For anyone having regrets about upgrading to Windows 10, there are now two good options for bringing back the look of Windows 7.
This week, Classic Shell officially added Windows 10 to support for its free Start menu and File Explorer replacement. With this program (pictured above), users can switch to Windows 7’s dual-column view, with pinned and recent applications on the left, and common folders and locations on the right. Classic Shell also includes a classic version of the Windows File Explorer, with a customizable toolbar and a more useful status bar that shows both free disk space and the size of any selected folder.
Meanwhile, Stardock has just released Start10 out of beta for $5. Much like Classic Shell, Start10 allows for a two-column view that resembles the Windows 7 Start menu, and brings back the ”all programs” menu that groups applications into folders. There’s also an option to hide Cortana from the Windows 10 taskbar, while restoring program and file search in the Start menu proper.
I gave each of these programs a quick go-round, and in practice the differences between them are subtle. If you’re just looking for the familiarity of Windows 7, either one should do the trick (though Classic Shell has the advantage of costing nothing). Start10 may be more useful for people who still want access to Windows Store apps, as you can preserve them in the right-hand column while tweaking other aspects of the Start menu. Both apps have plenty of customization options, however, and are far more flexible than the default Start menu.
While Classic Shell is free, Start10 does offer a 30-day free trial, so you can try them both to figure out which Start menu replacement suits your needs.
Why this matters: Although Microsoft has dialed back some of the radical changes that it made to the Start menu in Windows 8, it can still feel pretty unfamiliar coming from Windows 7. If you’re not really using Windows Store apps, the emphasis on Live Tiles in Windows 10 isn’t much help, especially since it comes at the expense of Jump Lists, quick Control Panel access and the old Recent Items shortcut. It’s unlikely that these replacements will see the tens of millions of downloads that they did with Windows 8, but they’re still helpful for people who’d rather keep things the way they used to be.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.