte
    There isn't a START MENU TAB on all my window devices
    I checked another website first but it didn't say anything
    This was a problem for ALOT of people
    Please help
    I like the window tiles menu screen
    And obvious other people have the same problem
    Thanks!
    -Nat

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