Start8 Windows 8 start menu review

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 13, 2012
Updated • Dec 20, 2012

We have reviewed Start8 before and came to the conclusion that it is without doubt one of the best programs - if not the best - to bring back a start menu to the Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft, for reasons unknown, decided to remove the start menu from its newest desktop operating system Windows 8. This came as a shock to many Windows users who upgraded to the new operating system or bought a computer running on it as they were used to work with the start menu in previous versions of Windows. In fact, the start menu has been around since Windows 95 as an integral part of the operating system.

Some say Microsoft removed the start menu to promote the use of the operating system's new start screen and Windows Store.

It does not take long usually before third parties step in and provide solutions for features that many users feel are missing in Windows. Start8 was one of the first start menu replacements announced for Windows 8 and it has come a long way ever since the first beta releases that ran on previews of Windows 8.

The main purpose of Start8 is to replicate the functionality of the start menu of previous Windows versions. Installation is straightforward and you should see a start button placed at the leftmost part of the taskbar on the Windows desktop in the end.

start8 start menu

A click on the button displays a familiar looking menu that is displayed the most recent programs on the left, and links to system folders like Games or Documents on the right. Here you also find the shutdown button and search that Microsoft moved to the Charms Bar of the operating system.

Once thing you will notice right away is that Start8 mixes Windows Store apps and desktop programs in the start menu. You can disable the display of Windows Store apps here if you prefer to only work with desktop programs in the start menu.

The start menu works exactly as you would expect it to work. A click on an application opens it on the screen, search displays results in the start menu area so that you can interact with results right away, and the right sidebar opens the system folders like the control panel when you click on an item here.

A right-click on the start menu and the selection of Configure Start8 opens the configuration where you can make lots of changes to the program.

The program makes available multiple styles that you can switch between. The default style of the start menu resembles the Windows 7 menu, and you can change that to Stardock's Windows 8 start menu interpretation instead, and a couple of other styles that modify how the start menu looks on the desktop.

The Windows 8 start menu offers an interesting option, as it displays the start screen in a smaller window on the desktop instead. Other visual options include changing the start button to a custom icon and enabling translucency.

stardock start8 config

Configuration does not end here though as you can browse the configure, control and desktop menus to modify the start menu's functionality further. It would go too far to list all options available, which is why I decided to list my favorite options instead:

  • Modify the special folder selection displayed on the right of the start menu including options to add custom folders
  • Change the functionality of the power button
  • Configure what a click on the start button and a tap on the Windows key do (by default, they open the start menu). This can be interesting as you can configure one option to display the start menu, and another to open the operating system's start screen instead.
  • Show a start button on secondary taskbars (on multi-monitor systems)
  • Disable the hot corners when you are working on the desktop (the hot corners open menus when you move the mouse to a corner. This can be very distracting at times, especially when you are working on a system connected to multiple monitors).
  • Automatically go to the desktop on sign in.

Prefer to see it in action? Take a look at the demo video below:


Start8 integrates itself perfectly on the Windows 8 desktop. If you would not know better, you'd be hard pressed to tell that it is a third party solution and not the operating system's default start menu.

The program enables you to get rid of several of the annoyances of the Windows 8 operating system. Besides adding a start menu back to the desktop, it can bypass the start screen to load the desktop straight away, and disable the hot corners if you do not really work with them or prefer to use the keyboard to open the menus anyway.


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