How to bring back the Start menu and button to Windows 8(Part 1)

You’ve just booted up Windows 8 for the first time, navigated your way to the Desktop, and now you’re wondering: “Where on earth did Microsoft put the Start button and menu?” For some reason, Microsoft decided that Windows 8 was better without a Start button and menu, instead forcing mouse-and-keyboard users to try and interact with the awful Windows 8 Start screen.
The good news is, despite Microsoft’s best efforts to ensure that the Start button and menu remain banished from its new OS, a bunch of Windows 8 Start menu replacements have already emerged. Really, it just goes to show how devoted the Desktop Windows userbase is: Microsoft completely stripped out the underlying Start menu code to quash potential Luddite revolutionaries, and yet months after the release of Windows 8 there are dozens of Start menu and Start button replacements — some of which are far superior to Microsoft’s own Windows 7 Start menu.
Let’s take a look at the best, cheapest, and most authentic Windows 8 Start menu replacements.

Windows 8 Start button and menu replacements

Windows 8 Start menu replacement: StartIsBack


If you want a Windows 8 Start menu replacement that looks exactly like Windows 7,StartIsBack is for you. You get the same Start button orb icon, the same Start menu search box, the same jump lists, and — for better or worse — even the same Aero transparency! As you can see in the screenshot above, StartIsBack even detects if your system needs to restart to apply some patches; it really is just like the Windows 7 Start menu.
Where StartIsBack diverges from the Windows 7 Start menu, though, is configurability: StartIsBack is fully customizable, and includes a handful of useful Windows 8-specific features, too. You can configure which hot corners are enabled, make your PC jump straight to the Desktop when it first boots up, and configure a key combo to show the Windows 8 Start screen (Win+Ctrl by default). If Start menu and taskbar transparency aren’t your thing, StartIsBack lets you disable it — and you can change the Start button orb icon, too. If you want a Windows 8 Start menu replacement that feels just like Windows 7, StartIsBack is for you.
Download StartIsBack ($3, free 30-day trial)
Windows 8: Pokki Start menu replacement


Where StartIsBack tries to replicate the Windows of yesteryear, Pokki (free) is very much its own beast — and as much as I love the Windows 7 Start menu, I have to admit that Pokki is probably even better. It utilizes a neat “pinning” system that isn’t unlike the home screen of your smartphone or tablet (though I would argue that the Windows taskbar/superbar still does a better job). You can also add widgets to Pokki, such as Gmail or Facebook, which display your latest email or status updates.
By default, Pokki will configure your Windows 8 system to boot straight to the Desktop — and there is an option that will just completely disable the hot corners, if you so desire. (Remember, Win+C pops open the Charms menu, if you need.) If you’re looking for a Windows 8 Start menu/button replacement that isn’t reminiscent of Windows Vista/7, Pokki is for you.
Windows 8 Start menu replacement: StartMenu8


If you want the Windows 7 Start menu look-and-feel, but you’re not prepared to fork out a few dollars for StartIsBack or Start8, StartMenu8 is a solid alternative. While the interface won’t win any prizes — it feels a lot like the early Linux apps that ruthlessly ripped off Windows — you get a fair amount of configurability, and a handful of Windows 8-specific toggles that are very useful.
By default, StartMenu8 will skip the Windows 8 Start screen and go straight to the Desktop, and disable Windows 8′s hot corners. There’s also the option to disable the sidebar, if you really don’t ever want to see Windows 8 ever again. The StartMenu8 button icon can be altered, and you can add and remove which links appear up the right side of the Start menu. Overall, StartMenu8 looks and feels a bit clunky — and, incidentally, watch out for some delicious bundleware during the installation process.