Start11 Lets Your Windows Start Menu Party Like it’s 2015

It can’t change everything, but it’s a step in the right direction

Key Takeaways

  • Start11 is a $5.99 app that can customize the Windows 11 Start menu.
  • The software can replicate the look of the Windows 7 or Windows 10 Start menu.
  • However, it can’t restore Windows 10’s Live Tiles or the old Windows Search bar.
Someone using a Start11 Start menu on a Windows 11 computer.

Unsplash / Mockup Photos

Not happy with Windows 11's new, center-aligned Start menu? It's okay; you can (kinda) go back to the old menu style. 

Windows 11 offers a slim selection of Start menu personalization options. Start11, developed by Stardock, is a $5.99 utility (or $14.99 for multiple devices) that can further customize the Start menu and includes presets that replicate the look of older Windows editions.

I purchased Start11 and used it for the past month. It lacks some features of older Windows editions but replicates their look and improves the default Windows 11 Start menu.

Yes, Start11 Can Restore Old-School Start Menus

Start11 includes three older start menu styles. The Windows 7 and Windows 10 styles provide a menu familiar to fans of each operating system. The third option, Modern, is a bridge between Windows 7 and Windows 10 that merges the layout of a classic Windows Start menu with the aesthetic of modern Windows.

The options go beyond replicating the old Start menu design. Start11 offers alternative designs for the Windows 7 and Modern style, and each can be customized. You can change font size and visual effects or add a custom background, among other options. 

A screenshot of Start11 on a Windows 11 computer.

A Windows 11 menu style is available, too. It looks similar to the default Windows 11 Start menu but has features the Windows version doesn't, including easy access to Control Panel and Run. You can also customize the look to suit your preference. 

Start button customization is the software's second key feature. Windows 11 includes an option to return the Start button to its traditional left-hand location, but Start11 lets you change the button's appearance. This will allow you fully embrace an old-school look with a custom Windows 7 or Windows XP icon.

It's a Start, but it's Not Perfect

Stardock's software can replicate the look, feel, and layout of a Windows 10 Start menu, but it's missing functionality. The menu's Live Tile replicas have none of the features found in Windows 10. They don't update dynamically and can't be moved or pinned. They're little more than a grid of icons, which defeats the point of restoring the Windows 10 Start menu. 

Windows Search is another sore spot. Windows 11 changed the location of Windows Search, moving it out of a search bar on the taskbar and to its own icon. Unfortunately, start11 can't revert this change. 

A screenshot of Start11 on a Windows 11 computer.

Start11 includes a search field in some Start menu layouts, but the search feature is a more limited implementation that can only search the Start menu itself. I think even the most diehard fans of legacy Windows design will rely on Windows 11's Search instead of what Start11 offers. 

Start With a Click

Start11 is more appealing than its alternatives despite its limitations.

For that, you can thank the software's ease of use and speed. After installation, Start11 asks you to select a Start menu design and whether you prefer a center or left-aligned Start button. Your choice takes effect immediately. 

A screenshot of Start11 on a Windows 11 computer.

Start11 is so simple you might feel the $5.99 price tag is too high, but installing its competition will dispel this idea. Open Shell is a powerful utility with a broader range of options, but it's hard to use, and the results can be visually unappealing or buggy. StartAllBack, a paid alternative priced at $4.99, is also easy to use but more tightly focused on the Windows 7 Start menu style. 

I'll be keeping Start11 installed on my Windows 11 machine. It has a clean, attractive layout with quick access to my user folder, the Windows Control Panel, and the applications I choose. That's more than I can say for the vestigial Start menu Microsoft shipped with Windows 11.

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