Windows 8 Start Screen

I will have been using Windows 8 as my main operating system for exactly one year. I have used Windows 8 to play games (Diablo 3, Civ 5, DOTA 2), edit photos and videos (Audacity, Photoshop, Premiere Pro), listen to music (Foobar, Spotify), and surf the web (Firefox, Chrome, IE). For the most part, the experience has been surprisingly good. I’ve had a few driver issues, and a few odd compatibility issues (chiefly Firefox and the Adobe suite), but ultimately it has felt like I’ve just been using an updated version of Windows 7 — an updated version of Windows 7 that does away with the Start menu and introduces the abominably godawful mouse-hating Metro Start screen.

Ah, the new Start screen. Over the last 12 months, it has become almost universally acknowledged that the Metro interface is lovely on a touchscreen — but with a mouse and keyboard it’s like trying to eat M&Ms with oven mitts. With no easy way to manipulate it using a keyboard and a horizontal scrolling paradigm that scorns your mouse, it’s plain to see that Metro simply wasn’t designed for those couple of billion PCs that run Windows XP, Vista, and 7.

I say “almost universally acknowledged” because I don’t agree; I actually like using the Metro interface with a mouse and keyboard. For 12 months I have been using Windows 8 and the Metro Start screen on a dual-monitor setup — the worst possible setup for monogamous-monitor Metro apps — and I can’t see what all the fuss is about. Really, it seems like tech writers and pundits are whining for the sake of hyperbolic titles and a large number of page views — or perhaps they simply haven’t tried the Metro Start screen for a prolonged period of time.

You see, if you use Windows primarily for Desktop apps (i.e. you use a mouse and keyboard), you will only see the Metro interface on two occasions: When you first log in, and if you need to search for an installed application. In the latter case, I won’t deny that it’s a wee bit jarring the first few times you flip to the Metro interface, but you do get used to it — and there’s no doubt that the new Start screen offers a much better search experience than the Start menu.

The first case, though — being forced to use the Metro interface after you log in — is by far the most common complaint when it comes to Windows 8. Again, if you’ve ever used Windows 8 for more than a few days, you will realize this is a non-issue.

Avoiding the Metro Start screen


When you log into Windows 8, you are greeted by a Start screen populated by live tiles (constantly updating icons that hook into Metro apps) and conventional icons. In the screenshot above, most of the buttons on the left are live tiles, and most of the buttons on the right are conventional icons. Now, get this: If you click one of the icons — for Filezilla or Photoshop, say — the Start screen automatically closes and the program opens up.

In my case, the first program I open every morning is Filezilla — so I log in, the Start screen appears, I click Filezilla… and that’s it. On a normal day, that is the sum total of my interaction with Metro. On a bad day (when I need to access an app that isn’t pinned to my taskbar), I hit Windows key, type a few letters, and hit Enter to open a program.

Take a moment to think about that: To hide the Start screen, all you have to do is click a nice, large icon.


Removing the Windows 8 Start screen entirely


If seeing the Start screen once is still too much for your weak constitution, there’s another solution that automatically opens the Desktop after logging in: Simply addC:\Windows\Explorer.exe to your registry in the following location:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. This is very easy to do using Regedit, but there are guides if you need help.

If you don’t want to mess around with your registry, RetroUI ($5) does the exact same thing for you, with the added bonus of letting you disable some other Windows 8 features, too (Charms, hot corners). Ultimately, any Desktop program that executes after logging in will automatically hide Metro.

So, there you have it: Yes, Microsoft doesn’t seem to care that the Start screen is painful to use with a mouse and keyboard — but no, the retirement of the 17-year-old Start  menu won’t actually affect your everyday usage of Windows 8. Even if you’re still convinced that the Start screen will completely ruin the Desktop experience, please try to remember that Windows 8 is significantly faster and more efficient than Windows 7 in terms of CPU, RAM, and I/O usage — and a bunch of default tools, such as Explorer and Task Manager have received some really nice tweaks, too.

For more tips on surviving Windows 8 without a touchscreen, read our ultimate guide to Windows 8 on the desktop.




  1. Kingston to release Windows To Go USB flash drive | GADGETNUZ

    […] slated to be released this October, is designed for enterprise environments which want to use Windows 8 from a USB drive to support multiple devices. The new Windows To Go USB drive is also going to […]

  2. burberry outlet
    burberry outlet September 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Nice post. I was checking constantly this weblog and I am inspired! Extremely helpful information particularly the ultimate section 🙂 I maintain such information a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  3. Acer Iconia W510: hands-on | GADGETNUZ
    Acer Iconia W510: hands-on | GADGETNUZ October 9, 2012 at 10:49 am

    […] holiday season, but because nearly every PC maker will have a very similar product – a Windows 8 laptop with a detachable screen, powered by the latest generation of Intel’s Atom […]

  4. Windows 8 Gets A Post-RTM Update | GADGETNUZ

    […] launch on October 26. This update, which follows a similar update to virtually all of the built-in Windows 8 Metro apps earlier this week, will bring improvements “in broad areas of performance, power […]

  5. Sony Vaio Tap 20 Review | GADGETNUZ
    Sony Vaio Tap 20 Review | GADGETNUZ October 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

    […] With Windows 8 just around the corner, every computer maker is desperately trying to come up with a fresh take on touchscreen computing to take advantage of Microsoft’s colourful new interface. […]

  6. HTC doesn’t know whether to chase the iPad or Google Nexus 7 | GADGETNUZ

    […] With Windows 8 about to shake up the world of tablets and the Nexus 7 taking names at bargain prices, HTC is “watching that market very, very closely” and would launch a tablet if it could “make a splash,” HTC boss Jeff Gordon told Fierce Wireless. […]

Leave a Reply