Windows 8.1 for Business: Oh Start menu, how do I miss thee…or do I?

imageOne of the most often questions/feedback we get regarding Windows 8.1 is where is my Start menu.  These conversations can get very passionate, and usually turn into a commentary around on how much we miss our Start menu.  I am sure some folks want to punch the screen.

I totally understand your frustration and I went through this as well.  While Windows 8 does provide a big change to how we do things in the interface, it did make me re-think why I used my Start menu.  What I learned from my own usage and talking to all you wonderful folks,  is that the Start menu is used for small common set of minimum tasks.  Here is a list of the most common things folks like yourselves have told me, and I personally had problems finding in Windows 8.1:

  • Shutdown and Sign Out
  • Search
  • Launch and Find Recently Installed Applications

Like all of you once I learned how to get around Windows 8 and find these basic tasks, I found that I will never need my Start menu again.  In this article, I am here to help show you how to accomplish these tasks with ease in Windows 8.1.   In the end I hope you learn some new tips and tricks to improve how you use Windows 8.1

Last note, in another article in this series,  I will talk about how as an IT Admin you can take control of the Windows 8.1 interface with our good friend, Group Policy. 

Shutdown and Sign Out

imageThis is easiest thing that was not easy to find until Windows 8.  You had to use the charms bar (sliding the mouse down the right hand side of your screen or Windows +C)  access it.  Then you would click on settings and you would see the power icon.  This is where you could shutdown, restart or sleep your system.  Log off was a little harder to find, on your Start screen (formerly metro) if you clicked on your name you were given a menu that allowed you log off.  In Windows 8.1, you can still use the same tasks mentioned above you can use the Expert Menu.  I love that name, and to access it simply right click on the Start button on the lower left corner of the screen and you will see a screen similar to one below:


In addition to shutdown and sign out you also have access to many control panel applications and Explorer.  So while this is different than what you are used to it is still essentially in the same location now in Windows 8.1


This is one of my most favorite features in Windows 8.1, and easily one of the best ones you can show anyone.  To access from your Start screen simply Start typing, and you have nearly a fully federation search environment.  Which BTW is the same way it has worked in previous versions of Windows, however this engine will allow you to quickly query other data sources.  Not only does the search access your local repositories of information, it also will quickly extend to the Internet and beyond. 

Unfortunately, this was not obvious, however once you know you can type on the screen, it really takes on a life of its own.  This always seems to really please people when I show them, and for me this was my huge selling point on the new interface.  The search will also query for your applications, and my search as I typed in Word is shown in the screenshot to the right.  So the next time you cannot find something, simply type on the Start screen, I be the results will surprise you!

Launch and Find Recently Installed Applications:

This is probably the most common thing that folks cannot find and I totally understand the frustration here.  I remember the first time I installed a new application I could not find it either.  It was not in the modern interface default screen, so where did it go?  The answer is that it went to Apps View. 


You will also notice in the all apps screen you can quickly sort your applications in 4 ways:

  • imageby name
  • by date installed (this is how find the recently install applications)
  • by most used
  • by category

That’s great Matt but how do I get to the all apps screen?

From the Start menu, you can access the Apps view either by clicking on the down arrow in the lower left corner of the screen. Additionally when you are on the Start screen you can press ctrl + tab to access the all app view as well.

See my fun super tip below for an alternative to get to your applications off the desktop, however before you dive head long into the super tip I want to ask you a small favor.   Give Windows 8.1 interface a try, and take a look at the new ways to accomplish your tasks.  While they are different ways to get to the tasks, I am confident you will find these new ways that are more efficient then in previous versions of Windows.

Fun Super Tip to access applications from the desktop

Check this out:


Now I know what your thinking, what free app is that?  It is not a free app, I am actually using a built-in Windows 8.1 feature, called a toolbar.  This is a custom toolbar that references the Programs in the Start menu folder on imageyour system.  This is how you create it:

  1. On your desktop, right click on your taskbar
  2. Hover on Toolbars and select New Toolbar…
  3. On the New Toolbar – Choose a folder screen browse or  type in the path to your directory.  If you installed on the c: drive the directory would have to be the following

    C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

    NOTE: You will have to make sure you are viewing hidden items to see the folder.

