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How to Live Without the Start Button in Windows 8

The Windows 8 desktop looks just like Windows 7, with one exception — no Start button. Losing the Start button isn’t the end of the world — Windows 8 exposes all the familiar options in different ways.

The Metro-style Start screen is your new Start menu. The Start screen has absorbed many of the features of the old Start menu, so it’s useful even if you never want to use a Metro-style app.

Entering the Start Screen

Windows 8 uses “hot corners.” Move your mouse cursor to the bottom-left corner of the screen and you’ll see a preview of your Metro-style Start screen.

Click at the bottom-left corner to access the Start screen. You may be tempting to move your cursor away from the corner and click on the preview image — don’t do that; you have to click on the very corner. Move your cursor away and it may vanish.

One catch is that the hot corner doesn’t move with your taskbar. You’ll always use the bottom-left corner to access the Start screen, even if the taskbar is at the top of your screen.

You can also access the Start screen with a keyboard shortcut — just press the Windows key. We also have a list of new Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts.

The Power User Menu

Right-click the hot corner and you’ll see a menu with various administrative options. You can quickly access the Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Task Manager, Device Manager, Run dialog, and other administrative screens.

Searching for Apps

One of the most efficient ways to launch apps in Windows 7 is by pressing the Windows key, typing the start of the app’s name and pressing Enter. It’s not obvious that you can still do this in Windows 8, but you can. Press the Windows key to enter the Start screen and start typing. When you type at the Start screen, Windows 8 will search your installed apps, just like Windows 7’s Start menu does.

Displaying All Apps

From the Start screen, you can see a full list of your installed apps — just like the “All Programs” option in the traditional Start menu. Right-click on the Start screen to bring up the menu, then click “All Apps” at the bottom of the screen.

You’ll see a full list of applications — both Metro applications and normal Windows applications that would appear in your Start menu. Scroll from the left to right using the scroll wheel on your mouse or the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen to view all available apps.

Pinning Apps to the Start Screen

Right-click an app here and you can select “Pin to Start.” This is equivalent to pinning an app to the classic Start menu.

Apps that you’ve pinned will appear on your Start screen as tiles, even if they’re not Metro-style apps.

Drag and drop tiles to move them around. If you want to remove an app, you can right-click it and select “Unpin from Start.” If you liked, you could remove all Metro-style apps from the Start screen and leave only shortcuts to Windows desktop applictions.

Pinning Apps to the Taskbar

You can still pin apps to the taskbar, just like in Windows 7. From the Start screen, right-click an app and select “Pin to Taskbar.”

Pin the apps you frequently use to your taskbar and you’ll rarely have to leave the desktop to launch the applications you use. Many Windows 7 users rarely had to use the Start menu, once they pinned enough apps to their taskbar.

You can still pin an app to the taskbar from the desktop by right-clicking its icon when it’s running and selecting the old pin option.


We’ve also covered how to shut down on Windows 8.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 03/8/12

Comments (20)

  1. Thuto

    Thanks for the hidden menu, would have never guessed that.

  2. RonV42

    Finally some coverage of the usage of the start screen and how it replaces the start menu. Now that I have been using the consumer preview for some time now it’s just become a natural interaction to work with the start page. Thanks for this….

  3. RonV42

    Thuto, that’s the “power user” menu. It was added after feedback in the developer preview….glad they added it….

  4. devSubZeroX

    Lol, I found out about the hidden menu by accident, I was just clicking the mouse everywhere.

  5. Randolph McGhee

    Metro is a real treat … on a windows phone. It would probably be pretty nice on a tablet device. On my desktop, it’s horrible … I’m not resistant to change, I’m just resistant to change that locks me into using _butt ugly_ full screen programs. I’m not terribly worried though, if this is the future of the Windows UI then so be it … I’ll just stick to Windows 7 for a while and then migrate to an XFCE based distro like Xubuntu.

  6. Randolph McGhee

    I’ve been playing with the OS a bit more and that menu makes a pretty big difference. Power user menu == makes it somewhat useable menu. In all fairness though for really simple consumer level use the Metro UI seems OK but if that’s all you need a computer for then buy some sort of tablet and don’t even bother with a desktop machine. If you have more complex needs then buy a Mac or use some kind of Linux … or stick with Windows 7 of course.

  7. Amblyomma

    I was considering grabbing the preview of this, but after seeing how it actually works, I’ll probably be one of the people avoiding the change as long as possible. My desktop is not a touchscreen device and I don’t want or need to interact with it the same way, which is what this appears to be attempting to do.

    My other gut level response was that this may be the change that forces me to migrate all of my family “tech clients” to linux. It would take decades to acclimate most of then this big of a UI change (this is not an exageration).

  8. Rattlehead

    This seriously isn’t that big of a deal, we all had to learn some sort of Windows the first time we ever used it and have been doing it again with most new release.

  9. Cory

    My biggest issue is that the changes are so large and require more user intuition to work with to get used to – at least with a mouse or trackpad.

    I showed my friend who is literate enough on computers to do most things, but nothing advanced or troubleshooting related. He had no clue what to do. The main boot image has not handle or grip indicator to show you should slide it up to reveal the logon screen.

