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How To Log Into The Desktop, Add a Start Menu, and Disable Hot Corners in Windows 8

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If you don’t have a touchscreen computer and spend all your time on the desktop, Windows 8’s new interface can seem intrusive. Microsoft won’t allow you to disable the new interface, but Classic Shell provides the options Microsoft didn’t.

In addition to providing a Start button, Classic Shell can take you straight to the desktop when you log in and disable the hot corners that activate the charms and metro app switcher.

There are other programs that do this, but Classic Shell is free and open-source. Many of the alternatives, such as Start8 and RetroUI, are commercial apps that cost money. We’ve covered Classic Shell in the past, but it’s come a long way since then.

Installation

You can download Classic Shell from Sourceforge. It isn’t just a Start menu – it also adds some other features that have been removed from Windows 8. The Classic Shell installer also includes Classic Explorer, which adds a toolbar to Windows Explorer, and Classic IE9, which adds a few features to Internet Explorer 9.

To avoid cluttering File Explorer and Internet Explorer, you can disable both of these options during the installation process.

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Start Button

After installing Classic Shell, you’ll see a Start button in the familiar place. Pressing the Windows key will activate the Classic Shell start menu, just as you’d expect.

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Classic Shell uses the Windows Classic layout – which imitates Windows 2000 and Windows 98 – by default. There are also Windows 7 and Windows XP styles you can choose.

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Whichever interface you’re using, the search box will search through your installed programs, so you can quickly launch programs by searching, just as you could on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Unlike the new Start screen, searching in Classic Shell will display applications and control panel applets in the same list – you don’t have to select another area to search if you’re looking for Control Panel settings.

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Disabling the Modern Interface

Classic Shell will automatically log you directly into your desktop and disable the bottom left Start screen hot corner when you install it. This still leaves the app switcher (which only works for Modern apps) in the top left corner and the charms bar at the right side of your screen. if you’d rather not see these while using our desktop, you can disable them from Classic Shell’s settings.

To tweak these settings, select the All Settings option at the bottom of the Classic Start Menu settings window and click the Windows 8 Settings tab. From here, you can tell Classic Shell to disable all active corners.

You can still access the charms bar and app switcher using Windows 8’s hotkeys, if you like. Press Winkey+C to access the charms and WinKey+Tab to access the switcher.

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Note that the “Skip Metro screen” option isn’t perfect – when you log in, there’s a slight delay while the Start screen Is still visible before Classic Shell opens your desktop. Microsoft went out of their way to make logging directly into the desktop hard.

However, if you lock your computer instead of logging out, you’ll see the desktop when you log in — so you’ll only have to see the Start screen for a second if you shut down or log out of your computer.

Customization

Classic Shell is a tweaker’s dream. It’s filled with options for controlling everything about the Start menu and Start button, including support for custom Start button images and skins.

For example, you can select a Metro-style skin on the Skins tab and a Metro-style Start button image on the Start Button tab to make Classic Shell feel more at home in Windows 8. The other tabs are packed with options for controlling every inch of your Start menu.

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To open the settings screen in the future, you can right-click the Classic Shell Start button and select the settings option.


There are quite a few good improvements in Windows 8: faster startup times, a much-improved file-copying experience, a great new task manager, and more. Classic Shell allows users that prefer the desktop to avoid a lot of the new interface formerly known as Metro, but still use 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 10/26/12

Comments (31)

  1. Areeb

    What is the point of disabling metro? if you don’t like it, Stick to Windows 7

  2. DC1

    I Agree with Areeb. Finally. Someone talking some sense.

  3. Flavius

    It’s not that simple. Apart from performance improvements, Windows 8 brings some useful new functionality to various areas such as Task Manager, Windows Explorer, copying and pasting files and so forth. So even if you one doesn’t like the Metro interface one still has some reasons to move to Windows 8 from Windows 7. In this case disabling the Metro interface makes sense.

  4. Tim S

    TBH I can’t see the problem with Metro (for the most part) having used the OS day in day out for four months. Really you spend 99.9% of your time on the desktop proper and only need the start screen briefly. The Metro apps appearing are pretty nice in places and I’d like to have the option to play around with them. I can’t say I’ve felt like i’ve “lost” anything at all on it and now 7 feels a bit.. dated.

  5. Dan

    it’ll never be the same :(

  6. kelltic

    BUT – will this app allow me to run applications in “Windows” or would I still be stuck with full screen apps only? It should have been named Windows 0.

  7. NSDCars5

    I got Classic Shell, and set it to launch the Start Screen. And that’s exactly how I like it.

  8. Darby

    Good idea, run right out & buy another os from microsoft because it’s new & improved haha. They’re still fixing huge holes in every os from xp & up, but this time they got it right? I bet in a year this os will be viewed as Windows ME 2.

