Windows 8 has some awesome features, but like any new operating system, it also creates its fair share of annoyances for existing users. Here’s how to fix all of those problems, from bringing back the Start menu to making Windows Explorer less dumbed-down.
Title image remixed from Yuri Arcurs (Shutterstock).
We’re fans of Windows 8, and we’d argue strongly that most of the complaints surrounding it are misguided. However, there are some annoyances that really need fixing. Instead of sticking with Windows 7 and missing out on Windows 8’s improvements, we’re going to show you how to get the best of both worlds.
Bring Back The Start Menu
The new Start screen isn’t too hard to adjust to, but if you want the comfort (and keyboard shortcuts) from your old Start menu, it’s really easy to bring back. Our favourite tool for the task if Classic Shell, which is free and offers an awesome range of customisation options. But there are plenty of other options if that doesn’t appeal, [clear]
Get Rid Of The Start Screen
If you really, really, really hate the tiled interface, you can get rid of it entirely with Classic Shell. Right-click on your Start menu and head into the settings. Under the “Windows 8 Settings” tab, you can check a box to skip the Start screen at login, as well as disable the hot corners if they trip you up. Start8 will also let you bypass the start screen, though it can’t disable anything else.
You can also disable the lock screen using Group Policy editor.
Customise The Ribbon-ified Windows Explorer
The new Windows Explorer has some cool features, but not everyone’s a fan of the Ribbon interface. If it’s not to your taste, you have a few options for improving Explorer.
Classic Shell adds a new toolbar to Windows Explorer with small, simple buttons that you can customise to your heart’s content. It isn’t quite the same as having the old dropdown menus, but it’s much simpler than the new Ribbon interface, and lets you add only the functions you’ll actually use, which is nice. If you don’t see it after installing Classic Shell, head to View > Options, click the Classic Explorer Bar to enable it, then click the seashell icon in the new toolbar to customise it.
If you prefer a more traditional file explorer with dropdown menus, you’re better off with a full Explorer replacement such as Xplorer2. Not only will it give you all your advanced menus back, but you’ll get tabs, two-pane browsing, lots of keyboard shortcuts, and a fantastic search feature. It won’t be quite as pretty as the new Windows Explorer, but if you long for traditional menus rather than the new Ribbon, this is your best bet.
Play DVDs for Free
Bad news, movie buffs: DVD playback is gone in Windows 8. Even if you download the currently-free Windows Media Centre, it will only allow you to play DVDs in Media Centre, not in regular desktop programs like Windows Media Player.
If you want to play DVDs in Windows Media Player, it directs you to the Windows Store where you can buy an add-on for DVD support. Unless you really want to use WMP, don’t waste your money — VLC will play DVDs for free. Download it, install it, and forget about paying for DVD playback.
Bring Back The Confirmation Box When Deleting Files
In Windows 8, when you delete a file, it no longer asks you whether you’re sure — it just sends the file right to the Recycle Bin. This was an option in Windows 7 as well, but it wasn’t the default. If you’d rather have that extra safety net, you can easily bring the confirmation dialog back. Just right-click on the Recycle Bin, choose Properties, and tick the “Display Delete Confirmation Dialog” box.
Show The Desktop With A Hidden Button
Remember Aero Peek, the feature that let you hover over the edge of the taskbar to show your desktop? That’s still around in Windows 8, but you have to enable it first. Right-click on the taskbar, choose Properties, and under the Taskbar tab check “Use Peek to Preview the Desktop”. You won’t see the button at the right edge of the taskbar like you did in Windows 7, but it’s there — just hover your mouse over the area right of the clock and your windows will turn invisible again. You can also click this area to show the desktop instead of just peeking at it.