The Windows 11 Start Menu is barely usable

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 24, 2021
Windows 11 News

Microsoft's upcoming Windows 11 operating system has a Start Menu that is barely usable in its current form. Windows 11 will be the third operating system in succession with a Start Menu redesign. Windows 8 introduced the fullscreen Start interface and Windows 10 live tiles among other features such as different tile sizes for shortcuts.

Windows 11's start menu comes with just a single new feature: a short list of recently opened files and installed apps. In fact, one of the main characteristics of the start menu is the removal of features. The Live Tiles of Windows 10 are gone, but that is just one of the many features that Microsoft removed.

windows 11 start menu

The default Windows 11 Start Menu displays a search at the top, 18 pinned tiles above the fold, more when you scroll, and recommendations below that. A link to "all apps" is available to display all Start entries in alphabetical order. You find options to lock the system, switch to another account, sign-out, or change the power state of the PC at the bottom.

Folders, that can hold multiple icons, are gone. Groups, which you could use to organize Start Menu shortcuts, are gone. The option to display the all apps listing and the pinned items on the Start Menu at the same time is gone as well. Different tile sizes are not supported anymore either, and you cannot expand the Start Menu's size anymore.

What you can do, is use drag & drop to move pinned icons in the Start Menu around, or use right-click operations to remove pinned items. Applications can still be added to the interface by right-clicking on them in Explorer or elsewhere and selecting the pin to start option.

The Pinned and Recommended areas of the Start Menu have fixed sizes. While you may hide all recommendations or reduce the number of pinned items below 13 or 7 to free up rows, doing so does not make room for other content in the Start Menu. You are left with empty space that has no function whatsoever.

almost blank start menu

Ultimately, what you get right now is a launcher with 18 shortcuts, the option to scroll to display more, an option to display the all apps listing, and a short listing of recently used programs/files and new applications, which you may expand as well.

Since the Windows 11 Start Menu is so limited, one has to wonder why it should be used at all. You could put the shortcuts on the desktop or taskbar, and launch them from there without ever opening the Start interface. You could also rely on search for that, even though Windows Search is far from the best option when it comes to search on Windows.

As far as the recently used or installed listings are concerned, these may work in work environments, but since the listings default to just three items each, they may not be that useful in home environments. As soon as you open more than three files during a session, you won't see all files opened during that session under recent anymore. Since all file types may be listed there, it is just the matter of opening three photos, video files, text files or any other file type to push out items from the recommended section. Windows 11 does display a "more" button in that case, which you may activate to display a larger listing of opened files sorted chronologically.

Lack of customization options

The Windows 11 Start Menu lacks customization options. While that may reduce issues that users may experience when using Start and is thus beneficial for Microsoft, it at the same time reduces the usefulness of the Start Menu.

Even basic options, such as the removal of the Recommended section if you turn it off, is not supported. There is a slim chance that Microsoft is going to change that before the final reason, but if past decisions are anything to go by, it is more likely that the Start Menu of the preview builds will be the menu that users get when the operating system is released to the public.

Closing Words

Windows users who rely on the Start Menu may replace it using third-party apps such as Start11 or Open Shell, among others that will be released in the future. These bring back classic start menus to Windows 11, which you can customize to your liking.

Now You: what is your take on Windows 11's Start Menu?

The Windows 11 Start Menu is barely usable
Article Name
The Windows 11 Start Menu is barely usable
The new Windows 11 Start Menu feels like a trimmed down version of Windows 10's Start Menu; it lacks customization options, and is barely usable for a number of reasons.
Ghacks Technology News

Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Davos said on November 22, 2022 at 3:10 am

    What were they thinking. There were some lazy, awful choices in win 11. This one is right at the top. Extremely disappointing. I have more to say but it’s not nice.

  2. Stacey said on January 13, 2022 at 3:31 pm

    I’m a software developer and I have 10 different version of the same software installed which were all neatly organized into folders with their respective version numbers. Now the they all show up in a list and I can’t figure out which one is which.
    Windows 8 start issues all over again

  3. Bluesun said on January 9, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    I think it is messed up that knowing users wanted the start menu, which is why it was brought back in windows 10, it is almost as if they removed of the features of the start menu as if it were a spiteful move. Who the hell is giving the ok to designing?