  9. beergas

    MS did a big patch to Win 8 already followed quickly by a patch to that patch – initial patch was freezing during d/l for many users.
    Thanks for update to Classic Shell news. If/when go from 7 to 8 that’s first thing done.
    For now W 7 x64 Ultimate, SSD Sata III, new bios and 24″ monitor just so fine. Letting others do the unpaid beta work.
    Now Win 19 w/ cheap big flash drive on a ThoughtPad has the droll factor. Until then……

  10. clamo

    @Areeb and DC1: ya I agree stick with 7, till Micros*** forces you to switch. like what will happen next year to the users of XP.

    @every one: Microsoft has received SO MUCH negative feedback from this new OS that they decided to “for a limited time” sell it for WAY less then what they set the MSRP @.
    just like in the past, they are trying to force people in to doing what they want, and that means PAY for crap they don’t need. this OS was designed for tablet PC’s for a reason, they plan on making there own. in other words they are wanting to compete with APPLE. even tho you can get MAC OS for free LOL.

    this free app is a nice little program that I can see MS eventually suing them over for infringement and loosing just like what happen with Linux LOL.

    personally I would NEVER give any of my hard earned money to MS and if it were possible, to eliminate the problem all together and switch to Linux.

  11. nocrap

    Windows 8 ? I’ve tried it and after loading it on a 3rd drive in my system, it said it was checking the file systems. After it ran forever on two 500gb drives with windows 7 on them, it corrupted every file on them for some reason. When I tried to reboot my windows 7 drive it was screwed. Lucky for me I use Acronis Backup and Restore and I had an image on a usb drive from a few days earlier. My usb drives are not plugged in when I’m not doing a backup so they were not corrupted. I did try Windows 8 but I thought it was confusing just to get to THE SAME WINDOWS I USE IN WINDOWS 7. NO BIG DEAL TO ME AND I DON’T PLAN ON PURCHASING IT TODAY OR ANY OTHER DAY.

  12. Thedyolf

    Am I the only one who really likes the new interface from windows 8 and the metro screen? I think it’s a grea new feature in windows (although it’s not completely new because it’s quite similar to the phone version) And why installing this program which gives you back the features of windows 7 instead of just don’t installing windows 8?

  13. pbug56

    Microsloth has sworn to block Classic Windows and other tools that make Windoze 8 MUTRO reasonably usable. IF they don’t, I might eventually consider 8 with Classic Windows, though there really is very little reason for anyone with an IQ over 80 to go to 8, except maybe 2 year olds, cats, dogs and chimps who have a large touch screen available and who love to tap on the garish icons.

  14. Roger Bertrand

    Bravo. Give the CUSTOMER what he wants. It looks like big MS is going the way Big Blue in the 80′s. Just watch them fall and then they will apologize and be less arrogant. In the meantime UTILITY programs such as this one are perfect for those who will buy a Computer preloaded with WIN 8. One can disable these things that one will not use and voilà: MS defeated.

    I think that MS is seeing itself as the Guardians of the Faith in IRAN, sort of an Ayatollah Ballmer.

    Let’s wait and see, I think this one will be like VISTA: a big flop.

    Regards,

    Roger Bertrand, P. Eng.

    PS: it sure makes one think of going LINUX or UBUNTU… or at least test them.

  15. TsarNikky

    It was so short-sighted of Microsoft to force third-party developers to create the functionality that Microsoft should have included with Windows-8 from the outset. Give users the choice of the interface they want–don’t tell them “this the way it is going to be and if you don’t like it ‘tough s___.” Now Microsoft has (a) forfeited some control on what a user is going to see on start up, and (b) pissed of potential users who will stick with Windows-7, or worse, seek some other OS to use. Not what I would call good strategic planning on Microsoft’s part.

  16. Marko

    I loaded Classic Shell on my WIndows 8 machine and am very happy with it. I used an 8 Ball image as the start button. Google “behind the eight ball” – it is appropriate.

  17. Josh Gunderson

    Can’t stand the full-screen crap on a desktop PC.

    LOVE the new shell enhancements, e.g. ribbon interface on windows, ability to pause copy/move operations, the new task manager, faster boot (though 7 is fine on an SSD).

  18. Richard Steven Hack

    My guess is that Windows 8 will confuse a lot of people, but it won’t actually stop it from being adopted. But it won’t be adopted as fast as Windows 7 was. Most corporations particular will adopt 8 very slowly, sticking with 7 until the last minute due to no desire to have to retrain thousands of users to use 8 efficiently.

    What will happen then is obvious: Microsoft will issue a “Service Pack” – despite having said it will eliminate service packs – which “fixes” the confusing part of 8′s GUI by allowing the sort of tweaks that Classic Shell does.

    It also depends on whether most corporations will see the new stuff in 8 to be worth the hassle of upgrading right away. My guess is a lot of corporations won’t, and that will slow 8′s adoption as well. And there’s nothing Microsoft can do about that.

