The Start menu has always been a pivotal feature of the Windows operating system. For users of Windows 11 and 10, this iconic element not only acts as the gateway to the digital realm but also as a personalizable hub for quick access. Whether it’s pinning your most-used apps, effortlessly navigating through the myriad of installed software, or hopping between user accounts, the Start menu is instrumental. Yet, there’s an expansive world beyond the default Start menu that most are unaware of. Delving into third-party tools can open up a realm of customization, offering alternative Start menus tailored to your exact preferences. What’s even more intriguing? These tools often come with dual Start menus and buttons, allowing you to oscillate between the classic Windows Start and its customized counterpart. And fear not, for those who might be hesitant; these third-party integrations operate only while they are active. Once closed, your computer reverts to the familiar terrain of the native Windows Start menu. Dive in to explore the realm of possibilities and find out how to replace the default Start menu of Windows 11 or 10 to suit your unique needs.
Start Menu Alternatives for Windows 11 and 10
You can use the mentioned five free tools to replace the Windows 11 or 10 Start menu:-
- Open Shell
- Start Everywhere
- Start Menu X
- Start Menu Reviver
Open Shell, earlier known as Classic Shell, was later renamed Neo-Classic-UI and is one of the best Start menu alternatives for Windows 11/10. When the original developer of Classic Shell discontinued its development a long time ago, volunteer developers started developing this as open-source. Only the name has been changed; the Start menu style, Start buttons, etc., are the same as the original.
With this Open Shell tool, you can use a Windows 7 style Start menu, a classic Start menu with a two-column style, or a traditional Start menu to access all the programs, Microsoft Store apps, etc.
The main features of Open Shell:-
- Start button with Aero, custom picture.
- Classic style Start Menu for Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, and 11.
- Set actions for the left mouse click, Windows key, Shift + Windows keys, Shift + left mouse button, etc. For instance, you can configure the Windows key to open the Start menu of this tool, etc.
- Customize the taskbar to set its opacity, look, color, etc.
- Enable or disable the right-click context menu of this tool for Start menu items.
- Have an option to show or hide the Search box.
- Toolbar for Windows Explorer.
- Show file size in the Explorer status bar.
- Change and choose from 40+ languages for the user interface.
- Backup and restore settings as an XML file.
On a Windows 11 PC, you will notice an additional Start menu on the extreme left side of the taskbar; after that, you will find the native Start menu remains untouched. The best part of these Start menus is that you can use both the Start menus separately.
Click on the Windows logo on the keyboard to open the Open Shell Start menu. It uses the “Classic style” Start menu and “Aero” Start button by default. If not satisfied with this default look, right-click on the Open Shell Start button and click on Settings.
Next, from the Settings of Open-Shell Menu, choose the Start menu style, skin, and button and click on the OK button to save.
Note: Uncheck the option Replace the Start button if you do not want to display the Open Shell Start button on the taskbar but want to use its functions. It will hide the OpenShell Start button from the taskbar, but you can still use it by clicking on the Windows logo key on the keyboard.
Download Open Shell
You can easily download Open Shell from GitHub.
It is a portable tool, so installing it on your Windows 11/10 system is not required. Just pin it to the taskbar and start accessing or launching installed programs, Windows Tools, File Explorer, Settings app, System Tools (Command Prompt, Task Manager, Run Command box, etc.), Accessories (Quick Assist, Steps Recorder, etc.), and more.
It lets you only access those items stored in the Programs folder available in two different locations of your Windows 11/10 computer. The complete path is:-
To use this alternative, download its ZIP file from the-sz.com. Extract the ZIP archive in a folder and double-click the exe file to open its menu.
You can download Spencer from here.
This is another free Start menu for quick access to Store apps, installed programs, Desktop items, user profile files and folders, power options, most used items, recent items, system tools, Microsoft Store apps, etc.
It sits in the system tray by default; clicking on its icon lets you access and expand available menus when you install “Start Everywhere” on your Windows 11/10 computer.
To access the Settings, click its icon from the system tray and select Others > Settings > Open.
Merits of using Start Everywhere settings:-
- Enable AutoStart.
- Set Active corner size.
- Set the number of maximum files and folders to display.
- Change theme color, text, etc.
- Create or choose from 8 different theme colors.
- Show/hide Application Data, User Profile, and other menus.
Once you make the desired changes, click the Save button.
Download Start Everywhere
You can download the Start Everywhere from this link if you need it.
Start Menu X
It has exciting options and is a suitable replacement for the Windows 11/10 Start menu. Even this application sits on the system tray, and you can access the Start menu by clicking it.
I am right-clicking its tray icon and selecting Options to customize the Start menu.
Features of Start Menu X:-
- Different themes or skins for the Start menu.
- Change the Start button with pre-added buttons (Such as Pikachu, Windows 7 Start orb, Angry Bird, etc.).
- Add buttons to the Start menu, such as Lock, Log Off, Hibernate, User Account, Switch User, Shut down, Restart, etc.
- Change its layout. Available layouts or styles are Start Menu X, Classic Start Menu, and Start Menu 10.
Start Menu X will open a new Start menu by default. When you install Start Menu X and click on it or press the Shift + Windows hotkey, it will show the native Start menu. Moreover, you can reverse this action from the Settings of this tool.
You can quickly access installed apps and programs in separate sections, such as power options, This PC, Desktop, and other items.
Download Start Menu X
You can grab Start Menu X from here.
Start Menu Reviver
The main features are:-
- Add up to 64 tiles.
- Eleven different Start buttons are available.
- Set its size.
- Change the theme and set the color for the background, empty tiles, etc.
You will find a new Start button on the bottom left corner of your Windows 11/10 taskbar when you install and launch Start Menu Reviewer. Click on its Start Menu button to access the Start menu with the default layout and options.
Sections of Start menu:-
- Left: Let you access user accounts, This PC, Settings app, Run Command box, etc.
- Middle: Find tiles for pre-added apps, add more tiles, edit and reset a tile, etc.
- Right: This section shows an expanded menu to access all programs or apps separately. The expanded menu is set to grow automatically to view programs and apps. However, you can change its view mode from the Settings of this tool.
Right-click on its Start Menu and select Settings to change the style and set other options of this Start menu tool. Now, click on the tick mark icon to save them when desired changes are made.
Download Start Menu Reviewer
You can download Start Menu Reviewer from this link.
The Windows Start menu is an essential tool, offering quick access to various features and programs. However, the default menu might not be the best fit for everyone. Fortunately, several third-party tools offer alternatives for Windows 11 and 10, catering to different tastes and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a classic look reminiscent of older Windows versions or a completely new and tailored experience, there’s an option available. Dive into these alternatives to find the perfect Start menu for your computing needs.