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Use the Windows 7 Start Menu, Explorer, and Task Manager in Windows 8

00_classic_start_menu

If you’ve tried the Windows 8 Developer Preview and found you don’t like the new Start menu, Windows Explorer, and Task Manager, there is a way to make those items look and act like Windows 7.

This article shows you how to bring the Windows 7 Start menu, Explorer, and Task Manager to Windows 8 using two methods, a registry hack and a third-party tool.

Using a Registry Hack

To bring back the Windows 7 Start menu, Explorer, and Task Manager by changing the registry, press Win (Windows key) + R to access the Run dialog box. Enter “regedit” in the Open edit box and press Enter or click OK.

01_entering_regedit_in_run_dialog

If the User Account Control dialog box displays, click Yes to continue.

NOTE: You may not see this dialog box, depending on your User Account Control settings.

02_uac_dialog_for_regedit

Navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

Select the Explorer key on the left and then double-click the RPEnabled value on the right.

03_double_clicking_rpenabled

On the Edit DWORD (32-bit) Value dialog box, change the value in the Value data edit box to 0 and click OK. The value “0 “ turns off the Metro UI and activates the classic Start menu and the value “1” activates the Metro UI, turning off the classic Start menu.

04_changing_rpenabled_value

Close the registry editor by selecting Exit from the File menu.

05_closing_registry_editor

The Task Manager changes immediately to the classic style. However, you must restart Windows Explorer to allow the Start menu to change. Because the Task Manager is now in Windows 7 style, restart Explorer as you would in Windows 7, using the Classic Close Explorer Method. If you are changing back to the Metro UI (changing the RPEnabled value back to 1), the Task Manager will display in the new style, and you’ll have to restart Explorer using the Windows 8 Task Manager.

06_classic_task_manager

Once you’ve restarted Explorer, the classic Start menu is available.

07_using_classic_start_menu

NOTE: When you switch to the Classic Start Menu, any open Explorer windows are not affected by the change. To see the classic Windows Explorer, close any open Explorer windows and open Explorer again.

07a_classic_explorer

To change back to the Metro UI, go back into the registry and enter “1” as the value for the RPEnabled key again.

Using a Third-Party Tool

The registry hack for getting back the classic Start menu we just showed you above is fairly easy; however, there is an even easier way to switch to the classic Start menu. There is a tool, called Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle, that allows you to quickly switch between the Metro UI and the classic Start menu by clicking a button. See the end of the article for the download link.

To use Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle, you must run it as Administrator. Extract the .zip file you downloaded, right-click on the .exe file, and select Run as administrator from the popup menu.

08_starting_start_menu_toggle

Again, if the User Account Control dialog box displays, click Yes to continue.

NOTE: You may not see this dialog box, depending on your User Account Control settings.

09_uac_dialog_for_start_menu_toggle

Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle is a portable program that does not need to be installed. However, the first time you run it, the program will prompt you to install the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5.1, if it is not already installed. Click Accept changes to continue with the installation.

10_enabling_dot_net_framework

To install the .NET Framework in Windows 8, you must connect to Windows Update. Click Connect to Windows Update to allow Windows to connect and download and install the required changes.

11_connecting_to_windows_update

A dialog box displays while the updates are downloaded from Windows Update. When the download and installation is done, the following dialog box displays. Click Finish.

12_changes_successfully_completed

To run Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle, double-click the same w8smt.exe file you ran before. A small dialog box displays with one, big button on it. If you are currently using the Metro UI, the button reads Use Classic Start Menu. Click the button to hide the Metro UI and use the classic Windows 7 Start menu, Explorer, and Task Manager.

NOTE: You do not need to restart Explorer for the changes to take affect. If the Start button does not seem to change move your mouse over it and click it. It should change to the classic Start menu. It may take a few moments.

13_changing_to_classic_start_menu

While you are using the classic Start menu, the button in Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle reads Use Metro Start Screen. To hide the classic Start menu and return to the Metro Start Screen, click the button.

14_changing_back_to_metro_ui

To close Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle, click the X button in the upper, right corner of the dialog box.

15_closing_start_menu_toggle

Now, you can play around with the Metro UI in Windows 8 and easily switch to the classic interface from Windows 7 when you want to actually get anything done.

Download Windows 8 Start Menu Toggle from http://solo-dev.deviantart.com/art/Windows-8-Start-Menu-Toggle-258422929.

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 10/27/11

Comments (6)

  1. Keth

    You’ve mentioned Classic Start Menu. Win 7 version isn’t the classic one, classic was the one used up to XP (and still possible in vista), and was removed in 7.

    And on topic.. if people want to change back from 8′s to the 7′s version (which was pretty horrible imho) i can’t imagine how bad it is.

  2. Jase

    If you like the new task manager and alot of the new designed stuff, you can put 2 instead of 0 in the rmenabled, which will give the nice new fresh task manager and copy dialog

  3. PMS Witch

    I use shortcuts for toggling between Metro and Classic.

    Create a shortcut to disable Metro. Use the following string as the location.

    C:\Windows\System32\reg.exe Add HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer /v RPEnabled /t REG_DWORD /d 00000000 /f

    For a shortcut to enable metro, use.

    C:\Windows\System32\reg.exe Add HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer /v RPEnabled /t REG_DWORD /d 00000001 /f

    After giving the shortcut a name, Right-Click, select Properties, Advanced, and check the Run as Administrator box.

    Cheers, PW.

  4. K Town

    Why do people always beg for new features, get them, and then want to go back to the old way

  5. Keth

    People beg for features. New weird UI != features. It’s like getting a 3-wheeled 2-legged potato instead of a new car.

  6. crab

    I don’t think anyone begged for Metro, it’s one of those things MS decided people ought to like because we all like smartphones and iPads. It’s probably fine for a touch screen tablet, so I don’t think it’s a bad idea as long as it’s optional, but I don’t think I’ll want it on my desktop. It doesn’t seem to play well with 4:3 monitors either (you might be able to change that, but my virtualbox Win8 gets crashy when I try to change things).

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