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Make Your Own Windows 8 Start Button with Zero Memory Usage

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After using Windows 8 for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that removing the Start button from the Taskbar was a huge mistake. Here’s how to make your own “Start” button that brings up the Metro Start screen—but doesn’t waste any memory at all.

What we’ll be doing is pretty simple—create a script that simulates pressing the Windows key button, make it into an executable, assign an icon, and pin it to the taskbar so that it sorta looks like the Start button, and works the same way. Since nothing is running, no RAM is wasted.

Creating Your Own Windows 8 Start Button

You’ll need to start by downloading and installing AutoHotkey, and then creating a new script with the New –> Autohotkey Script item on the context menu. Once you’ve done that, paste in the following code:

Send, {LWin down}{LWin up}

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Save the script, and then right-click and choose the Compile Script option, which will create an executable file.

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Right-click on the .exe and choose Create Shortcut, and then open up the Shortcut properties screen.

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In here you’ll want to browse for the imageres.dll file, which has a lot of pretty icons in it. Here’s the path, which obviously will need to be adjusted if you installed Windows somewhere else.

C:\Windows\System32\imageres.dll

There’s a Windows flag icon in there, as well as some other icons… and of course, you could use any icon file here if you wanted, including one that you’ve downloaded from somewhere.

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Now you’ll want to use the Pin to Taskbar option on the context menu–you’ll probably need to drag it into the right position.

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You’ll notice that I choose the Metro-style Window icon, which actually looks pretty cool… but again, you can use any icon you want.

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That’s all there is to it—press the button, the Metro Start screen will come up. Zero memory usage, since nothing is running in the background. In fact, you should be able to uninstall AutoHotkey at this point if you want.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/16/12

Comments (34)

  1. juergen Hartl

    What is wrong with pressing the windows key?

  2. BlackHoleSun

    There’s something inherently wrong with Windows 8 if there is guide after guide describing how to get the Start Menu “back.” It should have never been removed in the first place.

  3. Eduardo Ruiz

    @juergen Some people (my future mother-in-law comes to mind) have zero idea on how to use keyboard shortcuts. This simple trick could be used on their future computers, so that there’s a button they can click to get to the start screen without any confusion.

    @BlackHoleSun I agree. Windows 8 seems rather PC-unfriendly. It’s not obvious at all that the start “button” is the corner of the screen. Microsoft should put it pack it for PC users (basically, if they detect a mouse, the button appears, if not, assume it’s a tablet, or perhaps have an option in the settings).

    That said, this is a pretty neat simple hack.

  4. TheGenitor

    Hi, you can give me wallpaper, please?

  5. Ciprian

    Had a few laughs with the Geek today. It seems we both approached this subject. I wrote a slightly different workaround which involves using an pre-made .exe file to use as a “Show Start” shortcut on the desktop.
    Those who are interested can find it here: http://www.7tutorials.com/download-shortcut-windows-8-start-screen-desktop

  6. Semantics

    If someone is to dumb to use the Windows key they shouldn’t be allowed to use a pc anyway.

  7. Bob

    Now why didn’t I think of that first! Despite the multiple ways of getting to the start screen (windows key, hot corner, flicking the right side of the screen and touching the start icon), I still haven’t broken the habit of searching for that start button.

    Running Windows 8 on my HP TouchSmart, and so far, loving it. Not sure how great the metro thing is on an “old fashioned” keyboard and mouse computer.

  8. Aaron

    I personally use my laptop with it sitting on the coffee table and me sitting on the couch using my mouse. I sit up anytime I have to use the keyboard (which is not very often). So, it is very inconvenient to have to use the Win key.

  9. Pathologist

    great……

  10. yahyazahedi

    hi,please help me
    i can not create New –> Autohotkey Script
    how do i create this file ?

  11. jon_hill987

    @Semantics: My hand is already on my mouse, my other hand is holding my cup of tea. You expect me to take my hand off my mouse, reach across to my keyboard and press the windows key? Or Worse, put down my Tea?

