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How to Boot to the Desktop & Skip Metro in Windows 8

Windows 8 always shows the Metro-style Start screen when you log in. You don’t have to click the Desktop tile every time you log in, you can boot straight to the desktop with this quick trick.

Update: If you’re using Windows 8.1 this is much easier.

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This is especially useful if you’re using a third-party Start menu like ViStart or Start8, but it’s also useful if you just use the desktop most of the time. You can also quickly get to the desktop from Metro with the Windows Key + D keyboard shortcut.

Creating the Shortcut

First, fire up Notepad — you can do that by pressing the Windows key from the desktop to access Metro, typing Notepad at the Start screen and pressing Enter. Once you have, paste the following text into a new file:

[Shell]
Command=2
IconFile=Explorer.exe,3

[Taskbar]
Command=ToggleDesktop

Save the file with the .scf file extension — name it something like ShowDesktop.scf.

You may remember the ”Show Desktop” button found in the Quick Launch area on Windows XP — this is the exact same shortcut.

Using the Task Scheduler

You can set the shortcut to automatically run when you log in with the Task Scheduler. Launch the Task Scheduler by pressing the Windows key again, typing Schedule, clicking the Settings category and selecting the “Schedule tasks” application. You can also find it under Administrative Tools in the Control Panel.

Click the “Task Scheduler Library” folder at the left side of the Task Scheduler window once it appears.

Right-click in the main pane and select “Create New Task.”

On the General tab, name the task something like “Show Desktop.”

Click over to the Triggers tab and use the New button to set a new trigger. In the New Trigger window, set the task to begin “At log on” and click OK.

Click over to the Actions tab and create a new action. Set the action to “Start a program,” use the Browse button to select the shortcut you created, and click OK.

Click over to the Conditions tab and uncheck the “Start the task only if the computer is on AC power” check box under Power. If you don’t do this, your laptop won’t boot to the desktop if it’s running on battery power.

Click OK and you’re done. You’ll start at the desktop every time you log in, but the Start screen will still be a click away.


This method isn’t perfect — you will see Metro for a moment when you log in. It also causes a Windows Explorer window to appear on your desktop at every login.

Leave a comment and let us know if you find a better method!

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 03/13/12

Comments (25)

  1. me?

    Good!!!

  2. Max

    Great Geek tip. I can imagine this sort of thing will become quite popular if Windows 8 stays on the same course.

  3. EchoGecko

    good?? It should not require 9 steps to change something this simple, windows how you have failed me.

  4. madvent

    Great tweak thanks.
    But like EchoGecko sayed : it’s a shame …

  5. Bill GHates

    FAILITY FAIL FAIL. Wow, Windows 8 really sucks doesn’t it. I’m glad I left when I did. It’s all downhill from here folks.

  6. Axel

    I like how people complain about beta products not being perfect.

  7. big moe

    Power users and geeks of the world. There is a feedback button for everything in the w8cp and the w8dev. Send it in so that your voices could be heard.
    The metro ui is perfect for touch, I won’t go back to the old desktop look simply because it looks and feels like I was blessed with an android interface experience but running windows.
    Another thing, just clicking the windows button takes the user back to the desktop.
    We wouldn’t be geeks if we couldn’t screw with things and wile trying out trial versions, now would we?

  8. RICH

    UNLESS THEY MAKE SOME BIG CHANGES THEY WILL HAVE ANOTHER VISA ON THERE HANDS. ILL STICK WITH 7

  9. beergas

    Have that desktop shortcut w/ Hotkeyboard assigned to a key, neat in Win 7 since began.

    “In the New Trigger window, set the task to begin “At log on” and click OK.”

    I wonder if choosing “At startup” results in a Win Explorer window each time? That could be a drag to have to close. Maybe if opened an IE homepage instead. Nice tip tho for going backasswards.

  10. AB

    oh for crying out loud! just embrace something NEW!!! WIndows has looked the same for almost 20 years!!!

  11. Mike

    I partitioned a laptop and downloaded W8, I have a dual boot of win 7 & 8 now. I was reading this article and it says to hit the windows key and typing in notepad. I booted into windows 8 when I hit the windows key it goes to the desktop, hit windows key again and it goes to metro or start menu. Any ideas what I doing wrong?

  12. Randolph McGhee

    Aren’t online bloggers supposed to give attribution? This is a virtual copy of an article from laptopmag dot com (by Avram Piltch) from a few days ago. Anyway, the fact that there is so much interest should send Microsoft a message that they’re going to alienate a significant portion of their market if they don’t allow an easy switch to a “classic” desktop environment. There’s always Xubuntu.

  13. Szűcs János

    It’s ridiculous! I will use Windows 8 only then if it will have a control panel option, a checkbox with a text: “Disable Metro, use desktop with Start menu”. Then I will put a great X on it, and forget that whole Metro nonsense.

    The other way I will write an OS, a Linux kernel with a framebuffer GUI, it will weight 100 MBytes, it will startup in 5 seconds, it won’t have a registry, even no users just simple multitasking for one user. Then I will laught at each and every Windows 8 users and at each and every Ubuntu or Fedora or any other users.

    The world should not be so complicated, man!

  14. Chris Hoffman

    @beergas

    That’ll try to run the code when you’re not logged in, so it won’t do anything.

    @Mark

    Start typing in Metro to search for apps. Pressing the winkey from the desktop brings up Metro and typing at Metro searches for apps.

    @Randolph McGhee

    And that article contained tips on using third-party Start menus, creating custom taskbar toolbars, pinning shortcuts to the taskbar, and using keyboard shortcuts — all of which we’d already written about. Lots of people had already written about such things.

    The actual trick here is pretty simple — the code is a “copy” of the code in his article, but he “copied” that code from Microsoft. As I noted, it’s the same code from the Show Desktop button, which can be found on Microsoft’s website.

  15. martin

    Thanks for giving more information about the How to Boot to the Desktop & Skip Metro in Windows 8.

  16. Graham Varney

    You just need to press the ‘Windows’ key to toggle Metro or desktop.

    I just pressed the windows key and got Metro. Pressed it again and came back to this post.

  17. Ian

    I am confused – On my computer Windows 8 shows the start page for a very short time and goes straight to the desktop. It has done this since I installed the Preview and I changed no settings. It starts far qucker than Windows 7 ever did even though I did an upgrade install instead of a clean one so all my old apps are stil there

  18. Chris Hoffman

    @Ian

    Maybe some sort of automatically-starting program is pulling you to the desktop. I’m not sure — It doesn’t normally do that.

  19. robert

    Good to know about the How to Boot to the Desktop & Skip Metro in Windows 8

  20. Ian

    @Chris Hoffan

    Perhaps it is because I installed it on a Asus NJ10 with a 1024*600 screen?

  21. Chris Hoffman

    @Ian

    Interesting — maybe it boots straight to the desktop on lower resolutions? I’ve never heard that, though.

  22. DW

    I followed the steps to no avail. Metro still shows up and when I go in and check my settings in Task Scheduler it is all correct. In the Task area the task I created via this tutorial says “incorrect function. (0×80070001). Also when it shows the login screen, it does not show all users, just the same one. Microsoft needs to send their programmers back to basic math… more clicks to do something is not less steps!

  23. Chris Hoffman

    @DW

    Hm, I’m stumped — did you create the .scf file first? I walked through everything here myself.

  24. grfsnrt

    They need to make 2 different versions of windows 8, one for desktop and the other for touchpads

  25. Chris Hoffman

    @grfsnrt

    I feel the same way. Or at least let users toggle between desktop and tablet modes without them bleeding into each other.

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