  4. Peter Jay said on November 10, 2021 at 11:55 pm

    I install Open Shell (formerly Classic Shell) on EVERY Windows 10 computer I set up – and I set up dozens of them. Not a SINGLE complaint from ANYONE has been heard about this. Ever. And NO ONE has intentionally deleted or disabled it.

    I use “Classic with 2-column” style, but the “Windows 7” style works equally well.

    As others have said, Microsoft got this part right with Windows 7, and somehow still doesn’t get how close to perfect it is. Actually IMO better in many ways than Apple’s Dock.

    The “spiffy” new Windows 11 interface is actually a step backwards from Windows 10. Go figure.

    Hoping here for an update to Open Shell that is fully optimized for Windows 11; or even better, for the folks at Microsoft to WAKE UP and fix what they so totally broke, starting with Windows 8.

    Meanwhile, Windows 10 support doesn’t run out for at least 4 more years. And since Windows 11 is substantially Windows 10 under the hood, you might as well simply stay right there.

    OK, done ranting. Cheers.

  5. Stella said on October 18, 2021 at 1:41 am

    I installed Windows 11, looked at the start menu, used the backwards click to find the apps list and thought – this is complete crxp. Carried on using it a bit more. The Os is slick and speedy – but the start menu does my head in so I can’t enjoy using it. There are also too many teeny tiny faint icons instead of words in a lot of menus (copy, paste, delete etc). You need extremely good eyesight – and less intuitive (for those of us that can read). I wanted to persevere with it but honestly how can you if you can’t get past the first hurdle. The useless start menu that frankly is dumbed down and insulting – not even able to customise it.

    So I showed it to the 13 year old boy who likes all new tech. He took one look and said – “It’s shxt. I’m keeping Windows 10 – I use the start menu and apps list a lot – turn off my windows updates”.

    It is very frustrating – a slick OS – good speeds – but it’s like a car with a broken ignition key.

  6. Fred Fisher said on October 14, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    The start menu is on all of my computers is standardized and EASY to use. Until this is rectified in Window 11 I will stay with 10. This is like Windows 8 all over again.

  7. Greg A Hoffman said on October 12, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    I’ve seen comments that indicate MS looks at what is used / not used and eliminates highly unused features. However, start folders are really for those cases where you don’t use apps very often. I’ll put apps together by task, type of app, etc. Many of these are used rarely — the folders are so that I can find them. Search doesn’t help if you can’t remember the name of what you are looking for. If all you use is MS Office apps and a browser, then you don’t need a start menu. If you have an I/T tool-forward job, you have tons of apps that you need organize somehow.

    I shouldn’t need a shareware app to do this…

  8. Anonymous said on October 10, 2021 at 8:16 am

    MICROSOFT SHOULD BE BROKEN UP INTO CONSUMER AND CORPORATE DIVISIONS. They simply don’t care about the consumer products. They simply don’t need to innovate as they get money from the dumb corporates. They should be in a position in which they can DIE. Otherwise we will never see any innovation from this sorry company.

  9. Anonymous said on October 8, 2021 at 4:29 am

    In settings, you can add the Settings icon to the left of the Power button.

    Why have the Power button on the right where you have to move right across the menu to access it? – it was perfect in Win10. The same for All apps – why do I now have to move my mouse so far to access buttons that are so often used?

  10. dd said on October 6, 2021 at 2:20 am

    Removing the customised start menu from windows 10 and replacing it with a hot steaming pile of what exactly?
    What were they thinking?
    People got paid to do that – bring back a useable option NOW!

  11. DC said on September 19, 2021 at 10:50 pm

    I installed a beta Windows 11 preview, and reverted to Windows 10 in about a half hour. The new start menu is cramped, and so much less customizable and usable than the windows 10 start menu. I also prefer the older “task” or timeline view. If this is how Windows 11 will stay, I’ll stick with 10 for as long as possible.

  12. Dennis Bareis said on August 31, 2021 at 9:17 am

    I love ObjectDock as it’s a great way to launch stuff but I’ll probably given the WIN 11 native solution a go before trying Start11

  13. Sean said on August 28, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    Wish MS drops the idea Win 11. Not many buyers like me in Windows user communities.

  14. John said on August 27, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    The worst part of this is the nag/ad to enable recommendations that they leave there after the user specifically turns recommendations off in settings. Even more than the empty space, something telling me to do something I specifically toggled off is about as an infuriating as anything on a start menu is going to get (Admittedly there’s a low ceiling on that category). Respect my preference! If I say that I don’t want ads in the form of recommendations, don’t leave me a permanent recommendation for recommendations to stare at. The white space is bad, the nag message is worse, reminscent of the nags to refresh your browser (Which means change it to Edge), sign up for Windows rewards, and to sign in with a Microsoft cloud account instead of a local one at the top of some versions of the Windows 10 settings area. Get this stuff the hell out of my operating system!

