How to Replace the Start Menu in Windows 11: A Comprehensive Guide

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How to Replace the Start Menu in Windows 11: A Comprehensive Guide

Credit: Future

Although Windows 11 offers several exciting new features, its user interface is divisive. If you’re anything like me, you downloaded a Windows 11 ISO and installed it on a test computer, but you don’t like the new Start menu since it takes up more screen real estate and requires you to click a button to see an alphabetical list of all your applications.

Fortunately, you can get an alternative form of the Start menu that looks and feels more like Windows 7 than Windows 10 and gives you a lot more options by using a third-party tool and potentially a registry adjustment. There are a number of different utilities available, but I tested the three most popular: Open-Shell (previously Classic Shell), a free open-source tool, StartAllBack, and Start11, both of which cost $4.99 and offer a lot more features.

I’ll show you how to use any of these third-party tools to replace the Windows 11 Start menu and make sure they display in the correct location.

Best Start Menu Replacement for Windows 11

Each of the three Start Menu alternatives for Windows 11 has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The worst is Open-Shell, which does not immediately integrate into the Windows 11 taskbar, forcing you to perform a registry hack that breaks the search function. It also has the appearance of a Windows 7 menu rather than the more modern Windows 10 style. It is, however, the sole free choice.

Best Start Menu Replacement for Windows 11

Credit: Future

StartAllBack and Start11, both available for $4.99 with a 30-day trial, provide a range of options, including the ability to have a more Windows 10-style menu and to center or left-align it.

Windows 10-style menu

Credit: Future

StartAllBack’s menu resembles that of Windows 7, and while it does not allow you to move the taskbar, it does allow you to set a number of options that would otherwise require registry hacks, such as ungrouping taskbar icons, enabling Windows 10-style context menus, and restoring the ribbon to File Explorer.

Windows 10-style context menus

Credit: Future

If you pick Start11, you may do all of these, with the exception of ungrouping taskbar ions, by following our guides on how to obtain a complete context menu and how to access Windows 10’s File Explorer in Windows 11.

How to Use StartAllBack to Replace Windows 11’s Start Menu

1. StartAllBack may be downloaded and installed from its official website

2. Choose a theme. Proper 11 is my recommendation. The menus are all the same size and style as those in Windows 7, but Proper 11 has more rounded corners and the Windows 11 Start button.

StartAllBack Configuration

Credit: Future

The StartAllBack Start Menu features its own built-in search box that works similarly to the Windows 7 search. You may also use Windows 11’s search capability by clicking the search button on the taskbar.

Windows 11's search capability

Credit: Future

3. If you want smaller or larger icons, go to the Start Menu tab and select Icon size. In this section, you may also increase the number of icons on the menu.

Start Menu tab and select Icon Size

Credit: Future

4. If you don’t want your icons to be merged, choose Never from the Combine taskbar buttons choice. You may also choose between “Always, hide labels” and “When the taskbar is filled.” Even if you have numerous windows of the same program, uncombined taskbar buttons display you a button for each one.

Combine taskbar buttons choice

Credit: Future

5. If you want the ribbon menu in File Explorer, select Windows 10 Ribbon UI from the Explorer tab.

select Windows 10 Ribbon UI

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6. If you want the complete context menus, go to the Explorer tab and choose Classic context menus.

Explorer tab and choose Classic context menus

Credit: Future

7. Change the Start button, center the icons, or activate dynamic transparency, which makes the taskbar visible save for the foregrounded button, from the taskbar menu. You may choose which icons display on the Start Menu tab.

You may locate the StartAllBack settings menu in the Windows Control panel if you need to return to it after dismissing it.

Change the Start button

Credit: Future

How to Use Start11 to Replace Windows 11’s Start Menu

1. Start11 may be downloaded and installed from its official website.

2. Select a Start Menu style. I like Windows 10 style, although Windows 7 style is still acceptable.

Start Menu style

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Windows 10 Style, including the tiles area, is remarkably similar to the Windows 10 Start Menu. These aren’t self-updating live tiles, but most tiles were never meant to be.

Windows 10 Start Menu

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3. Choose a Taskbar size from the Taskbar tab. The medium size is the default, but you may also pick small or huge.

Choose a Taskbar size

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4. If you want the taskbar to display at the top of the screen, go to the Primary monitor or Secondary monitors option and choose “Align Top.” Leave it at “Align Bottom” if not.

Taskbar to display

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5. If you’ve modified the taskbar size or alignment, click Restart Explorer.

