Automatically order your Windows XP Start menu alphabetically

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 1, 2006
Updated • Oct 19, 2015
Windows, Windows tips

The Windows XP operating system adds new start menu entries to the end of the list. The system does not obey the structure or sorting preferences of the start menu which is quite problematic if you want to find a specific item quickly.

Windows XP users can for instance sort the start menu entries alphabetically and select to sort the entries by name.

Most users who sort their start menu alphabetically don't like it when new entries to the start menu are added at the bottom of the list as it breaks the sort order. Looks bad, causes confusion, and requires manual work to resolve the situation.

The big issue here is that sorting the item names alphabetically in the start menu is only applied to the current list of programs and folders, and not for future items added to the list.

Fortunately there is a Registry hack that changes the default sort order to alphanumeric instead of date. Start with a right-click on the programs window of the start menu and select Sort by Name. Open your registry editor with the shortcut Windows + R and type regedit to open the registry. Navigate to the following registry key:


Make sure you backup the key (MenuOrder) or the complete registry before you proceed. After you have done that delete the key MenuOrder. Once this is done new entries will also be sorted alphabetically.

Please note that the key will reappear after you have restarted windows.

Update: I was asked how to backup keys: You basically right-click the folder in the left sidebar in the Windows Registry editor. This opens a context menu with all sorts of options.

Select Export in the menu, enter a name for the backup and select an appropriate location for it. The backup is saved as a .reg file that you can double-click on later to restore the key to its previous values.

Please note that this is no longer needed in newer versions of the Windows operating system which sort items alpha-numerical by default and display recently added items separately.

Automatically order your Windows XP Start menu alphabetically
Article Name
Automatically order your Windows XP Start menu alphabetically
Find out how to change the default sort order of the Windows XP start menu to alpha-numerical.

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  1. Max said on October 31, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I had the “no ordering” problem on my WinXP Start Menu: the solution proposed by Martin actually solved it.

    Thanks Martin.

  2. Tom smith said on July 24, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Yeah, Skone is right. Teeluck’s solution does not sort automatically, it sorts manually. You would have to repeat that process every time you install a program. The Registry Key solution (proposed by the author of this article) is the *automatic* solution.

  3. skone said on August 21, 2008 at 7:58 am


    the purpose of the article is becuase the method you suggest DOES NOT sort the start menu AUTOMATICALLY.

  4. Teeluck said on February 10, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Here is a much easier way to sort alphabetically,

  5. Martin said on December 2, 2006 at 1:05 am

    Thanks for the info. I had to rewrite the article to make it work for another pc i tried it on. Here are the steps:

    1. right-click the programs folder and select sort by name
    2. go to the registry key and delete the key menu order
    3. restart windows.

  6. Anonymous said on December 2, 2006 at 12:09 am

    Interestingly I decided to try this but for some reason it doesn’t work on my machine. I still have everything appearing at the bottom same as before

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