    One of the worst trends in computing is the inability to customize. Next to it are nags to reverse your customization when it’s there and you do it, instead of respecting your choices. Advertisements baked into operating systems and software are right up there, too, and I consider this an example of that as well.

    I’ve never used third-party start menu software. This would push me to it.

  15. common sense computing said on August 26, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    First they came for the start menu, now they’re coming for the taskbar. Microsoft can’t wait to turn Windows UI from a professional tool to a Chromebook toy.

  16. Jozsef said on August 26, 2021 at 8:48 am

    I meant thanks for telling it like it is.

  17. Jozsef said on August 26, 2021 at 8:46 am

    Thanks for telling it like it, Martin. To me, XP with the flyout menus that you could organize at will made the most sense and with Classic/ Open Shell was always available to make even the dreadful Windows 8 very nice to use. Win 10 was unacceptable for a number of familiar reasons but the Start Menu was bearable looked nice. This 11 rubbish just looks nice and has the other non-virtues that I will never accept like spying, changing my settings, removing apps and lying to me about it, advertising. For the people who want it, great, I’m happy for you. Really.

  18. VioletMoon said on August 25, 2021 at 8:26 pm

    Puzzled . . . what part of it don’t users understand. The new OS is prototype. Tinkering. Anyone using it, please find a workaround rather than mumble, grumble, hem and haw. It’s pointless to discuss an “unfinished” project. I kind of think MS knows a bit more than users give them credit for.

    Click over to Stardock and check out their Beta Menu for Windows 11. There are much deeper issues embedded in the OS than an out-of-tune Start Menu. Those are the issues we need to report, resolve, and eliminate.

    1. Anonymous said on December 2, 2021 at 8:37 pm

      Still willing to say this now? I was just forced to upgrade and am gonna have a hell of a time getting back to the old menu, pretty sure windows 11 isn’t beta anymore

      1. Bluesun said on January 9, 2022 at 5:49 pm

        Yeah, this comment didn’t age well…

  19. Lindsay said on August 25, 2021 at 4:26 am

    Gee I hope this works…

    The Windows 11 Start Menu is barely usable.

  20. Steve S. said on August 25, 2021 at 4:18 am

    In my case, I use my computer as more than a simplified “appliance”. I have many tools, utilities and specialized software that I want to access quickly, efficiently and without typing, searching, scrolling, trying to remember its exact name or the name of the company.

    My solution for many years has been the cascading menu using programs like Open Shell. I organize almost everything in custom folders according to use – for example: “anti-malware”, “HDD,SSD,GPU tools”, “photos & video”, “audio & music”, “documents”, “printing”, “financial & taxes”, “backup & imaging”, “troubleshooting”, etc., etc..

    It is very quick to drill down right to the program I need by clicking the Start button and simply moving my mouse a few times to open the cascade level I want and -bingo- click once! No typing. No scrolling. No searching.

    The Windows 11 Start Menu is a massive impediment in my view and a dumbing down of the UI. Long live Open Shell.

  21. Anonymous said on August 25, 2021 at 2:31 am

    start menu is bare but kinda refreshing without all the flare.

    overall it is no more or less useful than it was in Windows 10 or 8, as opening the start menu then typing to search finds everything you need as always…

    not sure what the guy who wrote this article was smoking, the folders are still there when you click all apps. I want some of that, my stuff isn’t that good.

    1. G2 said on August 25, 2021 at 9:34 am

      What are you smoking lol. We shouldn’t click and click to be able to have some things organised. At least windows 10 allowed us to create folders of our apps and have access to them immediately by clicking on start menu, even a phone can do this. Windows should learn some basic stuff from gnome’s start menu (i can’t believe i am praising gnome lol, but even gnome’s start menu is more customizable now than windows start menu and gnome’s devs hate customization).

  22. DAVIN PETERSON said on August 24, 2021 at 11:20 pm

    The Windows 7 Start Menu is liked by many as it is highly customizable. The Windows 10 Start Menu is less customizable and now the Windows 11 Start Menu has less options to customize. One think I liked about the Windows 10 Start Menu was being able to group app icons into folders just like you can do on Android & iOS. This feature is missing in Windows 11.

