Relief! ClassicShell gives Windows 8 a Start menu and boots directly to desktop

ClassicShell is a project that lives on SourceForge, and is a simple app that runs in Windows that opens up Explorer functionality that Microsoft has removed from Windows over the years.

Sometimes even a "business lunch" results in shop talk, and at a recent lunch I had with BriForum speaker and blogger Dan Brinkmann in Denver, I learned about ClassicShell. ClassicShell is a project that lives on SourceForge, and is a simple app that runs in Windows that opens up Explorer functionality that Microsoft has removed from Windows over the years. With Windows 8, Microsoft went a little overboard, removing the Start menu, replacing it with Metro. This may be great for tablets, but most home and enterprise users are using keyboards and mice. Removing something that has been there for almost 20 years, replacing with something that gives the user a weird interface (made even more confusing by the fact that there are two different version of some apps, like IE), and providing no intuitive way to access, well, anything crippled the OS for me.

While some would say I'm just set in my ways, I can't imagine what regular end users think. Now, though, I don't have to worry about it. ClassicShell is a free 5-second download, followed by a 10-second install that gives me exactly what I want: a Windows 7-style start menu and direct booting to the desktop in Windows 8. I shot a video of the installation process and resulting awesomeness. Is it enterprise-ready? Who knows? What I know is that I can now finally use Windows 8 when I need it, which is still not that often.

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ClassicShell was the first app I installed on the Windows 8 tech preview, and now lives on now I've upgraded to the RTM code.

Microsoft's stubbornness to not provide a way of re-enabling the start menu via GPO for corporate desktops where Metro just doesn't make sense is going to come back and bite them at some point.

Still, the open source community save the day and the ClassicShell start menu behaves pretty much identically to Win7.


Great video Gabe,

Hopefully Microsoft will take the hint from this program and all of the complaining about the Metro interface and release this functionality as a feature pack in the near distant future.

Don't get me wrong, the live tiles and interface work well on a tablet but I feel they have no place on an enterprise desktop.

I did some early testing with VDI, WIndows 8 and Citrix VDI in a Box and blogged about it here:

Most of my complaint's would be resolved with this software or a Microsoft equivalent and I really hope they get the message.


What whiners so many people are... in both the Linux and Windows communities.  There has been a significant revolt of GNOME users with the release of GNOME 3 Shell a couple of years ago... and before that there was a big revolt when KDE came out with version 4.  People just don't like change.

The new interface in Windows 8 isn't that radical... and compared to the changes in GNOME and Ubuntu's Unity... it is obvious that Microsoft is trying to do their changes more incrementally.

They have had a search-based program launcher model for some time now.  On Vista and Windows 7... do people REALLY do the complete drill down... or do they just hit the logo key and type in a search term and then pick from the results.  I do that later.  In Windows 8 it isn't much different really.  While the screen of big blocks (don't use the term "Metro" any more!) might be somewhat off putting, just start typing and pick from the matches.  You'll get used to picking the apps that are "desktop" based rather than big block based.  So there is a start menu as before... it is just full screen and made up of big blocks.... and it pops up automatically... but all you have to do is use the same search-based program launcher you have been using since Vista.

I actually like GNOME 3 Shell and KDE... but I'm not much of a Unity fan... mainly because I'm not much of a Ubuntu fan.


Agreed with Scott. Nothing to see here with Windows 8.

Man up. Grow some. And stop whining.

There's a whole army of young people out there coming into the market who have never seen Windows 95 in their life!!! Are they gonna miss the "Start me up!" ????


@Christoph.. i have sat watching multiple MS Premier service engineers struggling to get around during presentations.. with a crowd of nerds snickering...

Its not a great step forward in human computer interaction.


IT staff are usually only less than 10% of an organizations total user base. I don't really care if the "IT guys" have a problem with Windows 8. They don't make business decisions.


All the best with the roll out, let us know how you go.


I liken the interface formerly known as metro(TIFKAM) to other attempts MS has made to change code, such as Silverlight, Desktop Gadgets, the Sidebar, Bob.

All items that were attempted to force where/how people load apps.  Until anyone else writes real code I expect that TIFKAM will join his predecessors in the obsolte tech graveyard.


Usually the working context of an ordinary user (being any persona expect maybe IT) is very much used of working in a certain (i.e. set)  way.

In allmost any case a user will start their work either through file type associations or he/she will start their core apps from the desktop / the taskbar / the startmenu.

"All" Microsoft have done is make it easier for a user to group the applications they need to do their work. I wonder what the result would be should you ask any amount of users if they need their startbutton to start their work day.

Maybe this is IT being very conservative??




From an IT guy perspective, I'll put up with a lot more shenanigans than the average user. A typical user just wants things to be the same (or at least familiar), and you can't tell me that they'd prefer the stock Windows 8 interface, especially booting to Metro, over what they currently have. It's one more step between them and the apps that they presumably launch from their desktop.

Scott's right about hitting the Start button and typing in the name of the app, but I do that 50 times a day and I don't want Metro to appear each time. I want a smaller interface to that, and I don't want to have to teach my users keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures to make that happen.

Perhaps, in some weird bizzarro world, you can call Windows 8 ahead of its time, because the future desktop will not necessarily look like the current Windows desktop. In terms of enterprise desktops, though, I'm not a fan of rip and replace. I think you have to give users options, and replacing the thing they've used forever with something else is scary to them.

That said, I think both options should be there. If you want to use Metro, great. If not, then you can do it the old way with some elements of the new way to get you used to it. Enter ClassicShell :)