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How to master the all-new Windows 10 Start Menu

The return of the Start Menu is probably the most anticipated feature of Windows 10 — since Windows 8 radically changed the way that people find and start applications, some users have been clamoring for a return to form. The Start Menu in Windows 10 combines elements of the simple menu-based lists of Windows 7 and earlier with the finger-friendly design of the full-screen menu from Windows 8.

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While this combination is effective and versatile, it can take some getting used to. There’s a lot of different customization options, much more so than any previous version of Windows. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the new Start Menu.

Resizing the Start Menu

The new Start Menu is comprised of two parts: the primary program and settings area, a vertical list on the left, and the live tiles area, the Windows 8 portion of the menu on the right. Neither area can be disabled (at least as of the Windows 10 launch) but both can be resized.

start menu resize

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To resize the Start Menu, move your cursor over the vertical or horizontal edge, click, and drag, just like most Windows programs. Making the menu larger vertically will give more space to the list and the live tiles area, while adding horizontal space will only extend the Live Tiles. At its smallest horizontal setting, the Start Menu can only handle three “medium” columns of the smaller live tiles, but at its maximum setting it can fit six.

start menu full screen

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If you actually preferred the full-screen Start from Windows 8, you can get it back in Windows 10. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, then click “Personalize.” Switch the “use” Start full screen” option to “on.” Now the live tiles area will take up your entire desktop (which is handy for touchscreens).

Related: Windows 10 will pack full-screen start menu, tablet mode

Personalization menu and colors

While you’ve got the Personalization menu open, check out the other options. These toggles let you select whether to show the most-used apps (which will dynamically change as you use your computer), recently-added apps, or files and actions that you’ve clicked or tapped in Jump Lists.

personalization menu

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Click “Choose which folders appear on Start.” From here you can enable or disable a link to the File Explorer or the primary Settings menu, plus the specific folders for your primary account folder, personal documents, downloads, music, pictures, and videos, and the HomeGroup folder and Networks settings page.

Click the “back” button or press Backspace, then click on “Colors” in the left navigation area. On this page you can select your accent color, a contrasting color that stays constant across all of Windows 10. By default the accent color is chosen automatically based on your desktop wallpaper — if you like the way Windows looks now, just leave it as it is. If not, set “Automatically pick an accent color from my background” to “Off,” and manually select one from the palette that appears.

start menu colors

Michael Crider/Digital Trends

By default the Start Menu and taskbar are translucent black. You can manually color these elements as well by clicking “Show color on Start, taskbar, and action center,” and you can make them opaque by enabling “Make Start, taskbar, and action center transparent.” All of these settings are applied immediately, so click the Start Menu to see what they do and set it up just how you like it.

Related: Get to the task at hand with these Windows 10 taskbar tips

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