Restart Explorer

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You may change the default button with a custom picture on the Start Button tab. You may adjust the transparency level, add a texture, and center the icons in the taskbar on the Taskbar tab.

Left Aligning the Taskbar Icons

As part of their control panels, both StartAllBack and Start11 allow you to left-align your taskbar icons. If you want to use Open-Shell, the only free alternative, you’ll need to use Windows 11’s Settings menu to shift your taskbar icons to the left.

Also, even if you don’t install any third-party tools, you might want to set your icons on the left because it gives Windows 11 a lot more conventional feel than it does by default.

To move your taskbar icons to the left, do the following:

1. Select Taskbar settings by right-clicking on the taskbar

Select Taskbar settings

Credit: Future

2. Open the Taskbar behaviors menu

Open the Taskbar behaviors menu

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3. From the Taskbar alignment menu, choose “Left.”

Taskbar alignment menu

Credit: Future

Using Open-Shell

Open-Shell is a free, open-source application that lets you customize your Start menu to look like Windows 7’s. However, because it necessitates the use of a registry hack that permits the old taskbar but kills search, this is our least-recommended alternative.

It’s as simple as downloading and installing the most recent version of Open-Shell from Github. Simply select the appropriate Start button symbol. Open-Shell provides you the option of using one of two Start buttons or uploading your own picture. However, I discovered that until I clicked on the custom button photos I supplied, they were frequently invisible or only partially visible.

Simply select the appropriate Start button symbol

Credit: Future

Your Start button symbol will appear on top of the Windows 11 Start button, but if it doesn’t entirely cover it and you click an exposed section, the Windows 11 Start menu will appear.

Windows 11 Start button

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The default “Aero” button, which is a circular shell icon, is the most trustworthy Start button icon. It covered the whole Windows 11 Start button on our PC, but I still receive the Windows 11 Start menu if I click on the vacant space to the left of it rather than immediately on the button. The bigger, rectangular Start button can help with this, but it may obscure some of your other icons.

Windows 11 Start menu

Credit: Future

Another approach is to select Replace Start Button in Open-settings Shell’s menu and use the original taskbar hack, which will give you a clickable Start button in the manner of Windows 10.

Enabling the Classic Taskbar

We recommend skipping this part if you’ve installed Start11 or StartAllBack, as the apps will automatically enhance your taskbar with various choices. However, you must activate the classic taskbar in the Registry in order for Open-Shell to use a Windows 10 Start button icon. This taskbar contains a Search box and a Task View button, and it resembles the Windows 10 taskbar in appearance and feels.

Neither of these, however, works. The Search box does nothing when you click it, and the Task view nearly usually crashes in my experience, causing icons even of open apps to vanish briefly, so don’t click it, or better yet, hide it, as we’ll teach you how to do.

1. Open Regedit. You may access it by pressing Windows + R and entering “regedit.” If asked, choose Yes.

Open Regedit

2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell\Update\Packages.

Navigate

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3. By right-clicking in the right window pane and selecting New->DWORD (32-bit) Value, you may create a new DWORD (32-bit) value.

Selecting Storage

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4. UndockingDisabled should be renamed

UndockingDisabled

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5. UndockingDisabled should be set to 1

UndockingDisabled value 1

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6. Restart Windows 11 after closing regedit. The conventional taskbar will be present, but the clock, audio, and networking icons will be absent from the left side.

7. By using Windows key + R and typing shell::05d7b0f4-2121-4eff-bf6b-ed3f69b894d9, then pressing Ok, you may access the notification icons control panel.

8. “Turn system icons on or off” will appear.

Turn system icons

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9. Toggle Clock, Volume, and Network to On. The icons will now appear on the left side of the screen.

Toggle Clock

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10. Remove the “Task View” icon (optional). Because this feature frequently crashes, I recommend concealing it by right-clicking on the taskbar, selecting Taskbar settings, and switching Task view to off.

Task View

Credit: Future

11. The search box is hidden. Because the search box doesn’t work, your best approach is to conceal it by going to HKEY CURRENT USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ in Regedit. Search and restart Windows after changing SearchTaskbarMode to 0. The good news is that the Start menu alternatives come with their own built-in search boxes.

SearchTaskbarMode to 0

Credit: Future

Finally, you’ll have a taskbar that works with all of the tools and looks a little more like Windows 10. You’ll also get a File Explorer that looks like Windows 10 and right-click, jump-list menus that look like Windows 10 and have all of the choices.

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