Windows 8 Interface Problem Solved: Make Windows 8 Look Like Windows 7

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Microsoft has not offered this as an option to us, but with a few easy steps we will outline below how we can make Windows 8 look like the way most people want it to look like.

The Windows 8 Interface Problem

Windows 8.1 is coming and it will have a Start Button. Except it’s not a Start Button! It is a Metro Button to sling you right back into the Windows 8 tile-based user interface! One can only imagine the frustration of average users finally managing to get away from the tile-based environment, finally seeing the familiarity of Desktop… only to click on the Windows 8.1 Start Button out of habit, and find out the hard way that it has been placed there to catapult them right back into the Metro interface they tried to escape from.

Although many tech-savvy users actually like Windows 8 interface, it is difficult to ignore the sheer number of average users who describe Windows 8 as “confusing” (or worse).

Microsoft’s Chief Marketing and Financial Officer Tami Reller recently referred to Windows 8.1 as “an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to.” Yet Windows 8.1 preview shows us that Microsoft has again made a choice to not give customers something they’ve been asking for since Windows 8 was in its testing phase: an option, just an option, to boot into Desktop with a real Start Button and a real Start Menu, while also keeping the option to activate the tile-based Windows 8 user interface with a single click.

Analysts have been using the phrase “…if Windows 8.1 is received poorly by consumers…” as if the reception can be expected to be different, given what happened after Windows 8 launch when customers started to return their purchases to exchange Windows 8 machines for Windows 7 machines, just to get their Start Button and Start Menu back. Businesses today do not hesitate to take advantage of ‘downgrading’ their Windows 8 licenses to actually install older Windows 7 so they will be able to avoid Windows 8 interface and boot into the Desktop environment which they find more conducive for business.

When buying new computers, businesses purchase computers that come preloaded with Windows 8 licenses and install a previous version of Windows without buying separate licenses. Therefore, when you hear that Microsoft “sold” 100 million Windows 8 licenses, that doesn’t mean 100 million machines are running the Windows 8 operating system.

Classic Shell – Customize Windows 8 to Look Like Windows 7

Before choosing to ‘downgrade’ to Windows 7, consider this: You can easily and quickly have a Windows 7-looking Windows 8 – without giving up any of the features of Windows 8 – which you can activate with a single click, or choose never to use if you dislike them. And you can do this for free.

Classic Shell freeware gives average users everything they dreamed Windows 8 would be. It is so popular that impostors have set up web sites, infringed on the trademark of this freeware, violated their copyrighted skins and started selling this free software for $20!

The true free download location for Classic Shell freeware is available here:

Classic Shell is older and more customizable than other pay-for solutions which mushroomed to meet the demand for Start Button – Start Menu – Desktop based Windows 8.

You can turn Windows 8 into an operating system that boots into Desktop complete with a real Start Button and a real Start Menu. As a bonus, by simply holding SHIFT when you click on the Start Menu button, you can return to Windows 8 Metro user interface, which you never have to do, and thus never see the original Windows 8 interface if it bothers you.

Classic Shell – Real Start Button and Menu

When you power on your computer, if all you wish to do is boot into Desktop with a real Start Button and a real Start Menu, simply select for Custom Setup and have Classic Start Menu installed:

Classic Shell Custom Install

Classic Shell – Disabling “Charms”

If you wish to disable Charms, simply do this in Classic Shell options: Windows 8 Settings TAB > Disable active corners > All > OK

Disable Charms

What is Charms? In Windows 8, you will see multiple icons pop up when your mouse cursor accidentally hovers across the right corner of your screen, or if you accidentally swipe the touch pad of your laptop. Windows Charms is liked by some tech-savvy users because it gives Windows 8 a “clean” look. It is strongly disliked by Average Joe for functionality reasons – various functions are only exposed by pointing at invisible hotspots. Charms would tend to appear out of nowhere while Joe is frantically working to meet a work deadline.  Joe would suddenly see Windows 8 popping up icons on his screen, preventing him from seeing the work he is trying to complete. Because he accidentally hovered his mouse cursor over the part of the screen that Windows 8 has appropriated for the Charms Bar, Joe is greeted with a launch pad he never asked for.

