5 Best Free Start Menu Replacements for Windows 8

Restore the Start Menu in Windows 8 and 8.1

If you miss the traditional Windows interface, it's possible to add a Start menu to Windows 8. Some Windows 8 Start menus introduce new features and interface elements while others mirror the look and feel of the Windows 7 Start menu.

The tools in this article are available for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Some are also compatible with other versions of Windows.

Black laptop with icon
4X-image / Getty Images

Best Free Start Menu Replacements for Windows 8

Every tool listed here allows you to bypass the Start screen and boot directly to the desktop. You can also disable Windows 8's hot corners including the App Switcher in the top left and the Charms bar in the top or bottom right.

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ViStart Start Menu replacement.
What We Like
  • Looks like the Windows 7 Start menu.

  • Highly customizable.

  • Instant program search results.

What We Don't Like
  • Attempts to install third-party apps.

  • Can be buggy at times.

ViStart is about as close as you’re going to get to the Windows 7 Start menu. All of the interface elements you'd expect are there. You'll have quick access to your programs and the ability to pin apps like you could in Windows 7. There are a couple of skins to choose from, and you also have the option to change what your Start button looks like. Other than that, there are no additional features, but ViStart is sufficient if you're used to older versions of Windows.

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Start Menu 8

StartMenu8 Start Menu Replacement
What We Like
  • Free to download and use.

  • Perfectly replicates the Windows 7 Start menu.

  • Hide individual items.

What We Don't Like
  • Auto hide can be buggy.

  • Plain interface.

  • Incompatible with newer apps.

Start Menu 8 is also very close to the Start menu from Windows 7, but it includes a MetroApps menu that you can click to access all of the Windows Store apps on your computer. This feature lets you seamlessly launch these apps right from the desktop as you would any other program. There are multiple themes you can choose from, and you can change the Start button style, font, and even the size of the menu itself. Unfortunately, though, you can't pin modern apps to the Start menu.

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Start Menu Reviver

Start Menu Reviver

Lifewire / Robert Kingsley

What We Like
  • Touchscreen friendly.

  • Beautiful design.

  • Highly customizable.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't fully replace the modern user interface.

  • Can't permanently pin items to the Start menu.

The Start Menu Reviver doesn’t try to recreate a classic Start menu; instead, it reinvents the idea and updates it to better fit with Windows 8. This application is comprised of a bar of links and a series of customizable tiles. You can drag any desktop or Windows store app into the menu to customize the tiles to your liking. This is just like pinning a program to the Start menu of old. The link bar on the left provides easy access to commonly used tools like Network, Search, and Run.

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Classic Shell

Classic Shell Windows 8 Start Menu Replacer
What We Like
  • Highly customizable.

  • Free and open source.

  • Models classic Windows 7 start menu.

  • Displays system status data.

What We Don't Like
  • Complicated to customize.

  • Can run slower than standard shell.

  • Not easy to find programs or folders.

Classic Shell comes with a very detailed settings page that allows you to change almost every aspect of the menu to suit your preferences. It also lets you tweak the File Explorer and Internet Explorer to make their interfaces more comfortable for you. In addition to the classic Start menu, Classic Shell offers a secondary menu for your Windows Store apps, which you can pin to the Start menu.

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Pokki Windows 8 Start Menu replacer
Image courtesy of SweetLabs, Inc. Robert Kingsley
What We Like
  • Easy to customize.

  • Simplified layout.

  • Mail and social media notifications.

What We Don't Like
  • Default Start button is an acorn.

  • Unwanted app icons.

  • Store links to Pokki.

Pokki looks nothing like the classic Start menu you're used to, but that's not a bad thing. It offers a Control Panel view which, much like Windows GodMode, places all of the computer configuration and settings tools in one place for easy access. You also have the My Favorites view, which offers a series of tiles you can configure to link to any program on your computer. You can even download apps from Pokki's own store.

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