The Windows 8/10 Start Menu is still a discussion ground for a lot of people and a matter of taste, one corner says that the new Menu is create the other corner is saying “nothing was wrong with the 7 one”. And somehow I agree in both of them cause it’s a personal preference and everyone has it’s own opinion. In case you like to change the integrated Start Menu anyway you can check the following article to not waste your time because there dozen of apps out there but which are really worth to be installed? – We will figure it out.
Wikipedia provides a complete list of all Start Menu products, which you can find here. Based on this list I pick the ‘best’ ones out and show you if it’s really worth or not based on my own experience with it.
I decided to not show some product pictures from each product here because I reviewed them already and they are highly customizable which means you can change them as per your own needs.
The following solutions are the ones which require you to buy the product in order to use it over more than the trial period.
StartIsBack, it’s trialware and can be used for free with full functionality over 30 days. The program is cheap (2,99 USD right now) and small in size, can be customized and you can work with themes, replace the start Orb and more. The program often gets my suggestion if someone asks me because it’s maybe the first solution ever which was on the market and I saw the project growing from the beginning.
Start8/10 from Stardock is the direct competitor to StartIsBack, and is right now available for 4.99 USD. The benefit here is that the program ships with Group Policy support, that’s a benefit over StartIsBack because it makes it easier to configure when you freshly installed Windows or try to configure it across multiple PC’s in a network the activation process is overall the easiest because it supports a license activation server process which makes it easier to activate it on a larger network.
The following solutions are freeware which means you don’t have to pay anything in order to use them.
Start Menu 8, is also an product which is for a long time on the market now, as the name suggest since Windows 8 times and is coded by the same guys from IObit Uninstaller & Malware fighter. Start Menu 8 is a real good alternative to StartIsBack and is recommend by lots of folks around the Internet. It’s also not bundled with any advertisements or annoying other ‘candy’ things (like OpenCandy within the installer).
SyMenu, is fully freeware and the special thing here is that the program also works in a portable mode so you don’t even have to install it which is quite useful in case you like to use portableapps from your USB drive on other PC’s. The program comes with integrated skins and you can customize it, but it looks like Windows XP Start Menu overall, since it doesn’t has any ‘Aero’ effect. It does it’s job but compared to other mentioned solutions it looks ‘old’. Another special thing to mention here is that the program does support plugins which is really a killer feature because you can tweak and customize it even more with this ability, it offers a lot of possibilities and features.
ViStart, the program looks exactly like the Windows 7 Start Menu and I think that was the goal behind the project, it is freeware, can be (like all other programs) customized the ‘problem’ here is that it wasn’t designed for Windows 10 it’s for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, theoretically it also works with Windows 10 but it has some unresolved issue because Windows more frequently changes something on Windows 10 these days which means the developer has to address this more faster. The developer Lee Matthew Chantrey seems to abandoned his program a little bit since I haven’t seen a recent update for it, besides this it’s a good program if you’re still on Windows 8 or 8.1.
Open Source Solutions
The following solutions are open source, so you can review the code submit patches, help the project or create a fork of it.
Windows Classic Start Menu, is still under development and coded by SourceCodeBoy. However the product doesn’t support to pin your favourite apps and programs to the Menu and the development is a bit slower compared to other products, these are the reasons why the product can’t get my full recommendations. There also some unsolved problems with it and the product needs (for current Windows builds) another update in order to solve some problems. Since the product doesn’t comes with some integrated skins (like StartIsBack) it’s might be a bit more difficult to customize the Start Menu because you have to search in the Internet for Skins because the official homepage/program doesn’t offer it.
The following project(s) are no longer active under development or maintained, however, they deserve a mention because they might still work or are open source (which means the chance is high that someone might continue the development).
ClassicShell is no longer under active development but that doesn’t mean anything, the source code is available and one day maybe someone pick it up and continue the work. Overall the ClassicShell got my recommendation to people which can’t effort some bucks to by a product because this one here is freeware so you don’t have to pirate anything here, there are also tons of skins out there and the community is still pretty big and the forum provides really good ideas, graphics and setting tips. The program is still good enough for everyone which are not on Redstone 4 or higher builds, because Microsoft often changes something on Windows which might break some functions in CS. I tried ClassicShell even in the latest RS 5 Preview Build and it did work, but I can’t recommend doing this because something might be broken at anytime when MS decides to change yet again something, so if you’re on a new OS build, better use some maintained solutions and ask the developer to fix it.
Most of the mentioned products including integrated Skins or can be skinned, some of their forums have a bigger community which providing you with skins, but that’s not always the case so I can suggest you take a look at DeviantArt in order to ‘pimp’ your Start Menu. It’s a good resource for skins, icons, wallpapers & other interesting things.
StartIsBack and Start8/10 are in my opinion the best solutions because there regularly getting updates when MS decides to change or add a feature which means the programs need to fix this. Other programs are not bad for sure but they simply can’t compete with the ‘big guys’ some of the products don’t even want this and they fill the gaps what the other ones miss, plugin or portable support are maybe for some people more important than a ‘glass’-looking menu or you simply want it simple then go with SyMenu.
Each of it’s programs has it’s own charm and no matter which program you choose you get really great products. The good news is that none of the paid solutions I found or recommend are expensive, I think the price for it is very much okay, sadly on the open source corner we have not as many apps as I like to see and a lot of apps are discontinued so I could’t list much here.