Charms is also a good example of how difficult it can be to justify the advantages of the new Windows 8 Graphical User Interface. Proponents struggle to answer the following question: What if you have to Reboot/Shut Down a Windows 8 machine? Do you hover your mouse *carefully* in the corner, hoping to Fish-In the “Charms” pop-up, only to have to carefully scroll down to Settings thereafter, making sure that Charms doesn’t disappear? Doesn’t it take a bit of time after that for your eye to locate the Power button to only then bring up the menu to be able to perform the Reboot/Shut Down process? Why is that better than having a Start Menu button from which you can accomplish this particular example with two clicks, as Classic Shell freeware once again allows us to do?

Classic Shell Windows XP-Syle one click Shut Down

Classic Shell – Other Options

For optional further modifications:

  • Classic Shell allows you to choose to have a Start Menu style of your choice: Classic, Windows XP or Vista/Windows 7 style
  • Classic Shell allows you to set a custom Start Button: Right click on Start Menu > Settings > All Settings > Start Button > Button Image
  • See our own forum for some buttons users have created or visit Classic Shell forum to see interesting custom Start Buttons. Or you can even create your own Start Button as long as it is a single .bmp or .png image of three different buttons: top, middle, and bottom button depicting normal, hover, and pressed button style.
  • You can choose which special items to place in your Start Menu, such as Favorites and Log Off. You can choose not to have particular special items like Help and Support, User documents or User pictures by simply selecting “Don’t display this item”.
  • Skin TAB allows you to select Large Font for clearer display.
  • Most importantly, Windows 8 Settings TAB allows you to disable Charms pop up screen by simply selecting: Disable active corners > All > OK

The Problem With Windows 8, and The Classic Shell Solution

Upon first installing Windows 8, some experienced business users got a tingly feeling of anger in their stomachs over how sadistic Chief Microsoft Developers must have been to approve a Windows 8 GUI project which makes users literally jump through Circus Hoops of Windows 8 Charms option screens every single time they simply try to Shut Down or Reboot their machines.

Given a choice today, most, if not all of us would find that if we asked average people what they would want, more than 50% of average users would choose to boot into Desktop, not boot into Windows 8 GUI a.k.a. Metro. By definition, therefore, the majority of people would choose to boot into Desktop with a real Start Button and a real Start Menu. They would like Metro to be something they can launch or even something that can be set up as a default option, but not something that should be the one and only default option.

Luckily, Classic Shell freeware allows us to remove that most common complaint against Windows 8, which lies at the heart of the slower-than-expected Windows 8 uptake.

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  1. Heh. You think so?

    I agree it's good and useful. I didn't switch to 64-Bit Windows before Windows 8 only because I only had 32-Bit programs which can do that, save and restore icons with a right click.

    When I finally found that program, which works under 64-bit, I switched to 64-Bit Windows, I was on 32-Bit Windows 7 :)

    If you want to save Desktop icon placement, use this program:

    It will help you save your icon positions on Desktop and Restore them with a simple right click.

    Best program made. Period. :)
    Yes, you can start a new thread here in the Microsoft Operating Systems forum here and people will help you.

    You should post what kind of help with security you need. As for file sharing, you can read something like this:

    Or if you want us to help you step by step, we can do that too:

    Right click on Folder you want to share > Properties > Sharing TAB > Share... >

    From drop down Menu select: Everyone >

    Add > Everyone > > Read/Write > Share > Done > Close

    Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > Change advanced sharing settings > All Networks >

    SELECT: Turn off password protected sharing > Save changes

    If asked for a Network password even though one was not setup,

    Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > Change advanced sharing settings > All Networks > Turn off password protected sharing > Save changes > Reboot

    The fist part of your post unclear:

    "the second time I open it id does not work" What does not work? When you say "disperses your desktop icons" - right click on Desktop > Sort by.

    If you want to save Desktop icon placement, use this program:

    It will help you save your icon positions on Desktop and Restore them with a simple right click.
    I put this on a win8.1 (got the machine monday 31st....

    when i start the windows explorer

    and close it(stupid me - need it all the time) the second time I open it id does not work and causes the screen to clear then disperses my desktop I cons....

    I need help with security and file sharing too...

