Microsoft’s newest version of Windows, Windows 8.1, brought significant changes to the Windows operating system including touch support and the general operating approach regardless of whether the user owns a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone running Windows 8.

Perhaps the biggest controversy was Microsoft’s decision to remove the venerable Start Menu (with us since Windows 95) entirely from the operating system and replace it with a Tiles-based screen.

This leaves Windows 8 users with one big question:  how can I get the Start Menu back in Windows 8?

What is the new Start Screen?

The new Start Screen presents users with a variety of tiles of different shapes and sizes. Some tiles show information like weather or headlines while other tiles will open documents, folders and applications.

The new Start Screen is swell, however most users don’t need (or want) to know the current weather conditions or the latest news headlines when they’re trying to open Excel or get a new browser window. Navigating a seemingly endless screen of different-shaped tiles with rotating images and photos when what you really want is to get to your documents folders can be exhausting, to say the least.

Why did Microsoft kill the Start menu? Simple. Microsoft killed the Start menu for the same reason Coca-Cola completely replaced old Coke in the 1980s with the short-lived New Coke – it’s hard to switch back if you don’t have access to it.

Shortly after the release of Windows 8, users were in an uproar. What did we want? The Start menu. It was simple, elegant and incredibly efficient – simply showing us our recently-opened documents, our most-used programs and giving us access to every application we have installed on our system.

Microsoft listened… sort of.

With the release of a free software patch called 8.1, Microsoft thought they listened to their users by bringing back the Start… button. That’s right. Instead of bringing back the entire Start menu, the Start button now gives users easy access to … wait for it… the new Start Tiles Screen.

Don’t get me wrong, Windows 8.1 brought a whole bunch of other much-needed changes to the operating system, but, like a sleepy grandfather trying to understand what his grandkids want for dinner, Microsoft didn’t completely listen.

So, now what? How can I get the Start Menu back?

How can I get the Start Menu back in Windows 8?

The demand for the return of the Start Menu was so great that non-Microsoft developers created solutions. There are many options (including some free ones), however my all-time favorite solution is Stardock’s Start8.

First, let me say that I’m not sponsored by Stardock in any way (at least, not yet). Why do I love it so much?

  1. Start8 is easy-to-install yet feature-rich: it brings back the Windows 7 Start Menu but lets you add Windows 8 apps to it.
  2. The Start Screen isn’t gone. If you’re like me, you don’t like having new features removed, and Start8 makes the Start Screen a button so you can still access it.
  3. Stardock provides updates and support. I believe people deserve to be paid for their hard work because, when they get paid, they stand behind it. Stardock provides updates and support so you can rest assured knowing that Start8 will remain compatible with the operating system.

Click here to get Stardock’s Start8 software from their website for a mere $4.99 (as of this blog post). I couldn’t recommend it more.

… or you can just wait.

This week, rumors started flying that Microsoft will bring back the Start Menu in full for Windows 8. However, the timeline hasn’t been announced (with articles suggesting August 2014 from their sources). So, you have a choice, get Start8 now or wait until Microsoft wises up and brings back the Start Menu for good (hopefully).

Do you have a different solution?

I always like hearing other options. If you have a different solution you prefer, leave it in the comments below. Remember, keep it clean and polite or your comment will never see the light of day.

[insert maniacal “mwa-ha-ha” laughter here]

About Irk: Eric “Irk” Jacobson started using computers when he was 3 years old with an Apple IIe. He tries to be device-agnostic using all kinds of technology from all of the major players, and he loves/hates them equally in different ways. When he’s not working, he’s likely riding his motorcycle(s) or hanging out with his wonderful family.