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.
Update: This method no longer works. You can, however, add or tweak items in the Win+X menu using this guide instead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Copy the shortcut file(s).
Go to the following directory in Windows Explorer.
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.
Rename the new folder to Group4, as shown in the image below.
Paste your shortcut file(s) into the new folder.
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.
To see the Windows Explorer process, click More details at the bottom of the Task Manager window.
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.
Select Exit from the File menu to close the Task Manager.
Your custom shortcuts display on the Win+X 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.