Use a Windows 8 library to add a Start menu

There are two things missing from Windows 8.1 and the Start menu is the obvious one and this makes accessing programs that are installed more difficult than it used to be. The other missing item is libraries, but you may not have noticed because they were nowhere near as popular as the much loved Start menu. Libraries haven’t gone though, they are just hidden and they can be used to create a sort of Start menu replacement.

What this trick does is to create a Start Menu library that lists all the programs on the computer, just as the old Start menu did. It is then easy to find the program you want and run it.

The old Start menu in Windows 7 and Vista was created from the contents of two folders. It combined the contents of these two folders and turned them into a menu:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

C:\Users\Roland\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

The first location contains menu items for all users of the computer and the second location is in your private account folder and has menu items that only you can see. This is why you sometimes see an option in program installers to add a Start menu item for everyone or just you.

Combining the contents of two folders and presenting them as a single view is exactly what libraries do. This is exactly how to create a Start Menu folder.

Go to the desktop and open an Explorer window. Click View in the menu at the top and tick the Hidden items box. You might need to click Show/hide first if the Explorer window is too narrow to show all the View options. We will need to access hidden folders later on.

Windows hidden files

Return to the View menu, click Navigation Pane and tick Show libraries. In the left hand pane is now a Libraries entry and clicking it shows the default libraries - Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos.

Windows libraries

Right click Libraries in the left panel or right click an empty space among the libraries on the right and select New, Library. Name it Start Menu, right clicking it and selecting Rename if necessary.

Right click the library and select Properties from the menu that is displayed. Where it says Optimise this library for, select Documents in the list. You now need to click the Add button and select the two locations used to store the Start menu items (they are still there in Windows 8.1 even though there isn’t a Start button). Add:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

C:\Users\Roland\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

Click OK to close the window and you have a Start Menu library in the left pane of Explorer windows. Select it. You might need to use the View menu in the usual way to get the right display. For example, sort by name, set the view to List, and Group to none.

Start menu library

If you want this library on the desktop where it is easier to access than by going through a Finder window, right click the Start Menu library you created and select Send to, Desktop (create shortcut). Right click the shortcut on the desktop, select Rename and remove the word Shortcut so it just says Start Menu.

You now have an icon on the desktop that opens to reveal all the items that would be on the Start menu if there was one in Windows 8.1. You will find it easier than going to the start screen to find programs.

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