  23. John said on August 24, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    I have to disagree with the author and many of the commentators here. Much of the start menu in win 10 was largely redundant and things like active tiles were quite pointless. Lamenting the demise of the win 10 start bar is therefore strange. A cleaner less cluttered look is absolutely preferably in my opinion. If you’ve set up your task bar with the important stuff you barely need to ever use the start menu anyway.

  24. rip said on August 24, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    I haven’t even bothered reading about Windows 11. I’ve been using Redmond’s stuff since PC-DOS/NT3.5/WFWG3.11/etc./etc.

    The Windows 7 start menu and taskbar seemed to hit a good spot. OpenShell and 7+ Taskbar Tweaker have been able to solve most of MS’s disastrous forays into new UI paradigms based on focus groups comprised of fanboys or employees.

    It’s so nice to be able to switch to Linux desktop managers when I get really frustrated.

  25. mj said on August 24, 2021 at 10:01 pm

    This may sound petty, but i’ve been using Windows for over 25 years now, and i’ve gotten used used to the taskbar being labeled and never combined, icon-only is so damn clunky and hard to get used to.

  26. Rick said on August 24, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    Normally I agree with Martin, but I have to say that I find the Win11 start menu much improved vs the Windows 10 version.

    For being big and empty, you only display it when the need arises, so screen real estate is not an issue.

    The horrible widgets are gone (or can made to be gone), and anything you can pin to the taskbar, you can pin to the start menu.

    So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised with it. Now, for the tasbar .. a different story, but I’m sure an article on that is coming soon.

    1. C2 said on August 25, 2021 at 9:27 am

      What? If you disable the space they want for their “recommendations”, you end up with half of your start menu empty telling you you need to enable this.
      You end up with a small start menu and half of it is empty. Amazing.

  27. Jeff M.S. said on August 24, 2021 at 8:08 pm

    Now do a similar review of the Taskbar, which is even worse because there is no replacement available except the Registry value to revert which can be removed any day.

  28. Microsabotage said on August 24, 2021 at 7:35 pm

    The current state of Windows 11 is really sad. Feels as if middle schoolers are developing Windows 11 and they are purposely trying to sabotage it. They have no clue how people use their computers. They lost touch of reality. We need adults in charge of the Windows team. They need to fire everyone currently under the Windows department. Having Panos Panay made no difference, its actually worse than Windows 10 development.

    1. GuyZka said on November 7, 2021 at 8:46 am

      Absolutely true. I started suspecting this after the first iterations of Win10. It’s like a fanboys generation of engineers trapped in the iPhone mindset. They destroyed Mac OSX iOS’icing it and are doing the same to Windows.

  29. ULBoom said on August 24, 2021 at 6:21 pm

    I like the new more subdued appearance, the rest is silly. Apparently winaerotweaker can bring back the old start menu and its functionality so it’s still buried in the OS somewhere.

    If you remove all the shortcuts, I guess you have just a little all apps button in a gigantic gray box?

    When I end up on Win 11, Open Shell will likely be the way I go; with a Win 11 skin, it might look good. Gotta be able to resize that gigantic menu.

  30. CyberCipher said on August 24, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    The Windows 11 start menu is proof positive that Microsoft should have been broken up during the 1990s (as if Windows 8 wasn’t enough).

  31. Hawk said on August 24, 2021 at 5:27 pm

    I have been an early adopter of Windows since 3.1 beta. But since 8.0 beta I have waited. The changes to the UI are far too detrimental to my workflow and I am not willing to give up my working efficiency at the UI design whims of Microsoft. Regardless of what their research indicates.

    So now I wait until third parties can restore enough for the UI for me to keep my basic workflow intact.

  32. Ryan F said on August 24, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    I will preface my comment by acknowledging that I don’t speak for everyone and my use case is not everyone’s use case. Now that that’s out of the way:

    > Since the Windows 11 Start Menu is so limited, one has to wonder why it should be used at all. You could put the shortcuts on the desktop or taskbar, and launch them from there without ever opening the Start interface.

    I mean that’s kind of the point. For the programs I’m using almost 100% of the time, they’re in my taskbar. Why would I bother accessing them in a menu that requires an extra click to open up? That’s been the case since Windows 95.

