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7 Start Menu Alternatives for Windows

Windows Start Menu

As Windows evolves, so too does the Windows Start menu. Windows 11 offers a clean and plain Start menu which leaves a little to be desired for some. Skip to Start Menu Alternatives for Windows

Because the Start menu is one of those features you might not want to see change, a few third-party Start menu alternatives have been available over the years, and a couple more were released recently. Here are seven Start Menu alternatives for Windows:

7 Start Menu Alternatives for Windows

1. StartAllBack (Release Candidate)

From the maker of StartIsBack comes StartAllBack. For Windows 11 and currently available for download as a Release Candidate, StartAllBack offers three main Menu styles: Proper 11, Kinda 10, and Remastered 7. You can change the Start Menu, but you can also switch up the look of the Windows Taskbar and Windows Explorer.

StartAllBack showing apps list (Dark Windows theme)
StartAllBack (Light Windows theme)

Official info:

Restore and improve taskbar

  • Show labels on task icons
  • Adjust icon size and margins
  • Move taskbar to top, left or right edges
  • Drag and drop stuff onto taskbar
  • Center task icons but keep Start button on the left
  • Split into segments, use dynamic translucency
  • Separate corner icons with Windows 7/10 UI

Restore and improve File Explorer UI

  • Ribbon and Command Bar revamped with translucent effects
  • Details pane on bottom
  • Old search box (the one which works)
  • Dark mode support for more dialogs

Restore and improve context menus

  • All new look with rounded acrylic menus
  • Fast and responsive taskbar menus
  • New fonts, better touch support

Restore and improve start menu

  • Launch apps and go to system places in one click
  • Navigate dropdown menus like a boss
  • Enjoy fast and reliable search

Finally, lightweight styling and UI consistency

  • Enjoy Windows 7, Windows 10 and third-party taskbar and start menu styles
  • Fix UI inconsistencies in Win32 apps

Download: StartAllBack (Release Candidate)


2. Start11 (Beta)

Stardock recently released the beta of Start11, its latest Start menu for Windows 11. Start11 is quick and easy to set up. There are plenty of customization options to the Start menu and even the taskbar. Once added, you can drag your icons into the order you’d like them to appear. At the time of updating this post, Start11 Beta is available for just $5.00.

Start11 (Beta)

Official info:

Top Current Features

  • Choose from several Start menu layouts
  • Works on Windows 10/11
  • Integrate Stardock’s “Fences” into the Start menu
  • Quickly access search on your desktop
  • Add color / texture to the Start menu and taskbar

WHAT’S COMING TO START11:

  • Significantly faster search / detailed search results
  • Improved search results with new search engine
  • Perform simple math problems in the search box
  • Additional style options
  • Enhanced productivity features
  • Improved configurability of Windows 7 / Modern modes

Download: Start11


3. Classic Shell / Open-Shell-Menu

For Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10. One of the original free Start menu alternatives, Classic Shell, did it all. You could choose a menu style, change skins and customize icons and links. After many years, the official development of Classic Shell stopped, and Classic Shell went open source.

Classic Shell is now Open-Shell-Menu, and although development is not as strong as before, you can follow OpenShell development here: GitHub – Open-Shell/Open-Shell-Menu: Classic Shell Reborn.

I took the screenshot below in Windows 11. Although not stated as officially supported for Win11 yet, Open-Shell-Menu works well.

Open-Shell-Menu

Here it is listing all programs:

Open-Shell-Menu

Official info:

Features

  • Classic style Start menu for Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10
  • Toolbar for Windows Explorer
  • Classic copy UI (Windows 7 only)
  • Show file size in Explorer status bar
  • Title bar and status bar for Internet Explorer

Download: Open Shell Menu


4. StartIsBack++

For Windows 10. StartIsBack ++ is great for those who miss the Windows 7 Start menu. It comes with four visual styles: Windows 10, Windows 7, Plain8 + Windows 10 button, and Plain10 menu + Windows 10 taskbar + Windows 10 button.

StartIsBack++ is a decent third-party Start menu for Windows 10. You can try StartIsBack++ for free for 30 days with no limitations. If you choose to buy it, it will only cost you $3.99.

