How to Boot to the Desktop in Windows 8.1

Don't like the Start screen? Boot directly to the desktop

When Windows 8 was first released, the only way to boot directly to the Desktop was to employ some registry hack or install a program that does the same.

Hearing feedback that the Start screen in Windows 8 might not be the best starting point for everyone, especially desktop users, Microsoft introduced the ability to boot to the Desktop with the Windows 8.1 update.

So, if you're one of those people that clicks or touches the Desktop app every time you start your computer, you'll be happy to know that configuring Windows 8 to skip the Start screen altogether is a really easy change to make.

You can only make Windows 8 boot directly to the Desktop if you've updated to Windows 8.1 or greater. This is the most common reason you won't see this option.

How to Boot to the Desktop in Windows 8.1

  1. Open the Windows 8 Control Panel. Doing so from the Apps screen is probably the quickest way via touch, but it's also accessible via the Power User Menu (WIN+X) if you're used to using that.

    If you're using a keyboard or mouse and are already on the Desktop, which seems likely considering the change you're wanting to make here, right-click the taskbar and choose Properties, then skip to Step 4.

  2. With Control Panel now open, select Appearance and Personalization.

    Windows 8 Control Panel

    You won't see the Appearance and Personalization applet if your Control Panel view is set to Large icons or Small icons. If you're using one of those views, choose Taskbar and Navigation and then skip down to Step 4.

  3. Choose Taskbar and Navigation.

    Windows 8 Appearance and Personalization screen
  4. Select the Navigation tab along the top of the Taskbar and Navigation window that's now open.

  5. Check the box next to When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start. This option is located in the Start screen area in the Navigation tab.

    Taskbar and Navigation Properties screen in Windows 8

    Also here is an option that says Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start, which is something else to consider if you're not a fan of the Start screen.

  6. Select OK to confirm the change.

From now on, after logging in to Windows 8 or closing your open apps, the Desktop will open instead of the Start screen. This does not mean that the Start or Apps screens have been turned off or are disabled or inaccessible in any way. You can still drag the Desktop down or select the Start button to show the Start screen.

Looking for another way to speed up your morning routine? If you're the only user on a physically secure computer (e.g., you keep it at home all the time), consider configuring Windows 8 to log in automatically at startup. See How to Automatically Log on to Windows for a tutorial.