    I’m trying to think back to the older Start Menus of yore (XP/7) and I recall the ability to pin programs being very limited back then, yet these are the Start Menus people often try to reproduce with third-party solutions. Interesting. Furthermore, back in the day, if I had to find a program that wasn’t in my taskbar, desktop, or pinned programs in the Start Menu, I’d have to click Start > Programs. Now in Windows 11, I have to click Start > All apps….. it’s functionally identical.

    I guess I don’t see what the big deal is having to use the scroll wheel to get to another page of pinned programs.

    I think the new Start Menu is fine for what it is (I’m admittedly in the “more is less” camp here). The icons are a lot nicer than the tiles in Windows 10, especially the haphazard way they could look if you had tiles of varying sizes. The menu also feels a lot snappier and more responsive than the one in Windows 10.

    That being said, I do think the lack of customization options is a bad thing. I think shortcut groups (or folders) would have been a good thing to carry over from Windows 10 (although in my case I don’t even have enough pinned apps to make it worthwhile). I also think Settings should have a permanent menu entry (maybe to the left of the shutdown button) instead of being listed as a separate app… that’s something even Windows 10 got right, at least.

    I have qualms about the way Microsoft does a lot of what they do, but I’m not going to pretend that I hate my time with the Windows 11 preview. Sorry, but I have not been able to buy into the doom-and-gloom sentiment that a lot of people seem to have toward Windows 11. I posit that at least a fair number of those people would hate Windows 11 no matter how it turned out just because “Microsoft BAD”.

    1. cantis said on October 16, 2021 at 8:42 am

      The big thing the Start Menu fixed is the basket of icons on the desktop… most users still use the desktop as a place to put icons… but this requires you minimise your screens to get back to the desktop to launch a program. The Start menu, with nice groups of tiles, easy access to features and the drill in alphabetical list worked very well to mean I never had to do that ‘Minimise to desktop’ task.

  33. aristofeles green said on August 24, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    Microsoft did it just perfect on Windows 7. It seems that they are the only one who still don’t see it, and never will.

  34. Martin P. said on August 24, 2021 at 3:05 pm

    Whatever the people who designed this start menu smoke, it has to be very good…


  35. Ted Tabaka said on August 24, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    Completely agree. The Start Menu is so baren. All my previous customizations are now gone!

    The “Start” button was my home in Windows 10 while keeping my desktop clean. What Windows 10 had worked, surprisingly. Microsoft should have two layouts. One for home, which is the old Windows 10, and one for work, which is Windows 11. This would suffice for both parties.

    I honestly do not care about Live Tiles, but being able to create groups and folders is a no-go. They need to reverse this decision while they are still in beta. Sadly, I do not think they will get enough back-lash to switch what was already presented.

  36. Ted said on August 24, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    Completely agree. The Start Menu is so baren. All my previous customizations are now gone!

    The “Start” button was my home in Windows 10 while keeping my desktop clean. What Windows 10 had worked, surprisingly. Microsoft should have two layouts. One for home, which is the old Windows 10, and one for work, which is Windows 11. This would suffice for both parties.

    I honestly do not care about Live Tiles, but being able to create groups and folders is a no-go. They need to reverse this decision while they are still in beta. Sadly, I do not think they will get enough back-lash to switch what was already presented.

  37. John Smith said on August 24, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    Just replace Windows with Linux. It’s free, customizeable, privacy friendly and doesn’t require a microsoft account. With Proton you can even play most games on Linux now.

    Linux Mint seems to be a good for most people coming from Windows.

    1. Cantis said on October 16, 2021 at 8:39 am

      If and only if you can run LINUX without EVER opening a terminal? Can’t? Then stop recommending it, lots of people need to be able to run their systems without ever using a terminal, and it’s still required. Fixing it so that the terminal is NEVER used would remove what LINUX fans like… so please just stop.

    2. VioletMoon said on August 25, 2021 at 8:22 pm

      Yes, Zorin came out with a refresh. It’s a “beginner’s” distro, but likeable.

    3. Anonymous said on August 25, 2021 at 5:24 am

      Possibly reasonable suggestion but termed in an arrogant way. You (and anybody else) needs to qualify the recommendation to move to Linux. You seem to think everyone uses a computer has the same needs you have. I can promise you, what is a good suggestion for some is not a good suggestion for all.

      1. Lindsay said on August 25, 2021 at 9:21 am

        Reminds me of an Apple Macintosh t-shirt slogan I once saw:

        I’ve upped my standards.
        Up yours.

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.