    So I had to show him that. Then he got logged in, after asking “Why would I need a hotmail.com account to use my computer?”, then the Start screen boggled him. It was like too many choices all at once and he had a hard time focusing down easily to find stand-out tiles, such as his calendar, or new email. He overcame that pretty fast though. He had no idea you could ad tiles. No idea that the tiles were really “metro” apps and what the difference would be between that and a desktop app.

    And then it happened, he clicked on “Windows Explorer” and it dropped to the desktop for the first time and he thought he broke something or it crashed. “What did I do?” Fortunately since he’s used to Windows he instantly felt at home and move the mouse to the lower left and then shock #2 hit – “Where’s the start button? How do I re-open whatever that tile thing was?”

    I could go on about how it was impossible for him to understand he could grab and app and float it on the 2/3rds view for a 2 app view or why you’d even want that. But the root of this is that it’s a LOT of change (good, bad or otherwise) and it will hurt adoption rate big time. Many user’s will feel lost and alienated and dumb and give up. And they can ship all the manuals and quick guides they want, no one will ever read them to find out all the neat tips.

    I still really think Windows 8 should go Metro on tablets and have the choice at first boot for laptops and classic desktop for desktop machines (with the start button) and the option to open and close the Metro interface.

    I love that Microsoft is unifying its UI concepts, but they totally miss the mark when you have to drop out of the Metro stuff to dig into a deeper setting and that UI looks like Windows 7. And dont even get me started on the Ribbon. I actually like it for the most part and VERY glad they auto-hide it by fault but wow can get it be confusing for people, specially when the extra tabs show up in the title bar for different things.

    Microsoft has a VERY hard hill to climb with this OS and this is one will be the stepping stone to Windows 9 where you’ll see the tighter integration, etc and Windows 8 will be the new “Vista, ME”.

  10. William Knight

    Ok, this is off the subject, but has anybody tried to get rid of windows 8 after loading it, I have been trying all afternoon, will not allow me to load any operating system, they all start to load and either blue screen or don’t load all the files, formatted the drive stll won’t allow loading new os, but loads windows 8 with no problem

  11. Martin N

    Maybe windows 8 will be like a Vista and we will have to wait for Windows 9 for them to fix things just like Windows 7 did?

  12. Gus O. Davis

    W8CP does it all. What’s the diff? W8, W7, Vista Ultimate. All marketing games to get you parted wih a few hundred bucks. I’ll run my business with or without Microsoft. Love it or leave it, I do both baby. With Gusto. For the moment W8CP is a good laugh and very entertaining. It runs perfectly on my highly upgraded from stock Dell desktop.

  13. Chris Hoffman

    @RonV42

    Thanks for telling me what it’s called! I updated the article.

  14. kenedy123

    Good to know about the How to Live Without the Start Button in Windows 8

  15. SuAlfons

    Thanks for showing the Power User menu!

    After having worked with it for a day, my urge to install a start menu replacement settled! (Who would have thought that – I disliked it FTW)

  16. big moe

    Tbanx a lot for the artical.
    Now, what would MS have done to make this successful?
    Nokia and other phone manufacturers had what is cold a “start guide” or a “how to” highlight pop up menue that is triggered when one first used the devise. W8 should really include that in their final commercial release to show the first time consumer the tips and tricks of their UI.
    While waiting for their wp8, which I am sure that other partners will release their own how-to programs (nokia and htc will most probably will have to), windows dev team should consider unifiying the “how to” plug ins.
    Regarding my w8cp experience, new tricks and hidden stuff give me a bit of a rush. Screwing with things till they fail is the whole reason we got to TRY before we buy. That’s why it is called a consumer preview.
    but for people who feel that it was a mistake. One word, two ways…..virtual mechine.
    Useing w8cp in a virtual mechine is a no brainer. Since it is safe and reliable. And I think that virtualization should be the first choice for any power user.
    But for people who got stuck with a windows 8 on a desktop or a laptop. Why not try to really give microsoft a good run for their money by running w8cp as a main platform and running windows 7 as a virtual?
    Be aware that this could be a painful experience. Since windows 7, albiet being light wait and RAM friendly, is still a full fledged power hungry platform. But hey, if mac users can do parallel with win 7 and brag about it, I guess we can put microsoft up for a real challange.
    I am liking the w8 experience. Since I ran it on an old Atom touch & keyboard netbook.
    My only beef is with the background of the Metro interface. Solid colors are a pain to look at. Nothing wrong with copying apple, microsoft. Big nice icons and a nice shiny background goes along way. Ask any ipad or an iphone user. Just don’t bring up Android’s live wallpaper and live gadgets to apple or microsoft users. Lol
    Last word is, I am definitely moving to w8 for good. And ditching desktops to a touch and keyboard device with very high specs. And getting a windows 8 phone too. But ubuntu will be running virtual all the time. Maybe even the famed jellybean too. And keeping my Android phones too. Coz change doesn’t mean letting go of what is REALLY working.

  17. LoverBoy

    It is very easy to get start button back in windows 8 , found info on http://justnc.wordpress.com

  18. martin

    Thanks for giving the more information about How to Live Without the Start Button in Windows 8

  19. Ian

    Cannot find the off switch? Grab a desktop gadget from Microsoft ! install and enjoy the three options.
    I had the developers preview installed, treated the metro page as a giant search box and moved the applications around and added my own. after that all made more sense!
    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/windows/downloads/personalize/gadgets

  20. oldtimer

    All we ever need is the ability of XP and the interface of Windows 95. Flush every thing else.

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