Even though Windows 8 doesn’t have a Start menu anymore, I still find myself clicking in the corner of the screen to open programs, search my PC, or do anything else the Start menu used to do.

Of course, without an actual Start menu, I usually end up click the Internet Explorer shortcut that’s sitting in its place, meaning I have to sit back and wait as my PC laboriously launches an unneeded browser window.

Classic Shell menu style settings

You can set the “style” of the Classic Shell Start menu to mimic Windows “Classic,” XP, Vista, or Windows 7.

Well, good news, fellow Windows 8 users: you can now revive the Start menu (or something close to it, anyway) with a minimum of fuss thanks to Classic Shell, a handy (and free) software download.

Update: You can now get the Start button back on your desktop thanks to Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 update, but the old Start menu is still missing in action.

You can download Classic Shell right here, and once you install the program, you’ll get to choose the style for your Start menu: Windows “Classic” (think Windows 95-era PCs), Windows PC, or Windows Vista/7.

Just make your selection, click OK, and voilà—you should have a new Start menu waiting in the bottom corner of the Windows 8 desktop.

You can customize the Classic Shell Start menu by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Settings. An almost bewildering number of options is available, from changing the look of the Start button itself to tweaking the look and feel of the Start menu columns.

Classic Shell drag program shortcuts into menu

Just drag and drop a program shortcut to add it to the Classic Shell Start menu.

Here’s a few more tips to help you get started…

  • No, you can’t add program icons to the Classic Shell Start menu with a right-click; instead, try dragging and dropping a program shortcut into the Start button or into the Start menu itself.
  • You can change the behavior of the Windows key (which opens the Start menu in previous versions of Windows or the Start screen in Windows 8) in the Settings menu. Select the Basic Settings tab (or the Controls tab if the “All Settings” radio button is enabled) and pick an option under the “Windows Key opens” section—anything from “Nothing” to “Start Menu in Desktop and Start Screen in Metro.”
  • By default, Classic Shell deactivates the “hot corner” for the Windows 8 Start screen (which usually sits in the same corner of the screen as the old Start menu). To turn the Start screen hot corner back on, click the “Windows 8 Settings” tab in the Settings menu and select “None” under “Disable active corners.”
  • Had enough of Classic Shell? You can turn it off temporarily by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Exit (just relaunch Classic Shell to get the Start menu back), or permanently by opening the Control Panel, clicking “Remove a program,” and then selecting Classic Shell.

Bonus tip

Ever wish you could skip the Start screen when booting Windows 8 and jump directly to the desktop? Open Classic Shell’s settings again, click the “Windows 8 Settings” tab, and check the box next to “Skip Metro screen.”

Looking for more Windows 8 tips? Click here!

Note: In case you’re wondering, my opinions on Classic Shell are my own, and the makers of the program haven’t compensated me in any way.