The Windows 7 start menu has been designed by Microsoft to display recently used programs on the first page and all installed programs that have added a start menu entry on the second page. The second page is displayed after the user clicks on the All Programs link there.
When a Windows user decides to disable the listing of recent programs that have been executed on the computer, a blank start menu page is displayed instead.
This does not make that much sense for many users who would prefer that the programs listed under All Programs are moved to the first page so that they are accessible immediately when clicking on the start menu.
This is however not the case and there is no preference to change this behavior. The only option for users who have disabled the recent programs from being listed in the Windows 7 start menu is to fill the blank start menu with program and file links that they add to it.
Programs and files can be pinned to the start menu just like they can be pinned to the taskbar in Windows 7. This appears to be the only way to make use of the otherwise blank start menu in Windows 7.
So, what you can do is add your favorite programs, websites, and files to the Windows start menu by pinning them to it. This makes them available directly when you open the start menu so that you don't have to click on "all programs" first to launch them.
It would be interesting to see if anyone comes up with a better solution for the blank start menu in Windows 7. If so let us know in the comments.
Update: Pinning files, folders and programs to the blank start menu might be a tedious process, but it can really pay off as it allows you to customize the first page of the Windows start menu to your liking.
One alternative that has been mentioned in the comments is to use a start menu replacement application that gets rid of the Windows 7 start menu and replaces it with its own version.
Options include the excellent Classic Shell which offers that and more.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.