  4. After you get the path into the screen simply click on Select Folder and your Toolbar will be created.

By default this tool bar will be all the way to the right of your task bar, but you can drag the toolbar to the left, but using the resizing icons, you may also need to drag the right hand side as well to get the button the size you need.

Lastly, I had someone ask me what my favorite application in Windows 8.1 was and my answer is it depends on if I am at work or going on vacation.   Since this is a series called Windows 8.1 for business, I will give you my work answer:  Desktop.  That is where I spend all of my time, and if you checkout my teammates Jennelle’s post tomorrow she will show you how to go directly to the desktop and go directly to the All Apps view.  This will help you save time, check out her blog tomorrow: 

If you miss any of the Windows 8.1 for business series you can click here

Comments (22)
  1. Anonymous says:

    One of the reasons some people weren’t comfortable with Windows 8 from the beginning was for the lack

  2. Sandor says:

    I also miss the Devices and Printers option, which was simple to open from the good old start menu…

  3. russ says:

    For me it is a matter of training. I am the only IT person for 90 users and seven servers. I don't have the time and money to train people to use Windows 8.1. I am still buying Windows 7 pro.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to March! And not that I mean to alarm you, but welcome to the final month before support ends

  5. Peter says:

    The biggest reason I installed a third-party start menu replacement in Windows 8 was for search. As an IT pro, I spend 99.99% of my time in Windows 8 at the desktop working with desktop apps. Searching is a pain in Windows 8 and requires many more steps and clicks than in 7. I admit 8.1 makes the situation much better due to not grouping the results, but it's still annoying and disruptive to go from the desktop, to the start screen and then back to the desktop. So yes, I miss the start menu and I'm keeping my third party replacement because it makes me more productive.

  6. Micromega says:

    We have chosen to place a 3ed party start button app on all of our systems and our customers as well. While the new way of doing things in windows 8 makes sense for touch centric apps most of our users are desktop users. The start menu with all it flaws is still much more efficient at most tasks than the new methods of windows 8.x. Over time customers get used to using the new ways but in desktop mode a robust traditional start button adds efficiency for hard core users. I don't get why MS had to force one way. They could have offed both and allow the users to choose. Wow that is a novel idea choice.

  7. JPS says:

    I think you've missed a couple of the biggies. Acomplaint I hear (and the frustration I feel) is the complete context switch. I often want to keep looking at other content on my desktop while deciding on a selection from the Start Menu.

    The other is the loss of the Recent menu flyout. ex. I go to PowerPoint > and select from the Recent flyout menu. This is gone and it sucks.

  8. PCezar says:

    Go to, install it and voilá… All this nonsense "magic search", "apps view" just go to dust where they deserve to be.

  9. Duckhead says:

    That protip is easily the coolest windows desktop trick since CTRL+X. I have one issue, however. How did you get it to go to the right completely? I have tried everything, but I can't get it to pass the pinned taskbar items. TYIA.

  10. stephan says:

    I do not miss the start menu per se, I miss the feature that allows me to start an application without obscuring the whole screen. The old start menu does that, but the new hides everything. Basically, people unfamiliar with the system can no longer read an on-screen procedure to start a utility program, they need to memorize the full sequence before firing the start screen.

  11. Loek Gijben says:

    I still think it is ridiculous that Microsoft first strips so much functionality for desktop users and have all these " tips" to get some of it back.
    Why on earth didn't Micro$oft gave the choice to the user whether or not he/she wants to use/mimic the old user interaction or not?
    FWIW: i think that under the hood Win8 is a slight improvement over Win7 but all this APPS and touch interface hassle is putting most of the users in my organization off. "Gimmy Windows7" they yell. So they get it…

  12. Matt Hester says:

    First off, thank you everyone for taking the time to comment, and I appreciate the passion. The purpose of the post was not for any other reason to show you some of the tips I have learned to help me with Windows 8, and ways to work with the interface. I wish I had better answers for everyone, and I am glad you are finding alternatives to work with the interface. @duckhead, the toolbar you created has two sliders a left and right that control the width of the toolbar. If you drag the left most bar to the left, then drag the right most bar to the left, you should be able to get the bar all the way to the left.

