How to master the start menu in Windows 10

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. 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.

Image of Windows Start Menu
Daniel Martin/Screenshot

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.

Image of Windows Live Tiles
Daniel Martin/Screenshot

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. Select the Start section from the sidebar on the left of the personalization menu. Toggle the Use Start full screen switch  to on. Now the live tiles area will take up your entire desktop (which is handy for touchscreens).

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.

Image of Windows Start Full Screen
Daniel Martin/Screenshot
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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.

Select 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.

Image of Windows Start Menu Colors
Daniel Martin/Screenshot

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 transparency effects. 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. You can also select whether the default app mode and Windows mode is light or dark and decide whether accent colors apply to window borders and title bars.

Using the list area of the Start Menu

The left side of the Start Menu is similar to what you may remember from Windows 7 and before. Once you’ve selected your folders in the steps above and chosen whether or not to show your most-used apps, there are only two things to check out: the account button and the all apps list. Click the account button (the area at the left with your portrait and user name) for a quick link to lock the computer, sign out, or open the Settings menu.

Image of Windows Start Menu
Daniel Martin/Screenshot

From the Settings Menu, select Start and toggle the button that says Show app list in Start menu. This will give you an alphabetized list of all the programs installed on Windows, including both built-in tools and the programs you’ve installed yourself. Unlike previous versions of Windows, there’s no way to remove or rearrange items on this list, except by uninstalling programs.

Image of Windows Start Full Screen
Daniel Martin/Screenshot

Right-click any item, and you’ll open the context menu. Programs can be pinned to the Taskbar or the live tile section of the Start Menu, just like in Windows 8. Most programs, including some of the new Universal Windows apps, can be directly uninstalled from this right-click window. If the list entry is just a folder or a shortcut, you can open its location in Windows Explorer.

Using the live tiles area

Live tiles are very similar to their Windows 8 implementation. Each tile can be dragged and dropped to a new spot in the Live Tile area, and groups of tiles can be re-arranged, renamed, or deleted. By default, the Live Tile area includes two sub-sections: Life at a glance and Play and explore. To rename these sub-sections, hover your mouse over the title, then click the two horizontal bars that appear on the left. From here, you can directly edit the title or click the X to remove it.

Image of Windows Live Tiles

To add new items to the live tile area, right-click them on the All Apps portion of the Start Menu or anywhere in Windows Explorer, then click pin to Start. An app, folder, or file will appear as its own tile. Most tiles are merely shortcuts, but some Universal Windows apps include a special animated live tile. This is similar to a smartphone app, but it conforms to the grid-based setup of the live tile area. Default animated live tiles include apps from Microsoft like Weather, News, and Sports. Some applications downloaded from the Windows Store also include live tile functionality. To disable a live tile’s animation, right-click the tile and select Turn live tile off.

Resizing live tiles

To resize any live tile, right-click the tile and click resize. The default size is medium, which takes up one square space on the Live Tile area. It’s also the smallest size which allows a live tile to still animate. Small tiles are one fourth the size of medium tiles, and you can fit four shortcuts into a single square on the Live Tile area.

Image of Windows Resize Live Tiles

Wide tiles are 2×1 rectangles, twice the size of a medium tile. These are useful for frequently-used programs or animated live tiles with larger text elements, like News. The large setting takes up four square blocks, four times the size of the medium tile, and sixteen times the size of the small tile. These are useful for animated live tiles with large photographic or information displays, like Mail and Weather.

Windows 10X Start Menu details

Microsoft has recently revealed more information about Windows 10X and it’s new Start Menu, which includes making the whole design more streamlined and user-friendly. While live tiles are still in use for the moment, the reception of the Windows 10X Start Menu may help decide how quickly they are eliminated from future products. Other features include allowing users to access recently used documents and apps that can be pinned in place.

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