    Sounds like a larger issue... Might be wise to make a new thread for this one. :)

    We'll help as much as we can :thup:
    I put this on a win8.1 (got the machine monday 31st....

    when i start the windows explorer

    and close it(stupid me - need it all the time) the second time I open it id does not work and causes the screen to clear then disperses my desktop I cons....

    I need help with security and file sharing too...
    The question is valid. At the time the article was written, Windows 8 had no native option to boot into Desktop. The fact that Microsoft itself now makes it an option in Update 1 for Windows 8.1 - validates Classic Shell as always having been necessary for super fast computer users.

    The fact that Start Menu is coming back in Windows 9, further validates what Classic Shell has given us all along.

    Personal opinion: Perhaps you should not spend any money on upgrading to Windows 8.

    You should choose Windows 8 IF you are installing from scratch and can choose between what to install, all things being equal.

    1. Classic Shell makes Metro available with a single click - not forced on you by default - there goes the only reason I know of for most people NOT TO GO with Windows 8.

    2. Whoever inherits your system gets extra three years of Windows updates. Win8 end of life will be longer than Win7. 2023 vs 2020.

    3. Mostly small stuff such as ability to pause/continue copy-paste operations. Somewhat snappier performance. If we can demonstrate that Windows 8 does boot faster (even if it is only a couple of seconds faster than Windows 7), and we can demonstrate that on a completely equal dual-boot system, if people then say "well what's a few seconds, I don't care." Well then install Windows 7 from scratch and wait an extra second or two for your system to load and be happy like that. The rational question should be "what do I loose by installing Windows 8?"

    That gets us into what RAM and CPU usage advantages are, multi-monitor advantages, future touch screen application advantages, lost of other stuff people say they "don't really need' but why would I go and install Windows 7 from scratch when maybe in the future I may want to check out a Metro App? Classic Shell makes Windows 8 look like Windows 7 and with a simple SHIFT+CLICK on the Start Menu, I get the OPTION (just the option) of Metro. Why give that up, why not have the option if there is no downside?

    The downside would be if you abandoned a perfectly-working Windows 7 to UPGRADE, do not do that, but from scratch? Go with Windows 8 and if not, then why not?

    So some things you probably don't need but get anyway are:

    Better Task Manager

    Improved Task Bar management

    Better file transfer management

    Better multi-monitor and projector support (recognizes multiple configurations automatically)

    Starts/shuts down faster

    Recovers from sleep faster

    Recovers from hibernation faster

    Better battery life

    Better biometrics integration

    Better touch integration

    Installs faster


    Better printer recognition during installation

    People on the forums mostly agree that it seems more stable overall

    If you make Windows 8 look like Windows 7, why not just install 7?

    Unless of course, you only have a Windows 8 key.. But that's the only reason I see to keep 8 and make it look like 7.
    Man I sure do hate it when OS's upgrade. I hate to learn new things. Who cares if a bunch of new features are added and great improvements are made for ease of use, I don't have time to educate myself. I wish they would come out with a shell to bring back MS-DOS. Man those were the days...... Give me a break. Take some time to read the users manuals like you should for anything new you get and stop blaming your stupidity on Microsoft and any developer for that matter for making new changes. I challenge anybody to do anything in previous versions of Windows that I can do in Windows 8 any quicker or easier. Nobody jumps into a car at for the first time in your teens and blaming Chevy for not making it intuitive to drive without research and direction. How about trying to learn a little about the products that you are using and maybe life will be a bit better for you.
    thanks for writing about this.

    once i install this tool, my useless new laptop will become the productivity tool i purchased it to be.


    Ribbons are incredibly useless, especially on programs that have very few menu options to begin with, like Windows Explorer (File Explorer on W8)

    A Ribbon on that makes absolutely zero sense.

    While on things with many options, like Word, it makes more sense, because it might make options more obvious that are otherwise hidden, but at what cost?
    I'm more impressed his office got 2007 that quick. Even if they worked with the beta which was the end of 05, it was released in 1/2007 (6 years ago). We are on XP and 2003 still...moving to 2010 and W7 now. :rofl:
    I agree. Since we have no alternative, the only thing we can do is try to modify it to look the way most ordinary folks want it to look like.

