A look at Open Shell (Classic Shell fork)

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 5, 2019
Software, Windows

Open Shell is a fork of the popular discontinued Classic Shell program for Windows that may restore a classic Start Menu, Explorer and Internet Explorer shell on the system.

Classic Shell was a popular program for Windows that restored functionality in Windows versions that Microsoft discontinued. The program rose in popularity after the initial release of Windows 8 as users preferred to work with a regular Start Menu and not the Start interface that Microsoft tried to push down everyone's throat.

Classic Shell was not the only program that saw a surge in user numbers as Start Menu programs were downloaded in record numbers.

The lead developer of Classic Shell announced in 2017 that he would quit development. He decided to publish the source code of the program to give other developers the chance to fork the program and continue development.

One of the first forks was called Classic Start. The first version of Classic Start was released in June 2018 and a first development released followed in the same month. The program was renamed to Open Shell in September 2018 when a first stable version was released.

The project is not dead as work on Nightly versions continues. Users may download and install these Nightly versions which are linked on the main GitHub page; it is not recommended to install these on production machines because though.

I downloaded the latest release version of Open Shell, version 4.4.131, and installed it on a system running the latest Windows 10 20H1 Insider build. Installation went through without issues. The classic Start Menu was restored after installation and most features worked just fine during the test.

I was able to change the Start Menu layout and make modifications to it. Some features did not work properly in that version, however. I was not able to change the taskbar design nor disable breadcrumbs in File Explorer.

One reason that the original developer of the program gave for quitting the project after all those years was that the Windows 10 update interval was too high. Granted, running Classic Shell on an Insider version of Windows 10 that won't be out for another six or so months is not entirely fair.

I decided to run it on a recent Windows 10 version 1903 build to find out whether it would have less bugs. The issues that I experienced on the Windows 10 20H1 machine were experienced on the Windows 10 version 1903 PC as well.

Considering that the latest stable version of Open Shell was released before Microsoft released Windows 10 version 1903, it did not come as a surprise that the issues were experienced in that version as well.

I downloaded the Nightly version of Open Shell to find out if the issues were resolved in that version; this was not the case unfortunately.

Closing Words

Open Shell suffers from Microsoft's fast paced development and the changes that the company makes to new versions of Windows 10. If you run earlier versions of Windows, you won't notice these issues or bugs.

Users who run Windows 10 can still use Open Shell to restore a classic Start Menu and use most of the functionality that it provides. Bugs should be expected, however.

Now You: do you use Classic Shell / Open Shell or another program to restore classic functionality?

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  1. Anonymous said on March 9, 2023 at 1:52 pm

    Does it come back after every “moment” update?

  2. Baloney said on March 9, 2023 at 2:23 pm

    Yeah right.. Like this is going to stop defender from running =) This is comedy gold right here.

  3. Anonymous said on March 9, 2023 at 3:25 pm

    no ‘about the author’ paragraph?

  4. Gregory said on March 9, 2023 at 4:19 pm

    For permanent disable defender is if removed complete from system no just change permission folder.

    Just this is joke.

  5. moi said on March 9, 2023 at 5:57 pm

    simpler, load Autoruns (SysInternals)
    – filter “Defender”
    – untag all entries
    – reboot
    nothing has changed since my 1st modification years ago

  6. John G. said on March 9, 2023 at 6:32 pm

    I wouldn’t disable Defender imho, it has too many hidden roots inside Windows itself. One time I tried to uninstall it using brute force scripts and then the Onedrive feature stopped working definitely. A reinstallation was needed and since those times I prefer to maintain Defender untouched. It’s a better method to install another antivirus and it will disable Defender in a safer and easier mode (e.g., Avast is the best in this way, and also Panda Cloud Free is good too).

  7. boris said on March 10, 2023 at 12:19 am

    You can not stop defender from running in background or remove it without some penalty. All you can do is to limit telemetry.

    1. TelV said on March 10, 2023 at 4:52 pm


      It’s probably Smartscreen which is preventing WD from being disabled. Get rid of that and the problem should be solved: https://thegeekpage.com/disable-windows-defender-smartscreen/#How_to_disable_the_Windows_Defender_SmartScreen_via_Local_Group_Policy_Editor

  8. hoho said on March 10, 2023 at 1:47 pm

    Remove Windows and go for Linux.

    1. basingstoke said on March 10, 2023 at 2:51 pm

      Linux sucks dude. Besides it’s not comparable to Windows, these OSes are in different classes entirely.

      1. Derp said on March 10, 2023 at 4:36 pm

        I use Linux as my daily driver. It’s far more stable than Windows. When’s the last time you used Linux, 2010?

      2. Bromosexual said on March 11, 2023 at 2:04 am


        You’re right, dude. Bro, linux is just a bunch of code that starts before the OS, dude. Brobrodude, that shit ain’t even got emojis, dudebrodudeman! Dudebro, it’s no way near as cool as Windows with its hardcoded abilities to make money off the user, bro. Yo brodude man, you’re the coolest dude ever man, bro. Dude.

      3. basingstoke said on August 16, 2023 at 7:20 pm

        Lol what? Windows 7 doesn’t come with any Emojis

  9. TelV said on March 10, 2023 at 4:46 pm

    Download Autoruns and remove the checkmark from Windows Defender. It doesn’t remove it, but it will never run. https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/downloads/autoruns

  10. Simon said on March 10, 2023 at 8:37 pm

    Just use “Defender Control”:

    Per this video,
    it also works on Windows 11 too…

  11. Someone said on March 10, 2023 at 9:26 pm

    Win Defender, is completly the most succesful free-built in antivirus of Microsoft. Really nice product. Saved my ass a lot of times. Has updated malware database, completly strong defence
    from whatever smart screen disables. Or if you want better and more upgrated (paid) program,
    you can go further. But defender is always on your side.

  12. CalixtoWVR1 said on March 10, 2023 at 10:03 pm

    Why would one disable Windows (or Microsoft) Defender in the first place?. I consider this to be playing with fire big time. Everybody knows that if one is using another A-V, Defender will be disabled on its own and won’t be in one’s way.

  13. Ed D said on March 10, 2023 at 11:09 pm

    Why would I want to disable Windows Defender in the first place? It’s a great anti virus in my opinion. Been using it since Windows 8 and and never had a problem or a virus. Why mess with a good thing, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

  14. owl said on August 17, 2023 at 1:57 am

    How a ridiculous article!
    I am thoroughly stunned.

    Why Should You Disable First-Party Windows Defender?
    I can only think that it is “malice or perversely intention (want you to buy a third-party AV where you can expect a back margin)” to guide invalidation without showing the premise.
    No sane company will use third-party closed source programs (such as AV).

    As I thought, “Ghacks Technology News” seems to be coming to downfall.

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