StartIsBack++

Please note: StartIsBack++ wasn’t supported in Windows 11 when I took this screenshot. Wait for official support before trying in Windows 11.

Official info:

Your faithful desktop friend which helps you:

  • Launch programs you use frequently
  • Open documents you’re working on
  • Find stuff you’re looking for
  • Go to system places in one click
  • Easily shut down your system
  • Feel at home with new Windows

StartIsBack++ for Windows 10 can:

  • Apply skins to taskbar
  • Replace taskbar jump lists (context menus) with better ones
  • Center taskbar icons
  • Restore larger taskbar icons
  • Fine-tune taskbar color
  • Reduce OS resource usage

Download: StartIsBack ++


5. Start Menu X

For Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, Start Menu X is a customizable start menu that you can drag to resize. This menu makes it easy to find folders, apps, and files. Start Menu X is free, and you can upgrade to Start Menu X Pro for $9.99.

Start Menu X Pro

Official info:

  • Virtual Groups – Group programs by purpose (office applications, graphics, etc) without changing their location on the hard drive.
  • One-click launch – The PRO version allows you to assign a primary program to any folder and start it simply by clicking this folder.
  • Flexible configuration – Customize the menu to your taste! Change the structure and add tabs.
  • Years of experience – Start Menu X is an embodiment of our 7-year experience in developing alternative menu solutions

Purchase the PRO version and get these benefits:

  • Single-click launch!
    Assign a primary program to any folder and start it simply by clicking this folder.
  • Change the structure and add tabs.
  • Manage the Virtual Groups
  • Sort files by name
  • Free minor 7.x updates
  • No subscription

Download: Start Menu X


6. Start Menu 8

For Windows 8 and 10, Start Menu 8 gives you a clean and classic Start menu look. There are three main menu style options: Win 10 style, Flat style, and Classic Windows 7 style, and plenty of customization options, including transparency. Start Menu 8 used to be free. However, they now offer a free 7-day trial and a 1 Year Subscription / 1 PC for $5.99. (It does come with a 60-day money-back guarantee.)

Start Menu 8

Official info:

Customized Start menu for Win 8/10

Some Windows 8/10 users might not get used to the new style of the Start menu. Start Menu 8 can help them change their system default Start menu and bring back the Win7 style Start menu, and easily switch the start icon at will.

Download: Start Menu 8


7. Start10

Also made by Stardock, who just released Start11, Start10 is for Windows 10. Start10 offers Windows 7, Modern, and Windows 10 style Start menus with fully customizable backgrounds, textures, and taskbar. There’s a 30-day free trial, and it’s only $4.99 for the full version.

Start10 menu for Windows

Official info:

  • Choose from several Start menu layouts
  • Integrate Stardock’s “Fences” into the Start menu
  • Quickly access search on your desktop
  • Add color / texture to the Start menu and taskbar

Download: Start10


Windows 11 Start menu

The official Windows Start menu continues to evolve. The image below shows how Windows 11’s Start menu looks (with a dark Windows theme and light background). You can choose which folders/icons appear down by the Power button by going to SettingsPersonalizationStartFolders.

Start menu - Windows 11

The Start menu of the future

Most people want a clean and modern look and feel and, of course, quick access to their favorite or most-used apps. Windows 11’s Start menu is more straightforward and less cluttered than previous Windows Start menus, although controversial for some for having less functionality. This is why people explore Windows Start Menu alternatives.

In summary

These are the latest and most popular third-party Windows Start menu alternatives. If you miss the Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 10 or Windows 11, try one of these. You can easily show or switch back to the original Windows Start menu.

I took screenshots of most of these menus using Windows 11. When writing this article, only two officially supported Windows 11 (StartAllBack Release Candidate and Start11 Beta), although a few of them worked flawlessly in Windows 11 anyway. If you are a Windows 11 user, you might want to wait until they are fully baked or officially support Windows 11 before using them.

Whether you like the official Windows Start menus or not, the third-party Start menus here (back to list) offer a classic or modern feel with plenty of customization options. They’re not expensive, and they’re easy to set up. If you’d like to switch back to the official Windows Start menu at any time, you can.

Which Start menu do you prefer and why?

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