Get rid of a huge programs list in the start menu

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 19, 2007
Updated • Oct 13, 2015
Windows, Windows tips

I reviewed the software Tidy Start Menu the other day which offers users an option to move start menu entries to several categories like Office, Games and Internet to improve the manageability of all programs listed in the Windows start menu.

The main idea behind the program is to display categories in the start menu's root listing to improve accessibility of all programs listed in it.

It occurred to me that I did not need the program for that. The only advantage that it offered over manually moving programs into folder categories was that I did not have to create the folders that it creates manually.

I quickly uninstalled the software and decided to create a few main folders and move the majority of my applications into them. Only shortcuts to those applications that I would use on my daily routine would remain visible. I decided to stick with the main categories Office, Games, Internet, Utilities and Graphics.

Many startmenu entries have not only the shortcut to the program in their folder but also shortcuts to readme files, uninstallation routines, webpage links and the like.


I always thought that this was superfluous and it made me occasionally miss the mark, so to speak. Instead of loading a program, I would open a readme file, or a website, or even start the uninstallation routine.

So, while I was at it I decided to remove all files except for the program shortcuts to avoid this in the future. This took a while, and I have to make sure that I move every new program that I install or move to the start menu to the right folder, but it is worth it in my opinion.. I have ten categories and only two application shortcuts underneath them.

How do you sort - if you do that - your startmenu ?

Update: The release of Windows 7 has turned things around for me quite a bit. The new taskbar of the operating system lets you pin programs you use often to it, so that you do not have to use the taskbar for that anymore.

The consequence for me was that I use the start menu less and the taskbar more frequently. That's the main reason why I no longer categorize programs into folders to make up room, as it is not required anymore to use the start menu to run the most important programs on the system.

Get rid of a huge programs list in the start menu
Article Name
Get rid of a huge programs list in the start menu
How to use categories in the Windows start menu to improve accessibility of programs listed in it.

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  1. Jerusalem Joe said on December 21, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Hmmm – much better now.
    Thanks oliver!

    I still don’t understand why there are two folders when I am the only one using this computer. I don’t remember being asked to approve this arrangement.
    Oh well – I guess it’s just the M$ way!

  2. Oliver Alexander said on December 21, 2007 at 10:03 am


  3. Oliver Alexander said on December 21, 2007 at 12:38 am

    @ Jerusalem Joe

    This is because there are effectively two start menus:

    1. Start menu User Name
    (C:\Documents & Settings/User Name/Start Menu)

    2. Start menu All Users
    (C:\Documents & Settings/All Users/Start Menu)

    The first applies only for the User in question, the second one for all.

  4. Jerusalem Joe said on December 20, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    I can’t get my start menu to behave.
    How do you do it?

    The folders keep changing places. I get two “startup” folders for some reason, when i open the start menu folder I get to see only a fraction of the folders and shortcuts that are actually there – it’s crazy.
    So – how do you do it?

  5. Oliver Alexander said on December 20, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    @ Enigma re. Dopus:

    Would not want to use anything else. Really powerful, thoroughly configurable and rock solid.

    Takes a power user though to configure for greatest benefit. For lesser demands I tend to recommend PowerDesk.

    Ad al. re. Vista Start Menu:

    PowerPro by Bruce Switzer, also a real swiss knife application, with small footprint to boot, might provide some useful solutions here. I, eg., use it to emulate a start menu on right-click on desktop and left right simultaneous click anywhere. It can do much more. But again, it is more power-userish. At some stage I might send a write up about this free (!) app. to ghacks.

  6. Enigma said on December 20, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Ahhh Dopus use to use that on the amiga was pure genius then wonder what it’s like for windows.

  7. Grimskallen said on December 20, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Absolutely agreed, sorting the start-menu is a must.
    Although I’m currently in the process of 100% start using Launchy, I guess I better get used to it, seing how the new Vista start-menu is utter garbage! Cheers Martin

  8. Jeremy said on December 20, 2007 at 8:28 am

    One of the first things I do on a clean build is organize the start menu.

    If any applications I install have the option to not add shortcuts, I’m sure to choose that option and create the shortcuts manually.

    This avoids left over garbage in my registry.

    Nothing worse then a Pre-Built machine loaded with bloat ware.. and 100 sub menus to navigate only to find a folder with the read-me.

    I also like using the option in XP to create a custom tool bar for frequently accessed applications, leaving my desktop clean as possible.

  9. kazounet said on December 20, 2007 at 9:19 am

    I’ve been using Launchy for 2 years, and the thing I can tell is that I almost never use my start menu, so it’s completely messy and I like it that way :D

  10. Oliver Alexander said on December 20, 2007 at 3:50 am

    The wise thing to do. Pitty to hear that Vista stuffs it up. I think my “upgrade” will have to wait a little longer.

    The inclined tweaker may also wish to consider installing programs in a similar way, as the “Program files” directory gets quickly crowded up and confusing.


    C:\Office\MS Office
    C:\Office\Personal Information Manager

    As I always have have a file manager window open – with me it’s Directory Opus – I frequently find myself opening programs this way. It helps to whack a shortcut to the programs into the category root directories.

    Many different ways to skin the bear ;) …

  11. arturogoga said on December 20, 2007 at 1:19 am

    I’m running Vista, so the start menu isn’t as easy to organize as it was on XP. When I was on XP, I usually did the same thing – created a bunch of folders, categorizing many apps in them.

    But Vista has a great little thing, the search bar. Just hit the start button, type some letter of the name of the app, and there you go, a way to show the apps. Since then, organizing the start menu has become kind of pointless. And such lazyness has made me install Launchy on the other PC, the one with XP, so it can search menu entries for programs, so I don’t have to arrange anything.

    And so, I rarely find myself looking for a program on the start menu.

  12. Enigma said on December 20, 2007 at 12:16 am

    I am pretty much the same, I organise the hell out of my start menu.

  13. LethAL said on December 19, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    I *sort-of* follow debian’s structure, as I have tango category icons. For programs with only one launch point, I will move them out of their installed folder, and put them directly in the category, and I like to remove all the uninstall items.

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