8 Easy Ways to Improve (or Replace) Windows 11’s Start Menu

8 Easy Ways to Improve (or Replace) Windows 11’s Start Menu
Photo: A9 STUDIO, Shutterstock

Every major update since Windows 8 has come with a major redesign of the Start menu, and Windows 11 is no exception. This time, though, Microsoft went rather radical: The taskbar is centered, the Start menu is devoid of live tiles, and there are only two sections — pinned apps, and recommendations.

If you find yourself unhappy with the new look and feel of it, there are changes you can make to improve it or remove it altogether.

Make the Pinned apps section actually usable

Screenshot: Khamosh PathakScreenshot: Khamosh Pathak

Let’s start by customising what is now the only major part of the Start menu (RIP Live Tiles). In the Pinned section, you can see a list of apps that are designated to the Start menu. You can click the “All Apps” button to see a list of all installed applications. By default, this will show you a list of mostly Microsoft apps. Once your PC is set up, we recommend unpinning the default apps, and pinning the apps you’re actually going to use.

Right-click any app in the Pinned section and choose the “Unpin from Start” option. Go to the “All Apps” section, right-click any app you want to pin, and choose “Pin to Start.

Once you have pinned everything you want, you drag and drop to rearrange the apps however you’d like.

Disable the Recommended section

Screenshot: Khamosh PathakScreenshot: Khamosh Pathak

The star of the Start menu, according to Microsoft, is the new Recommended section. This section will show you recent files, new apps, and app suggestions. But it’s not always on point. There’s no way to remove this section, but you can at least disable it.

Go to Settings > Personalisation > Start and disable “Show recently opened items in Start, Jump Lists and File Explorer.

Add quick access folders and shortcuts to the Start menu

Screenshot: Khamosh PathakScreenshot: Khamosh Pathak

In the bottom-right corner of the Start menu, you’ll find the small power button. It’s so lonely out there, though. Give the little guy some company by adding shortcuts and quick access folders to the bottom of the start menu.

Go to Settings > Personalisation > Start > Folders. Enable the features or folders that you want to see. (We recommend adding “Settings,” “File Explorer,” “Downloads,” and “Personal Folder.”)

Put the Start menu back to the left

Screenshot: Khamosh PathakScreenshot: Khamosh Pathak

It’s not just the Start menu design that’s new, it’s the placement, as well. If you don’t like the Start menu being smack in the middle of the screen, there is an option to move it back to the left-hand corner.

Go to Settings > Personalisation > Taskbar > Taskbar Behaviours. Here, from the “Taskbar alignment” option, switch to “Left.”

Right-click for an actually useful menu

Screenshot: Khamosh PathakScreenshot: Khamosh Pathak

There’s a secret Start menu that’s arguably a lot more useful than the default Start menu. Right-click the Start button, and you’ll get a list of options. From here, you can quickly open Settings, Task Manager, Terminal, Desktop, and a lot more.

Bring the old Windows 11 Start menu back with Start11

Image: Start11Image: Start11

Even after making these changes, you might feel like it’s not enough. If you just can’t make the Windows 11 Start menu work for you, it’s time to go back. Install the Start11 app (it’s free to use for 30 days, then costs around $8). This app will give you the familiar Windows 10-style start menu back. You get a similar, two-pane interface, customisable menus, a search field at the bottom, and more.

Plus, you can customise this as much as you want. You can even go back to the Windows 8 style, full-screen Start menu, if you want.

Make the Windows 11 Start menu much better with StartAllBack

Image: StartAllBackImage: StartAllBack

StartAllBack is another fully-featured Start menu replacement that’s focused on more tweaks. You can have a Windows 7 theme if you want, but where this app excels is the sheer amount of changes you can make to the Windows 11 Start menu.

You can change the taskbar icons, bring back the app labels, centre your app icons, and keep the Start menu docked to the left. There are themes available for Windows 7 and Windows 10-style start menus.

Ignore the Start menu and use the PowerToys Run launcher instead

Screenshot: Khamosh PathakScreenshot: Khamosh Pathak

Here’s a radical idea: Stop using the Start menu altogether. Ask yourself, how useful is it anyway? There’s no way to actually disable the Start menu, but you can ignore it and use something better instead. For this, we recommend the PowerToys keyboard launcher. It’s similar to Spotlight on Mac, and it lets you launch apps, actions, and tasks from the keyboard.

Press Alt + Space to bring it up, and type to open an app, a website, or do some maths. Here are the best shortcuts to know about.

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