  12. John IEZZI

    It could be really cool and useful if a “start fom the scratch” menu botton could be linked to the Windows 7 old start menu (C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs) passing by the awful Metro Start Screen (eg: I use a laptop with 7/8 dual boot, have no touch-screen and I’m not running to buy a brand-new touch screen tablet just to use Windows 8).
    I suppose that MicroSoft should be more realistic if they wanna really sell their forthcoming OS to a broad range of users, otherwise, those who dont and wont have a touch-screen / tablet PC will stuck on 7 or Linux.

  13. paul d

    sory for stupidity but what s the script? the Send, {LWin down}{LWin up} or the stuff in the Notepad window, which I cannot fully read anyhow. Or maybe th Send part is appended to a Notepad Windows area I don’t know about??

    I admit to ignorance and stupidity.

  14. yahyazahedi

    Tnx
    i can to solve the problem , i think it is not good , because 8 is good because it dose not any start menu

  15. Baggins

    This is a cool tip. I personally prefer to just retrain myself to move the mouse the extra few pixels to the bottom-left corner and click, but I know how hard modifying muscle memory can be for a lot of people.

    I wonder if there is any way to script this using PowerShell rather than requiring a third-party utility like AutoHotKey.

  16. simon

    Microsoft have already said its aimed at tablets.they must think enough people will have tablets after win8 comes out to go down this route.I get the impression if u dont have a tablet stick with win7 which would be a shame as the new windows runs noticably better.they should have an option to have start menu instead of metro.if not poss,they should do a start menu version.thanx for start tip.

  17. Richard

    You don’t need AutoHotKey for this!

    The following script does the same thing:

    Dim WshShell
    Set WshShell = WScript.CreateObject(“WScript.Shell”)
    WshShell.SendKeys “^{ESC}”
    Set WshShell = Nothing

    Save it as “start.vbs”, create a shortcut to it and then edit the “Target” to start with “wscript.exe ” (minus the quotes and including the trailing space).

    All you now need to do is change the icon and then pin the shortcut onto your Task Bar (as per the instructions in the article).

  18. Anonymous

    I think your guys need to “start” these articles by explaining what Windows 8 version you are using. You seem to forget that there are now TWO different Windows 8 versions. Windows 8 Developer Preview still has a start button of sorts (assuming you didn’t “update” it out of existence) and Windows 8 Consumer Preview which was recently made available at the end of February 2012 has no start button at all.

    Since this article is about re-establishing a start button of sorts it’s probably safe to assume that the more recent Windows 8 Consumer Preview version is what is being used.

    I think it’s necessary to clarify the different Windows 8 versions since some people may still be using the older Developer edition.

  19. Ozz

    For those who are unfamiliar with scripts, you might be interested in checking out these two links:

    http://www.groovypost.com/howto/windows-8-start-menu-back-stardock/
    http://www.stardock.com/products/start8/

    The first link explains how to get the Start Menu back and the second link is where you can get the program from.

  20. Qrazydutch

    Well got to run w8CPE on a video card Vista stated was outdated …hats off.. The rest …. Still learning and burning… Crashed 2x so far …. Cool..

  21. AllanSC

    The START key is not obvious to many, many people.

    In the bad old days, lovers of command line Windows (and DOS) called lovers any GUI the “Point and Grunt” brigade.

    Many, many folks just do not understand things like START buttons – which are really only Command line options in disguise – a convenience to save having to recall the necessary comand line keystrokes. This article demonstrtes this point.

    In our neck of the woods, we get lots of folks that do not know how to click the SUBMIT button to send a form in. Yes, we tried a lot other versions as well.

    Microsoft really has no choice but to dumb down (no offence intended).

    What isn’t often appreciated is that 10% of the population cannot read and write. Another 10% can barely read & write, let alone read well enough to follow instructions such as the one on this page.

    Then there are folks for whom English is very foreign and only marginally understood.

    Many of these folk have brilliant minds and excellent memories. becausethey have to disguise other disabilities such as lack of reading and writing skills.

