Reclaiming the Windows 8 Desktop

Updated: 2013-02-05
Updated: 2013-01-21
Published: 2012-10-28

Window 8 has a touch-screen user interface designed for media consumption on small-screen devices (phones and tablets) — the default Metro user interface is unusable for content creation tasks on desktop PCs. If you are new to Windows 8 and you plan to use it on a desktop PC with existing desktop applications you will find the out-of-the-box experience miserably frustrating. This article will help you transform your Windows 8 desktop into a sane Windows 7 style desktop.

Here’s what we are going to do:

  1. Restore the Windows Start Menu.
  2. Boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop (and optionally bypass the login screen).
  3. Restore the Quick Launch toolbar and the Show Desktop icon.

Here is a screenshot of the reconfigured Windows 8 desktop (note the Start Menu and the Quick Launch toolbar at the bottom left):



Press the Windows key to switch from the Metro user interface to the traditional Desktop user interface.

Restoring the Start Menu

There are a number of Windows 8 Start Menu apps available but by far the best I was able to find is Start8, it’s not free but it’s the best five bucks I’ve spent in long while.

Once you’ve installed Start8 you not only have a nice Windows 8 themed Start Menu but you can also automatically go to the Desktop when you sign in to Windows (right-click on the Start Menu button and select Configure Start8… to customize).

Bypass login screen

If you don’t want the bother of having to type your login name every time you start your PC follow this CNET article.

Restore the Quick Launch toolbar and the Show Desktop icon

See this excellent EightForumks tutorial explaining How to Add Quick Launch to the Taskbar in Windows 8.

Here’s a paraphrased how-to:

  1. Right-click on the Taskbar and select Toolbars→New Toolbar…
  2. Paste %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch into the Folder input and click Select Folder. The Quick Launch toolbar will appear, next we will change it’s appearence and reposition it.
  3. Unlock the Taskbar (right-click Taskbar and untick Lock the taskbar).
  4. Right-click on Quick Launch toolbar and untick Show Text and Show Title.
  5. Right-click on Quick Launch toolbar and select View… to set the desired Quick Launch toolbar icon size.
  6. Reposition and resize the Quick Launch toolbar next to the Start Menu.
  7. Finally lock the Taskbar (right-click Taskbar and tick Lock the taskbar).

To add application icons to the Quick Launch toolbar find the application shortcut using the File Explorer then drag and drop it onto the Quick Launch toolbar, here how:

  1. First you need to show hidden files:
    1. Open the Control Panel search for folder.
    2. Click on Show hidden files and folders then select the Show hidden files, folders and drives option.
  2. Now open File Explorer (Start Menu→All Programs→System Tools→File Explorer).
  3. Navigate to the folder C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs then drap-and-drop program shortcuts to the Quick Launch toolbar.

Resize windows borders

The Tiny Windows Borders tool can be used to make the annoyingly large Windows 8 border widths small.


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