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How to Add Items to the New Win+X Menu in Windows 8

00_lead_image_winx_menu_with_apps

A lot of us are lamenting the removal of the Start button and menu in Windows 8 Consumer Preview. However, a hidden context menu, or what is known as the Win+X menu, has been added.

The Win+X menu provides access to useful system tools including the Task Manager, Control Panel, Search, Programs and Features, System Settings, Run, Device Manager, among others. To access the Win+X menu, move your mouse to the extreme lower, left corner of your screen, where the Start button used to be, and right-click.

There are ways of renaming, removing, and moving entries on the Win+X menu, but we have not been able to add entries to the menu, until recently. Rafael Rivera has created a tool that is available on his Within Windows site, that allows you to create “approved shortcuts” that you can add to the folder containing shortcuts for the Win+X menu.

We will show you how to use Rafael’s hashlnk tool to create approved shortcuts you can add to the Win+X menu. To begin, if you are on the Metro screen, click the Desktop tile.

01_clicking_desktop_on_metro_screen

For this example, we are going to add Notepad to the Win+X menu. You can add a shortcut for any program to the menu. To do so, you can either create a shortcut from scratch from the .exe file for the program, or you can copy an existing shortcut from the desktop.

NOTE: The hashlnk tool changes the .lnk shortcut file. Therefore, we recommend you do not run the tool on your desktop shortcuts or other shortcuts. Run the tool on copies of existing shortcuts. It would also be easier if the shortcuts you want to change are in the same folder as the hashlnk tool.

Open Windows Explorer from the icon on the Taskbar.

02_opening_windows_explorer

Navigate to the Windows folder, or the directory containing the program you want to add to the menu, find the .exe file, right-click on it and select Create shortcut from the popup menu.

03_creating_a_shortcut

You may see the following dialog box if you don’t have permission to edit the current folder. It doesn’t matter where the shortcut is placed, so click Yes to place it on the desktop. Then, to make it easier to use the hashlnk tool, copy or more the shortcut from the desktop to the folder containing the hashlnk.exe file.

04_create_shortcut_on_desktop

The hashlnk tool needs to be run from the command line. In Windows Explorer, press Shift and right-click on the folder containing the hashlnk.exe file. Select the Open command window here option to open a command window in which the command prompt will be set to the current folder.

NOTE: To add the Open command window here option permanently to the context menu (so you don’t have to press Shift to access it), see our article Make “Command Prompt Here” Always Display for Folders in Windows Vista – How-To Geek.

05_open_command_window_here

Type the following command at the prompt (replacing “Notepad.lnk” with the name of the the shortcut file you chose to use). Even if you don’t see the .lnk extension on your shortcut file, be sure to add it to the command.

hashlnk Notepad.lnk

NOTE: The “l” in “lnk” is an “L”, but lowercase.

There should be a message stating that the hash has been generated and applied. If you have other shortcuts you want to prepare for the menu, enter the command again with the name of another shortcut file. Type exit and press Enter when you are finished.

06_entering_hashlnk_command

Copy the shortcut file(s).

07_copying_shortcut

Go to the following directory in Windows Explorer.

%LocalAppData%Microsoft\Windows\WinX

The Win+X menu is split into three groups, by default, with separators between the groups. We are going to put our new shortcut in its own group, into which we can add other shortcuts. To do this, click New folder on the Home tab in Explorer.

08_clicking_new_folder

Rename the new folder to Group4, as shown in the image below.

09_renaming_folder

Paste your shortcut file(s) into the new folder.

10_shortcut_pasted

The changes do not take place right away. You must restart Windows Explorer to see any shortcuts you added to the Win+X menu. To do this, start Task Manager, either from the Win+X menu or from the Taskbar.

11_opening_task_manager

To see the Windows Explorer process, click More details at the bottom of the Task Manager window.

12_clicking_more_details

If you currently have at least one Windows Explorer window open, the Windows Explorer process displays in the Apps section. If not, the Windows Explorer process displays in the Windows processes section. Select the Windows Explorer process and click Restart.

13_restarting_windows_explorer

Select Exit from the File menu to close the Task Manager.

14_closing_task_manager

Your custom shortcuts display on the Win+X menu.

15_notepad_added_to_winx_menu

You can also rearrange the order of the groups. If you want your shortcuts at the bottom of the menu, as shown in the first image at the beginning of this article, put your shortcuts in Group1 and rename the other groups to follow.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 05/7/12

Comments (12)

  1. BenRitter

    This seems outrageously unnecessary for what should be a simple matter of customization. As excited as I am for Windows 8, I’m growing more worried by the day over it UX design.

  2. UltimatePSV

    What worries me is that MS is removing the level of geeky customization that I loved that separates it from something like Mac OS.

  3. William Knight

    Just so damn complicated as everything with windows8 seems to be

  4. Tony Martin

    If Windows 8 is such a problem don’t purchase it. We did the same thing with Vista and forced Micro$oft to take notice of the end user. Hit them where it hurts in the pocket. I for one will not be purchasing Windows 8. I have spent many wasted hours giving the operating system a try but there is too much broken for a power user. I’ll stick to 7. I am also going to cancel my Technet account. I am not supporting them or their Windows 8. The removal of Media Center is another crazy decision. No doubt all the Windows 7 downgrade sales Micro$oft will count as 8 and claim it is a runaway success when the truth is a flop.

  5. thegeekkid

    @Tony Martin,
    I totally agree with you. I just wish I could also say that I will not support it, but since I am currently an IT student, I will have to support it. :'(

  6. Fantasm

    “The removal of Media Center is another crazy decision.”

    Yep… It’s one of the things I love best about Windows 7… Media Center with the addition of Media Browser makes it a really great home theater system…

    Windows 8 will be memorable by the number of jokes it spawns…

  7. hb860

    I use more friendly way to add items in Win+X menu
    Its Win+X Medu editor http://winaero.com/comment.php?comment.news.30

  8. Mike

    It appears that your tabbed windows have different colored tabs. Is this true and if it is what application do you use to make this happen?

  9. Easy delete

    Funny… I was reading HTG, using Chome browser on XP, and wondered what Win+X might do for me.
    I soon found out. My reading was abruptly terminated and I found myself looking at the main email selection screen with my HTG email nicely highlighted and with an X in the button box. Ready for deletion??? Haa. No, of course not…I love my HTG.

  10. beergas

    Oh man, forget this! Geez Louise… Enough with these complex, extra steps, fix-it, time consumers. They better have this thing straight or Windows 7 Ultimate is gonna stay with me the way XP does/did for so many. Thanks for tip but too much else on plate.

  11. Grizzle

    Why make menus when word searching suffices? Only used 8 for a couple of days myself but got used to the win 7 search bar which was a hell of a feature

  12. Randy

    Did anyone try this? Does it actually work? I keep getting the following:
    C:\Users\johnsmith\Downloads\HashlnkTool>hashlnk notepad.lnk

    HashLnk v0.1
    Copyright(c) 2012 Rafael Rivera
    Within Windows – http://withinwindows.com

    Failed to create shell item from specified .lnk.

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