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  • The new Start menu in Windows 10 is definitely one of the biggest upgrades to previous versions; right behind Cortana. It’s sleek, heavily customizable, and comes with cool live tiles that show live information from apps.

    No matter how powerful it may be, I personally don’t like the Windows 10 Start menu; it just looks like it got beat up by a rainbow. To make it simpler, I tried getting rid of the whole live tiles section, but it wasn’t the right call as I still need it to pin important apps. Thankfully, I found a third-party replacement for the Windows 10 Start menu that allowed me to customize the Start menu exactly as I wanted.

    If you are one of those classic folks who prefer the elegant and straight forward design of the Windows 7 era, then I know just the right alternatives to help you. Below you’ll find some of the best Windows 10 Start menu alternatives that will let you completely change the look of the Start menu and even add extra features you never knew you needed.

    IObit Start Menu 8

    It’s a free app, but IObit does advertise its other programs while installing and in the new Start menu on first use. It does have a paid version that offers automatic updates, but it’s not compulsory to buy it. Start Menu 8 has two Start Menu styles, one is based on Windows 7 style and the other is a bit flat similar to Windows 8 menus.

    IObit Start Menu 8

    It has over a dozen built-in Start menu buttons that are actually very high quality. Like other apps, the Start menu is fully customizable and you can add remove items and change icon sizes as you please.

    Open Shell (Classic Shell)

    Classic Shell has been the staple alternative to Windows default Start menu for many years. Unfortunately, the Classic  Shell developer had to leave the project so he made it open source. Open Shell is the same Classic Shell app, but it’s updated by volunteer developers to stay up-to-date with Windows 10 updates. The main purpose of Open Shell is to replace the Windows 10 Start menu with a Windows 7 like Start menu that can be further customized with skins.

    Open Shell Start Menu

    When you first launch the app, you should pick a Start menu style (single or double column) and then apply a skin you prefer (try Metallic, it’s really good). This is sufficient to get a new Start Menu that is simple and functional. However, if you want to further customize, then there is so much more you can do.

    Open Shell Choose Start menu style

    The Basic Settings and Customize Start Menu tabs will help configure which buttons to show in the Start menu and which menu to open when you right-click on the Start menu or press the Windows key. You can also replace the Start Menu button with a custom image and change its size too.

    Open Shell settings

    When you are ready to take full control over the Start menu, check the checkbox next to Show all settings at the top. This opens a dozen more tabs to fully customize the Start menu. You can control the Start menu button, change main menu items, select right-click menu behavior, change menu design and animations, switch language, manage search box behavior, and much more.

    enable all settings in Open Shell

    I might be a bit biased being a Classic Shell user for over 5 years, but in my opinion, it’s the most customizable start menu alternative that is also completely free.

    StartIsBack

    StartIsBack definitely has a much better user interface than Open Shell, but it’s a little less customizable. This Windows Start menu alternative is for both the Start menu and the Taskbar of Windows. Any changes you make will affect both the Start menu and the Taskbar.

    StartIsBack

    It comes with 3 Start menu styles which are mostly inspired by the Windows 7 Start menu. You can also select a custom image for the Start menu button or use the Windows 7 button provided by the app. More importantly, it lets you change the color of both the Taskbar and Start menu to any color you like.

    StartIsBack change Start menu color

    If you move to the Configure behavior section, you’ll find a bunch of options to configure how you interact with the Start menu. You can select what apps and items to show in the Start menu by default and also change the power button behavior. Furthermore, it’s search option allows you to take your query to Cortana if nothing is found in programs and folders.

    StartIsBack Configuration menu

    StartIsBack is a paid app to replace the Windows 10 Start menu and you can get a lifetime license for $3.99 for a single PC. Although, it does have a 30-days trial version that contains all the features for you to evaluate.

    Start10

    Start10 takes a little different approach to Start menu style. Instead of exactly copying the Windows 7 style, it makes Windows 10 Start menu style simpler. There is a Windows 7 inspired style that uses the basic frame of Windows 7, but well incorporates Windows 10 icon styles and app choices. And also a modern style that functions the same but uses the Windows 10 Start menu background.

    Start10

    A more interesting feature of Start10 is the ability to add cool themes and images as the Start menu and taskbar background. You can even upload a custom photo and apply it as a Start menu background.  Just like other Start menu apps, Start10 also lets you configure icon size, pin apps, show recent apps and add programs as links or menus.

    Start10 add custom image

    If you move to the Control section of the app, you will find many options to control how you open the Start10 menu. For example, you can decide whether the Windows button or clicking on the Start menu icon opens the Start10 menu or Windows 10 default Start menu. This can be extremely useful if you intend to use both the Start10 menu and the default Start menu at the same time.

    Start10 Control options

    Start10 is also a premium app and you’ll have to pay $3.74 to get the lifetime license. Although you can use the fully functional 30-days trial version before buying (requires email signup).

    Start Menu X

    If you are looking to make your Windows 10 menu even more functional than Start Menu X might intrigue you. Instead of dumbing down to the Windows 7 style Start menu, Start Menu X upgrades the Start menu to quickly access apps and folder data. It basically turns any folder or Windows setting here into a searchable menu that shows all its contents by hovering over.

    You can access folders and their items right from the Start menu and even access subfolders. The app utilizes the live tiles section of the Start menu to list all the sub-items of folders and apps, and you can adjust the location of each item right from here as well.

    Start Menu X

    Another interesting feature of Start Menu X is its ability to set timer-based power options, such as restart, shutdown, and log off, etc. You can set a specific timer and your PC will use one of the power options when the time is up. This can be extremely useful to shut down the PC while you are away if a program needs to complete a task.

    Start Menu X set power timer

    Similar to other apps, it comes with a handful of skins and styles to customize the look of your Start menu. Most of the Start Menu X features are available in the free version, but its One-Click-Launch feature is only available in the paid version for $9.99.

    More Windows 10 Start Menu Alternatives

    I find the above as the best alternatives for Windows 10 Start menu. Each of them has its own unique features that make them worth picking depending on your preference. However, there are some more apps as well that can work as an alternative to the Windows 10 Start menu. Although some of them are not being updated anymore, so there is a chance they may break in the future. And others don’t offer enough exciting features that I may put them in the spotlight.

    I am still listing them here as some of you might find them useful depending on your needs.

    ViStart

    A very simple Windows 10 Start menu alternative that lets you get a Windows 7 or Windows 8 style Start menu. I must say the Windows 7 theme Start menu looks exactly like the real Windows 7 Start menu, and the Windows 8 one also copies the menu styles perfectly. You can also download more skins if the current ones don’t please you. ViStart is also completely free and open source.

    ViStart

    Start Menu Reviver

    This app works similar to the default Windows 10 Start menu, but it has its own interface and limitations. Start Menu Reviver comes with tiles feature that supports up to 64 tiles that you can scroll through. The tiles are also not limited to apps and settings, you can add just about any file; including media files and websites. A bunch of important settings and folders are listed on the left side, and you can use the All Apps button to view all the installed apps on your PC.

    Start Menu Reviver

    Unfortunately, the Start menu size is very small and there seems to be no way to resize it. This makes it very difficult to navigate the Start menu as titles take a lot of space.

    Ending thoughts

    I personally use Open Shell as I like its double-column style Start menu and the customization it offers is just mind-blowing. In case you don’t know, Microsoft is also working on simplifying Start Menu and many changes are already shipped to the insider build. If you like those changes, then soon you might not even have to get an alternative for Windows 10 Start menu.

    Next, find out how you can tweak Windows 10 for better performance.