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Windows 8.1 and the Start menu – reunited at last!

Welcome back

After months of confusion and anguish, Microsoft has announced the return of the Start menu in the latest version of Windows 8. Are you feeling emotional about its long-awaited return?

They say you don’t know how much you love something until it’s gone. If that’s true, I must have been head over heels in love with the old Windows Start menu.

All that time I’d spent using it to zap up the calculator, search for my files and dip into the Control panel amounted to a decade-long romance. And then, when Microsoft callously unveiled Windows 8, it was discarded. Just abandoned in the great Recycle bin in the sky.

Dutifully, I tried to get along with the new, Start menu-less version of Windows. Like a regenerated Doctor Who, you know you’re going to have to put up with it for at least three years, so you may as well get on with things as best as you can. Still, this didn’t stop me getting regularly lost in the Windows 8 ‘live tile’ morass.

Once, I spent a full 10 minutes stuck on its webcam page taking an endless array of selfies as I tried to get back to the home screen. It was a deeply harrowing experience.

The first, my last, my Start menu

Granted, I may be a special case when it comes to being vexed by Windows 8. That hasn’t stopped me from being genuinely overjoyed that the Start menu is back for Microsoft’s 8.1 update. We’ve got the full details on our sister site Tech Daily, but the essence is this: ‘it’s not quite the same, but it’s good enough.’

In all seriousness, Windows 8 has been crying out for a better way to navigate between its start screen and desktop pages. Plus, you can once again pin apps to the Start menu and use it as a means to shut down your computer. All of those little things that were that much harder to do without it.

Having performed another high-profile U-turn with the Xbox One recently, credit is due to Microsoft for listening to consumers and giving them what they want. Now that the Start menu has been retrieved from its metaphorical waste paper bin, I think Windows 8.1 will offer a much-improved user experience.

Certainly I’ll feel more inclined to experiment with its more innovative features knowing I have the Start menu comfort blanket to return to if it all goes wrong… again.

Could you get by without the Windows Start menu?

No - I'm glad the Start menu has returned in Windows 8.1 (66%, 233 Votes)

Yes - I'm not bothered that Windows 8 didn't have a Start menu (14%, 51 Votes)

I really, really don't mind either way (11%, 38 Votes)

I don't use Windows, stop asking me about something that doesn't affect me (9%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 353

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I have Windows 8 on disk, bought for £14.95 in February. I was not going to install it until enough people told me they were happy using it, without the Start menu. I’m still waiting for another home user to tell me this. I may now consider installing it as I presume updates will include the Start menu. I am really happy with Windows 7, so perhaps I should wait a while more. Decisions, decisions.

I know I can get the latest version of the Mac operating system from Apple for £14, but where do you buy a copy of Windows 8 for that price? It’s a lot more than that in ** *****.

If you bought a new PC with Windows 7 between the end of last summer and the beginning of this year, you had the option of buying a Windows 8 upgrade for around £14.
Haven’t used mine yet but might consider it when the start button returns.

Thanks Alfa. That’s a bargain. I feel sorry for those who paid for Windows Vista and then had to pay again for despite all the problems with Vista.

Now, if Microsoft would give us the choice of tiles or drop-down menus in MS Office…….

It takes me so long to find what I want and they don’t all fit on the screen.


It is quite amazing how Microsoft can have been so clueless not to have researched consumer reaction more thoroughly. I am also suspicious that the difference in requirements for people using it with large screens and those on a tablet have been overshadowed by the foolish desire for a universal screen.

On improving Microsofts functionality I have paid and use XYplorer which is hugely useful in manipulating media files let alone a in-built preview screen – and available for free trial.

ampox says:
28 June 2013

I am fed up with having to adapt to new versions of Windows that provide facilities that I do not need. Am I alone in still using MS-DOS versions of a word processor (Wordstar), spreadsheet (Quattro Pro) and database (Paradox) for purposes that do not require internet access. They NEVER crash! No blue screens.

Dave Melling says:
29 June 2013

Having just purchased a new laptop having windows 8 . Within a week I had my old laptop repaired and the new laptop sits unused. I have now arranged for a local repair centre to remove wndows version 8 and install xp anything but put up with the frustrations of windiws 8.

Mike says:
30 June 2013

So Dave, tell me this honestly. I was considering buying a new laptop operating Windows 8 (.1?) while I use XP on my PC. Should I do this or do you recommend I keep XP?

Hwalker1 says:
3 December 2013

I’m still using Edlin which came with dos 3.1

Rico says:
28 June 2013

I wouldn’t get too excited, its not actually a start button at all. Its a shortcut to the start screen, with a right click menu for the administrative tools.

So if you are looking for the old style start button, you are going to be disappointed.

Mind you it only take two minutes to download and install a start button like old with the numerous ones on the net, I use Classic Shell which is free.

I want a choice, I want Windows 7. Almost all corporate PCs still buy it with Windows 7 but for us consumers it is impossible to buy Windows 7 on the High Street or from Currys. If you want Win7 you have to buy from a seller that sells to companies (and pay extra). This is a scandal. Microsoft’s arrogance is unbelievable. I am also dissapointed in Which? Why don’t you argue for consumers right to choose?

BX says:
28 June 2013

Windows 8 is so awful that I downloaded the Windows Classic program and simply overwrote the awful starting page offered. This program allows you to choose between a W7, XP and classic desktops. I chose XP, surely the only really decent product MS has ever produced?

I only use MS on my laptop, having migrated to Linux years ago for my PC. How come Linux upgrades improve functionality and MS seems to endlessly go back into the morass?