  13. Duckhead says:

    Aha! I didn't have a right slider, but noticed on one of my computers, I did because there were two toolbar options- one for the on-screen keyboard. So it works when you have more than one toolbar open, even after you turn the second toolbar off. Got it on the left now! Thanks for this amazing tip!

  14. Harry Dekker says:

    would you like both worlds? install Classic Shell

  15. Anonymous says:

    Here is another tip. You can use windows 7 and everything is where it should be. You should not have to learn to interact with an OS, when all OSes that you had to deal for the last 10 years worked exactly the same way, until some MS geek engineer decided we should do it another way.

  16. marvin says:

    AWESOME tips Matt. This article alone will help me immensely. Thank you.

  17. Ed says:

    Yes. Yes I do miss it. You shouldn't have to have workarounds for something so basic.

  18. pradeep says:

    Thanks a lot……………I was looking for it from a long time and thought to install some 3-party software but now there is no need for installing some extra software………

  19. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully you never forgot Group Policy!

    Whenever the topic of working with desktops in business is brought up, IT Pro’s always want to manage and maintain those desktops. For me the first thing that always come to mind is Group Policy and hopefully

  20. oa says:

    I think a lot of people commenting are missing the point: nobody (i.e. very few people) were still using the "Start Menu" with Windows 7, that's why it's gone. Sure the techie geeks still were using it (always stuck in the past), but everyone else just "pinned" their favorite programs to the taskbar. Why go through all the hassle of a start menu when what you have is right in front of you? I.T. and Techies think differently (because their minds are wired that way). They "assume" that users want EVERYTHING displaying. Um, they do not. Just because you like seeing everything doesn't mean the vast majority of the world does. 99.9% of users are just fine pinning their programs to the taskbar. For the Start Screen, that was a natural evolution….and users DO love it. Case in point: people going to Mac's. Mac has a "full screen" start screen (if you will) as well as pinning programs to the taskbar (dock). Both the same and voila…users seem to like that. When Windows 95 first came out, people HATED it…especially techies and I.T. people. Why? Well…"where the heck is my program manager?!" and "a start MENU? that's a CONSUMER feature". Yes, these were complaints. Oh and the famous "you have to START to SHUT DOWN?…hahaha…stupid Microsoft! what a failure of a system!" were all complaints and ridicules. Then with Windows XP it was called a fisher price operating system…a joke. It languished because techies and I.T. did not want to upgrade from 2000. It took time and money to convince I.T. to upgrade, and they finally did because there was no other O.S. for years and they had no choice. Bottom line, users BENEFIT from the new Windows 8.1 system, but are hindered and destroyed by techies and I.T. people living in the past who fail to WANT to help their users get their jobs done. It's sad, but have seen it for decades now. I.T. has the power, and that usually comes as a detriment of regular users. If they had their choice, we would still be using DOS and no mouse support (because a mouse was considered a stupid feature for MS to include with Office).

  21. Peter Ridgers says:

    Yes I do miss the start button with the accompanyng menus and functcions initiated by a mouse click NOT by a cursor position. Win 8 (and its successors) get in the way of my productivity in so many annoying ways. I'm writing a report against a deadline and my mouse cusor gets too closeto a corner and there is an annoying interruption in wy workflow. I want to view howto instructions alongside an application – not in win 8. And I hate to spend 10 minutes searching for an infrequently used utility (like printer controls – sorry the location of things like printer que should be, but in win8 are not, intuitive!!!). The list goes on. Sorry, I understand that familiarity makes thing simple in time – but a rarely used feature will not become intuitive if it is not intuitive to begin with.

  22. Anonymous Duck says:

    The classic shell really works well. I am glad to have found it.

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