    To address your Office 2007 problem, I tried to modify the new Ribbon system as well, it was not as easy as resolving the Windows 8 problem, but I got my custom Excel/Word setup in there and am using it today even on my MS Office 2013.

    They accuse us of resisting change, but if we manage to get most often used custom Excel icons set up right in front of us, instead of Ribbons, we can get business done a lot faster than using non-customizable multiple Ribbons. So the reasons are practical, not emotional.
    Microsoft is notorious for forcing difficult user interfaces on its customers...RE: Office 2007 where they hid most of the usable controls on tabs in the ribbon. I have been using 2007 at work for about 10 years and still cuss at M$ every time I use Office for the trouble that I have finding hidden buttons.

    I bought a Win 8 media computer for my home theater and have determined that the only good thing about win 8 is the fast boot time. But...argh!!!, it is not really a fast boot, but restoration from sleep. Funny, I can do that in XP and Win 7.

    M$ obviously does not employ any human factors engineers. If my employer created a stupid interface like that, we would go out of business in days. :bang head
    Yes, welcome to the forums.

    It's been a year since Windows 8 was officially released to manufacturing, and I can't tell you how many people I've seen here and elsewhere, refusing to spend 30 seconds to resolve this problem like you did and instead choosing to go back to Windows 7, for no other reason than just to get their Windows 7 Start Button / Start Menu back, which they could have gotten on their Windows 8 quickly and for free.
    I just signed up and a newbie to this forum. But what a great pleasure to install something and have it work just like that!!!:attn: This step was so easy and show my Uncle and now he can have the look and feel of Windows 7 back. Thanks for the post
    Yeah the fifth one from the left, never had an HTPC, the more you know =P

    Your XP start button looks great too, lol...

    But yeah, I completely agree with your point about how 8.1 isn't bringing back the start menu, but the button, Microsoft is trying to appear as if it did indeed capitulate to consumer pressures the same way it did with Xbox One DRM, and like the DRM, it is an illusion, for the new start button takes you to the Metro screen...

    Who? Few tech savvy users like Windows 8, lol, it slows down productivity, heavily.

    Honestly if Microsoft left the Start Menu from the beginning on the desktop, with a link to the new screen (called it something else though) I wouldn't have had nearly as much as a problem with it, but the fact they removed something so central and so utilized as the start menu just shows that they care less about usability and customer feedback and usage data, (most use the Start Menu...) and just want to jam it down our throats.

    EDIT: Got to hand it to HP though, they actually listen to customer complaints (probably because they realize they're losing money based on something another company does...)

    they made their own start menu replacement

    Aditionally, while the ClassicShell hides away some of Windows 8's more obvious flaws (Metro) there is still spying built in, SmartScreen, you might say "But you can turn it off!" the very same thing said about UAC, but now we need a registry hack in Windows 8 to *fully* turn it off, how long before we need a registry hack to turn off spying?
    If you mean the green fifth one, that's Windows Media Center.

    If you mean the green third one, that's Windows XP I made myself from scratch just for the heck of it, when I first heard Microsoft said we couldn't have a Start Button and Start Menu any more.

    Because Classic Shell essentially gives you the Windows 7 experience, that means you have the option of never seeing any of the things you outlined that bother you - there is no reason not to go with Windows 8 + Classic Shell. I wouldn't jump to upgrade a working Windows 7 system but given an equal choice on a new install, everything you'll see from the moment you boot in until shut down will be the same as on Windows 7... with the added option, just an option, to access everything you dislike with a single click.
    Wow, nice, this could've been part of my paper on Windows 8 lol

    I have to admit with all of the griping ive done, ClassicShell does, in practice, eliminate many of the concerns. Yet the philosophy behind it is what angers me the most, things like SkyDrive (and the Cloud in general) and having apps on a fully featured desktop system where they really aren't necessary (as apps are generally gutted programs so they can run on less powerful hardware)

    Go Go Classic Shell! Should a game ever come out exclusive to Windows 8 that isn't immediately ported by a third party to Windows 7 (like Halo 2 Vista) I will grab for Classic Shell immediately =P

    Nice buttons too, what is the green Windows 7 start button from? Someone made that? It looks like it would be on Home Premium or something lol.