I’m being uncharitable: Windows 8 boots faster than Windows 7 or earlier, and is even slightly faster than Suse 12.3, but only just!

JohnW says:
2 July 2013

I am not into smart phones – so why should I buy a PC with Win 8. It is not surprising that desktop PC sales are falling as most main stream manufacturers are only offering Win 8. I have bought a new lap top and managed to get a Samsung business machine with enough bells and whistles AND it came with Windows 7 pro – that still has a sensible Start Menu.

For heaven’s sake stop all this moaning about Windows 8 and get a life !!!
Click on the Desktop tile and low and behold – a Windows 7 style screen. OK – you’ve no Start button. So what ? It’s quite easy to create Desktop icons for all your applications or alternatively stick them on your Task Bar to make life easier. You can even create a Shut Down button if you want to.
Yep, OK it’s a different way of working, but life moves on.
I’ve had Windows 8 on my new PC for about 6 months now and in all that time it hasn’t crashed – unlike Windows 7 and XP.
My only very slight gripe is having to tap the windows button on my keyboard to switch between the Start screen and Desktop, but overall I’m impressed with Microsoft’s offering.

Thanks for the information – that I am sure is helpful to the bemused.

I do disagree though with the ” Yep, OK it’s a different way of working, but life moves on.” comment. Though true it does seem to reflect a Microsoft like it or lump it attitude to the purchasers. You only have to look at the recent round of XBox vs Playstation where because Playstation is such a huge competitor Microsoft backed down smartish from their declared position. The position taken was pretty darn unfriendly and it does seem as though Micro$oft has a very funny view of the public and its tolerance levels.

Going back further to its early days of Works and Office making them incompatible to their later tiff with the EU and with not using standardised international formats and generally trying for proprietary lockdown on such as doc. and wma.

Generally speaking Microsoft’s attitude has been very dismissive of the public and to launch Windows 8 without a reasonably functional quasi historical interface alternative is just another example of geeks destined to lead the common uncouth users to a “better” way.

Perhaps you would like to do a tutorial for us non geeks and show us just how easy it is.

Right click in blank area on Start menu
Click the “All Apps” icon at bottom right of screen
Right click on an application tile
Click on “Open File Location” icon – at bottom of screen
Right click the highlighted application details
Select “Send to” on the drop down menu, then Desktop (create shortcut) option

PS – I don’t consider myself a geek, – there are plenty of free on-line tips and tutorials which cover all of this and more.

When I decide to install Windows 8, I will probably install Classic Shell at the same time as I have heard several people mention it, including Rico in this Conversation. If Microsoft had left the Start button in Windows 8, with an option to switch to the new tile format, we would probably be all using it now, if it is so much better than previous versions.

From the authoritative Windows Secrets site:

“Last week, Microsoft released the beta bits for the next version of Windows — the first .1 Windows update in decades.

Win8 fans will surely update to Version 8.1 when it’s released in the fall, but even old-school Windows users will find some surprisingly good enhancements.

That said, Windows 8.1 isn’t going to change many minds about Microsoft’s new direction for its OS. You won’t see Microsoft’s servers crashing as millions download the final release; you won’t see lines of new PC buyers waiting for Costco to open. To put it succinctly, in my (always-in-question) humble opinion, Windows 8.1 simply sucks less.

A warning: As has been widely reported, Microsoft made it difficult to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Preview to the final-release version. If you’re going to try the Preview (more info), do so on a spare system or in a virtual machine. (There’s more on this in the last section of this article.)”

Note the warning for the preview.

“Overall, as a desktop OS, Windows 8.1 is easier to get along with than the original release. The improvements are minor, but are nevertheless welcome.”

Praise and faint praise. The more I look at it the more Microsoft seem to have dropped an almighty clanger in going for a single interface suitable for a touchscreen tablet to a 24″ monitor. How unbelievably arrogant/incompetent.

Linux is beginning to look more and more attractive with the latest Mint version 15 operating like Windows but with zero cost. And it has Firefox, a music player, and Office Libre plus utilities installed with it. It almost seems as though Microsoft does not care, or it relies on consumer ignorance, that there is a viable alternative with 60,000 applications available.

Mighty clangers! Look at the new Which? main page. Windows 8 colour gone mad.

I have a 24″ monitor so the blocks of colour are 50*40mm with plenty of glarey luminosity. Fortunately I can rotate my monitor screen to landscape and you can see how it is designed for smartphone use. However most people do not have rotable screens so will have to put up with lots on unused Desktop space. Why cannot people realise that opting so absolutely to one front end is not necessarily consumer friendly.

Incidentally how do the colour blind fare with this – presumably research exists?

Gosh. The new page has prominent links to Which? Conversation, and currently says that Dieseltaylor has commented on cloud storage. 🙂

Perhaps you need a Mac or Linux.

I will try never to buy into any OS controlled by a single vendor : ) Linux your day approaches!

StuartB says:
23 July 2013

Can you please update the link to the techdaily detail; it appears broken? I’d like to understand how you’ve reached the conclusion that the Start Menu is back when everyone else thinks that it’s not. It’s just a Start Button that is back but that just opens the Modern Start screen doesn’t it?


Bobchip says:
14 September 2013

Never mind Windows 8 and touchscreen – I don’t use either. I switched to Linux several years ago and now use Linux Mint and associated open source software for almost everything.

I am honestly surprised that Which makes almost no reference to Linux anywhere in it’s computing sections.