    Which means Microsoft will immediately begin work on Windows 9 – just like they did with 7 when Vista was perceived as a dog. So a lot of consultants like me will recommend to their clients to skip Windows 8 and wait for Windows 9, just as we did with Vista.

  19. roystreet

    The Microsoft userbase is so huge you can never make everyone happy. People will complain that they don’t change & advance Windows enough…Then there are ones who complain about why do they change things.
    .
    There is one thing for sure — It’s nice to have 3rd party developers out there that create great apps to make the Windows environment the way you want. Some free, some cost money. I’m just glad Windows isn’t as locked down as Mac. No sense in complaining when you can basically get what you want anyway. Just give it time, someone will make something similar to what you want. (Or you can make what you want)
    .
    I like the new interface, there are pluses & minuses to both the ‘old’ GUI & the ‘new’ GUI. Once I installed Win 8, I immediately noticed a performance increase — That alone was worth the install. I’ve used Win 8 in a desktop environment & it wasn’t difficult to use. As fox Linux, it has it’s place, but for me — It will never replace Windows. But it always goes down to what the user wants to see & use. Just like iOS, Andriod, or Windows Phone.
    Now is a great time to get something because the competition is so heated — It benefits consumers

  20. Chemical

    As a desktop user the new Metro interface serves absolutely no purpose for me. The inability to properly close those pesky full screen apps (without resorting to task manager) is complete trash.

    What was Microsoft thinking when they removed the start menu? Why should I have to change my computer habits these past years and adopt your full screen, cluttered, time wasteful list of apps?

    If you want the *cough* great and new *cough* features of Windows 8 Task Manager and File Copy:
    1.) Use TeraCopy
    2.) Use ProcessExplorer

    Using a reg hack from Google I can boot directly to the desktop. With third party software I can restore the start menu. I shouldn’t have to resort to these methods to clean up this “new and improved” bullsh!t from Microsoft. Windows 7 dual booted with the ever reliable Linux Mint MATE distro will continue to serve my computer needs.

  21. Kevin

    Wow Classic Shell is fantastic. It’s so much better than Start8. Kudos to the guys who made it open source too.

  22. David

    Areeb, Darby.. sure, I’d love to stick with what works and does all I need. But I’ve had 2 laptops to date which have died, and each time I’ve been forced to use the next, latest, greatest.

    Just discovered Classic Shell wrt Win 7.. yes, great, and it keeps the search box.. Now how well does it handle dragging shortcuts to new categories…(folders)

    Mind you, I did elect to upgrade for ’98 to 2000…(!)

  23. cityboy3

    Is it just me that thinks Win 8 is not all that bad? If you truly hate Microsoft than why are you guys using Windows? To me MAC is way to expensive for what I do! I’m sure people will create things to make Win8 better. I been using this for some time now and it’s not that bad just a little getting use to. I’m sure most people will like this…Heck I know people who still using Vista..But you can’t please everyone.

  24. VHMP01

    Just get a mouse with touch pad instead of a wheel for desktop user, still could keep performance increases and basic important Information right in front you (Live Tiles)… It’s not so difficult!

  25. Redd

    Now tell how to enable Aero so that I don’t have to look at Win8′s buttfugly visual design anymore and we’re all set.

  26. eggy

    waiting for charms to appear on the desktop stressed me out and gave me a headache. Making a consumer “wait” for anything isnt good practice. There is no reason not to provide a point and click type interface for those on non touchscreen devices using a mouse/touchpad.
    How can MS not have understood that?

  27. GGGS

    I’m still running XP and im waiting on Windows 9000

  28. Nicholas

    There are circumstances that will force users to switch even when they don’t want to, computers die. The last time I upgraded the OS on my windows computers was win 95 to 98. After that it has always been that the computer seems do die immediately after windows introduces their next flop. This program adds functionality that microsoft shouldn’t have removed in the first place. If you disagree that is fine, just don’t tell me to stick to windows 7, I will for as long as I can but I don’t expect that to be a while.

  29. Nicholas

    Oh and to the author, could you post a link to that desktop background, it is nice and I would like a copy.

  30. Marconiex

    Does anyone know how to disable Windows Explorer on the desk top on start up. I’m getting tired of closing down the window every time that I turn on or restart Windows 8?

  31. Daniel

    I dealt with the Metro interface recently when I helped a friend setup a brand new laptop that had Windows 8 pre-installed. The system is certainly fast and responsive for a dual core 1.8 Ghz with only 3 GB of ram, but it became much easier to use when I installed classic shell and made those garish boxes mostly go away.
    I had some initial hesitation with the Unity desktop when I first installed Ubuntu 12.04 but the new Win 8 look gives me a much deeper appreciation of just how well it works.

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