    That is huge market pool for an organisation that has global reach. And a large market share that would be lost.
    ——oOo—-

    I just wish Microsoft would go the route they have used elsewhere: A standard or sophisticated approach, and the compatible with everyone approach. Their anthropologists should have told them this.

    I’ve used PCs since 1983 and consider myself knowledgeable. Even so I remember the extreme frustration at the loss of many functions when they were buried in the Microsoft Management Console which was could only to be run as MMC from Run.

    A nice little earner for folks like and me.

  22. clamo

    1st off there is NO start menu in windows 8!! all this does is the same thing as dragging the mouse to the left bottom corner and clicking back to the start page. and no ram is used doing this ether.

    2nd: most computer users will not be able to do this. *I know some ppl that even with simple instructions wouldn’t be able to do this*

    3rd: for those of you who are not aware of this, micro sh** removed the start button because the new CEO ran a pol to see who used the start button and most people said that they didn’t. hence they decided to remove it and the start menu as well.

    4th: so blame MS and the people that asked for it to be removed.

    5th: stupid is as stupid does. *and I am see’n more of this lately*

  23. Ozzie

    Go to this link because the work has been done for you: http://www.7tutorials.com/download-shortcut-windows-8-start-screen-desktop

  24. jcfdc

    I used a very old tip to create a “Start Menu” – a new toolbar using the folder “C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs”. To make this “menu” complete, there are some shortcuts (including Notepad) that must be copied manually from the user start menu folder – “C:\Users\Jim\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs”. The taskbar needs to be unlocked, and the toolbar made just big enough to see the word “Programs” and the little chevron symbol. Clicking the chevron will show the menu.

  25. Camper

    I’m staying with Windows 7 until Microsoft understands that consumers drive the market, not business.

  26. George James Weirdo

    I’m staying with widows 7, then maybe switching to linux if i can get dreamweaver to work in wine, or hackintoshing my pc.

  27. Isaac

    I need this. I run a dual monitor setup with a touchscreen that is at my couch and my other screen being my tv across the room. Windows never even considered that combination, it seems. Since the bar with the start button always defaults to the TV where, obviously, it is not possible to touch. Also, if I wanted to use a keyboard (and the Windows button) I wouldn’t have bought a touchscreen in the first place. It really seems they didn’t think this through at all.

  28. Adam

    What’s wrong with the Windows Key???? Here is what’s wrong: You go directly to Metro app, that sh…ty, stupid look for children and the challenged.

  29. Ian

    I’ve given the preview as spin and have come to the conclusion that I will not be shelling out my hard earned cash for the pleasure of re-learning how to use my own computer, nor replacing my relatively new hardware with a touchscreen rig anytime soon.

    Linux is free: I’ll be saving my cash and learning to use that instead.

    (And from the Server 2008 preview it looks like M$ is trying for a linux clone anyway IMO. From a server admin point of view, about time too !)

  30. AlanWade

    @ jon_hill987

    It could be worse jon, you could have a beer in one hand. Now that I wont let go of…..

  31. Jessy

    Might want to check mywindows8themes.com for windows 8 themes. Good site and nice collection

  32. truthmonger

    Windows 8 plays right into Google and Apple’s hands. I guess it was inevitable..Microsoft has always been a monkey-see kind of company that reacts when it should be innovating. At one time they could simply use their money and influence to crush anyone who threatened their monopoly, but their no longer the biggest player on the block – and the competition knows this. Ballmer is too thick to see that he’s been fed a continuous series of red herring designs to eagerly copy and sell. About the time it starts to dawn on him is when Google will ship a very familiar and yet fresh-looking desktop OS – with full support for most Windows programs and pretty much every Android app. Plus, it will probably retail for less than half of what Windows goes for. Microsoft becomes an also-ran overnight.

  33. Jacob Lamberson

    I have an even better idea! Why don’t we all just switch to a flavor of linux, such as ubuntu. That would solve all these problems.

  34. Doc

    “Since nothing is running, no RAM is wasted.”

    “You’ll need to start by downloading and installing AutoHotkey,”

    You just contradicted yourself there! You can’t assume that everyone will want to install AHK…and it *does* have to run in the background.

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