What's the best Windows 8 start menu program?

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 9, 2012
Updated • Feb 19, 2014
Windows, Windows 8, Windows tips

Microsoft has replaced the traditional start menu in Windows 8 with the new startpage that appears when you boot into the operating system and when you press the Windows key when it is loaded.  A vocal part of Windows users does not want to give up on the start menu, and as a consequence, programs have been created by various companies and individuals to add it back to the Windows 8 desktop.

With choice comes the problem of deciding which start menu replica is best for your personal workflow and situation. We have reviewed quite a few start menu programs for the Windows 8 operating system in past months, from the commercial Start8 to the free StartMenu8 and the open source Classic Shell.

Here is a list of start menu programs that you may consider for Windows 8:

It is likely that even more apps exist, and that some will be created after the operating system launches in October. For now, this is a solid selection of free and paid applications that add a start menu in one form or the other back to the Windows 8 desktop.


The majority of programs offer a similar feature set:

  • Add a start menu to Windows 8
  • Option to bypass the start page that the operating system boots in
  • Block the start page by mapping the Windows key on the keyboard to the start menu

It is one application that sticks out of the bunch because of additional features that it makes available. Stardock's Start8 displays both Windows Store apps and desktop apps in the start menu, something that all other programs are not doing right now. While that may be uninteresting if you have decided to ignore the operating system's start page and integrated apps store, others may like the feature and prefer it over solutions where start page apps are not listed in the start menu.


Start8 on the other hand is a commercial app that sets you back about $5. Not a big sum but likely nothing that you want to spend if you do not need the additional functionality.

The free alternative that I like best is Classic Shell. Not only is it an open source program, but also versatile when it comes to customizing the appearance and functionality of the start menu. Skins are available to display start menus from various Windows operating system including Windows XP and Windows 7, the two most popular client based Windows operating systems still in operation today.

I'm not saying that the remaining start menu programs are bad in any way, only that Start8 and Classic Shell have a edge currently. This is likely going to change in the coming months though.

Are you using a different start menu application for Windows 8? If so, which are you using and why?


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Win8 User said on November 28, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Here’s another one: StartIsBack

  2. schmurtz said on November 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Handy start menu is really great too because it’s ordering automatically applications in categories .

  3. Jack said on November 21, 2012 at 12:08 am

    I got to ask which is most trouble free and uses less resource?

  4. mike said on November 4, 2012 at 4:13 am

    this site has the actual Microsoft Windows 7 Explorer and start menu ported over to windows 8. http://www.start.host-ed.me/

  5. Yogev Tuval said on November 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Hi Martin,
    There’s a new tool to restore your Windows 8 start button and start menu here

  6. Grim said on October 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Don’t forget StartisBack http://www.startisback.com/

    I’ve used many and so far i like Start8 and StartisBack the best. while Classic shell is the worst (least responsive)

    keep in mind I only use the start menu for the search function to launch apps as the new search in windows 8 tacks on many steps to start an app via search.

  7. mike said on October 26, 2012 at 10:10 am

    this site has the Actual Windows 7 Explorer and start menu ported over to Windows 8 not some stupid ‘stardock’ like application this is the real thing http://www.start.host-ed.me/

  8. Anonymous said on October 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Note that Classic Shell fixes Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer as well and is the most powerful at customizing exactly how you want to use your Windows desktop.

  9. Cornelis said on October 9, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Hey Martin

    I bought a brand new Win 7 laptop 3 weeks ago, I’ve been looking for a program like this, luckily I am a follower of your blog!

    Yes I agree, Classic Shell is the best one to use!

    Kind Regards

  10. ilev said on October 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Power 8 portable :

    The start menu replacer for Win8, styled and integrated inside taskbar

    No system files patching
    No hooks over system objects
    No app-init DLLs
    No additional services, drivers, etc
    No trash in registry
    No installation – just unpack and launch
    Small, fast and powerful

    XP SP3 , Windows 7 SP1 , Windows 8


  11. moinmoin said on October 9, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Another is Start Menu X (Free) Pro(commercial)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Thanks for that, added as well ;)

  12. moinmoin said on October 9, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Don’t forget Win8StartButton

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm

      Thanks, added.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.