Here’s how to customize Microsoft’s ever-evolving Windows Start Menu for easy access to favorite apps and most-used settings.
Microsoft seems to rethink the Start menu with each new version of Windows. Jumping from Windows 7 to 8.1 to 10 to 11 can make your head spin with all the new tools and tricks you have to learn before you can fully navigate the menu. Even after you get used to the changes, there are always hidden features you may not know about. Whether you use Windows 10 or Windows 11, here’s a rundown of how to most effectively use and manage the Start menu.
Windows 10 Start Menu
Click the Start button in Windows 10, and all your installed apps are listed alphabetically as shortcuts. Most of them appear individually, but some (such as Windows Accessories) are nestled in folders that you click to see the contents.
To the left of the app list are icons to access Documents, Pictures, Settings, and Power. If you want to peek at the names of the icons without having to hover over each one, click the Expand icon at the top of the Start menu pane. The names for each icon are brought to light. Click the Expand icon again, and the pane returns to its condensed vie
Select Pictures or Documents to open each respective folder on your PC. Click the Settings icon, and the Windows 10 Settings menu pops up. Choose the Power button, and you’ll uncover at least two options: Shut down and Restart. If you’re using a laptop, other options will appear, including Sleep and Hibernate.
Click the icon for your account name to access additional options. Choose Change account settings to display your account screen in Settings. Click Lock, and you are thrown back to the Windows 10 Lock screen. Select Sign out to log out of Windows and let another person sign in.
To manage apps right from the app list, right-click on one of the shortcuts to view a pop-up menu with a few different options. Click Pin to Start and the shortcut for the app is saved to the tiled section of the Start menu. Choose Uninstall if you wish to remove the app from Windows.
From the More submenu, you will be able to pin the shortcut to the Taskbar, view the app’s settings, rate and review the app in the Microsoft Store, or share a link to the app’s Microsoft Store page with someone else. Not all apps offer the same options here.
Shortcuts from the app list can be dragged and pinned to the tiled section of the Start menu, where you can manage them. Right-click on a tiled app. Depending on the app, the pop-up menu offers a few options, including Unpin from Start, Resize, More, and possibly Uninstall.
For some apps, you can choose as many as four sizes: Small, Medium, Wide, and Large. Under More are options to turn off the live tile for supported apps, pin or unpin the app from the Taskbar, and open the app’s settings, among others.
Apps in the tiled section can be dragged into different sections. By doing this, you’re able to place related apps into their own groups. Click the space above a group of tiles to create a name for that group. If you drop one tile on top of another, it places them both into a folder. You can then create a name for that folder.
You can also customize certain aspects of the Start menu. Go to Settings > Personalization > Start. The option for Show more tiles on Start adds extra space to the tiled section so you can squeeze in more apps. The option Show app list in Start menu determines whether the app list is visible when you click the Start button.
If you want Windows to make app recommendations, choose Show recently added apps, Show most used apps, or Show suggestions occasionally in Start to display them at the top of the Start menu.
Enable Use Start full screen if you prefer to see the Start screen over the Start menu when you click the Start button. Turning on the switch for Show recently opened items in Jump Lists on Start or the Taskbar and in File Explorer Quick Access displays recently used files for a specific app if you right-click its shortcut in the Start menu.
Click the Choose which folders appear on Start at the bottom of the screen to select the folders that you want to access from the Start menu. The options to show Settings, Documents, and Pictures are on by default. You can also enable File Explorer, Downloads, Music, Video, Network, and Personal folder.
When you are done adding folders, click the Start button again to see the new icons nestled on the left side of the menu.
For one last tip, right-click the Start button to access a secret menu that will allow you to run commands for Power Options, Network Connections, Windows PowerShell, Task Manager, File Explorer, Search, Run, and more.
Windows 11 Start Menu
For Windows 11, Microsoft performed its most dramatic magic act with the Start menu in years. Rather than sticking with the usual list and tiled screen, the company pared down the menu into a single boxy square with only pinned apps visible and an extra step required to see and access all your installed apps. Though the new Start menu has gotten a thumb’s down from many traditional Windows users, there are ways to navigate and customize it.
Click the Start button in Windows 11. The top of the menu offers a search field to let you look for apps, files, and settings by name. The Pinned section shows all apps that have been pinned by Microsoft and by you. The Recommended section displays recently added and recently opened apps and files. Below this section is your profile icon, which you can click on to change account settings, lock the PC, or sign out. Click the Power button on the right and you can put Windows to sleep, shut down your PC, or restart it.
You can also change the order of the icons by dragging and dropping them. For example, you may want to drag the apps you use most frequently to the top and the ones you use less frequently to the bottom.
To actually view all your installed apps, click the All apps button in the upper-right corner. Right-click on an app in the All apps list and you can pin or unpin it to the Start menu, pin it to the taskbar, view its settings, rate and review it in the Microsoft Store, and share its Store link with someone else. You can also uninstall certain apps from here.
To tweak the Start menu, head to Settings > Personalization > Start. Here, you can control Windows’ app recommendations in the Start menu by enabling or disabling Show recently added apps and Show most used apps. If you turn off both options, the Recommended section of the Start menu will remain empty.
Click Folders to add icons for specific folders and locations to the bottom of the Start menu. Turn on the switch next to Settings, File Explorer, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, Network, or Personal folder to gain easy access to these locations from the Start menu.
By default, the Start button is centered on the taskbar in Windows 11, a departure from previous versions of Windows. If you prefer the way it’s always been positioned, you can move the entire taskbar. Go to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar and select Taskbar behaviors. Click the drop-down box for Taskbar alignment and change the position to Left.
For one final trick, you can access a secret Start menu, just like in Windows 10. Right-click on the Start button to display a context menu of common commands and features.