Make it stop! 3 ways to tweak Windows 8 to look more like Windows 7

Make Windows 8 look like Windows 7The controversy surrounding Windows 8 is almost entirely focused on the user interface. Its touch-based design risks alienating desktop users, many of whom were extremely happy with Windows 7. In fact, some users are so disgusted by the new UI that they’re flat-out refusing to upgrade.

However, not upgrading also has its disadvantages. Windows 8 offers a number of major and minor adjustments that can be of use to both casual and enthusiast users. To help users who want to remain focused on the desktop, but also want the features of Windows 8, we’ve compiled a few ways to tweak Windows 8 that can make the new operating system more desktop-oriented.

Use The Taskbar

3 ways to tweak windows 8 look more like 7 startmenu1

One of the best interface features new to Windows 7 was the ability to pin icons to the taskbar and open Jump Lists. Together, these two features made the Start menu more or less superflous. Users could pin popular folders and apps to the taskbar and navigate many of their functions directly without having to go into the Start menu at all. This is still possible with Windows 8. Users can create a faux Start menu by creating a shortcuts folder, pinning it to the taskbar, and then adding the desired shortcuts. This can take a few minutes, but it creates a simple, paired-down option that only lists the software the user wants to include.

Additionally, users who want a very close approximation to a Start menu – unused apps and all – can create it. Right-click on the taskbar, go to Taskbars in the context menu, then click New Taskbar. When an open folder window pops up, type the following:

%ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

Ta-da! Now, right-click the taskbar again and uncheck “Lock the taskbar.” This makes it possible to drag the Programs button over to the left side so that it sits where the Windows 7 Start button sits.

Start8

3 ways to tweak windows 8 look more like 7 start8 1

Created by Stardock, a company that’s been making Windows user interface modifications for years, Start8 comes as a free 30-day-trial. After that, users can “unlock” the third-party software for just $4.99.

Start8 does not re-enable the Windows Start menu. Instead, it creates a new menu that looks similar to it. Because of this, Stardock provides a great deal of customization options. Users can make the menu appear Metro-like by giving it square edges, or can stick with the Windows 7 look by giving it rounded edges. It’s also possible to change color, add or remove translucency, and give the Start menu button a custom icon. And that’s just the beginning. There’s a plethora of fine-grain options available in the app’s Configuration and Control menus for users to explore and customize.

3 ways to tweak windows 8 look more like 7 start8 2

Considering its low price and the large number of options it provides, we think this software is a good deal. We even like the optional faux-Metro style. However, Start8 doesn’t add any important new functionality, so users are essentially paying $5 to have what was bundled with Windows 7. 

Classic Shell

3 ways to tweak windows 8 look more like 7 classicshell1

Some users don’t like change and believe that if it’s not broken, it shouldn’t be fixed. These are the users who held on to Windows XP for as long as they could, and they’re the users least likely to be amused by Microsoft’s UI shake-up. For these users, we present Classic Shell as the solution.

This freeware program can enable a legacy-style Start menu and Windows Explorer interface. Users can even have the Windows 7 menu back! But why stop there? Windows XP and Windows Classic menus are available as well. The Classic style will be a comfort to anyone upgrading from Windows 98. The classic Explorer settings can also transport users into the way-back machine, and users can now have the simple Windows XP style back that they know and love.

3 ways to tweak windows 8 look more like 7 classicshell2

Users can also apply one of several different skins to the Start menu, and can change some of the options that impact either Start or Explorer. Most of these are small, fidgety choices that the average user won’t care about, like the ability to change what the Windows key does — but enthusiasts will appreciate the detail.

Be careful with Start menu downloads

We tested a number of different Start menu options while working on this article, and we can safely say that the three listed are the only ones we recommend at this time. It turns out that some of the free Start menu options simply do not work, perhaps because they haven’t been updated for the full release version. There are also some registry tweaks that are no longer valid.

We even ran across one program, called ViStart, which installs the dreadful Babylon search tool and another Internet Explorer toolbar without explicit permission (we’re guessing it’s listed somewhere in the lengthy terms of use). This option currently appears in the first few results in Google when we search for “windows 8 start menu.” Remember, don’t assume a high search ranking means it’s legitimate.

Computing

Looking for a new laptop? These 5 notebooks are on sale through Presidents’ Day

If you're ready to ditch your aging notebook, you can score some fantastic Presidents' Day savings right now on Microsoft's Surface Pro 6, Dell's XPS 13, HP's Spectre x360, Lenovo's Yoga C930, and Dell's G5 15 Gaming laptops.
Computing

These Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts will take your skills to a new level

Windows 10 has many new features, and they come flanked with useful new keyboard shortcuts. Check out some of the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts to improve your user experience and save more time!
Computing

Enjoy Windows on a Chromebook with these great tips and tricks

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only software.
Computing

Is your PC slow? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings

Computers rarely work as well after they accumulate files and misconfigure settings. Thankfully, with this guide, you'll be able to restore your PC to its original state by learning how to factory reset Windows.
Computing

Windows 7 is still immensely popular. Is it really better than Windows 10?

With the end of support of Windows 7 approaching, have you been holding off on upgrading to Windows 10? In this guide, we give look at some of the biggest differences between the most popular operating systems.
Computing

Switch your WMA files for MP3s with our quick conversion tips

The WMA codec may be great when it comes to multi-channel surround sound, but unfortunately, it falters in terms of compatibility. Check out our guide on how to convert WMA files to MP3 via web-based or desktop methods.
Computing

Windows is getting a face-lift in 2020, but you can get a sneak peek right now

Microsoft is increasing the lead time for an upcoming major update to Windows 10, giving Windows Insiders the ability to test it right now, even though it's not set for release until 2020.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Deals

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…
Deals

Keep your MacBook safe and dry with an Under Armour backpack for under $50

Under Armour is having a huge sale this weekend to help you on your quest for a better backpack. The UA Outlet Exclusive sale is going on now through Monday, February 18th, offering great discounts on stormproof backpacks.
Deals

Walmart Presidents’ Day sale: Instant Pot, Google Home, and 4K TV deals

Presidents' Day weekend is one of the best times of the year to find deep discounts on 4K TVs, laptops, Instant Pots, clothes, mattresses, and furniture. And Walmart is offering deals on all of those things and more.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.