Make Windows 8 Work More Like Windows 7

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Make Windows 8 Work More Like Windows 7
Microsoft

The Start screen and touch-first emphasis of Windows 8 engendered a "love it or hate it" response among users. For every person who hailed the new design approach, there seemed another who despised it.

Regardless of the camp you're in, various tweaks and apps can help you personalize your Windows 8 machine. Make it look like Windows 7, keep it like Windows 8, or even build a hybrid that suits your personal workflow.

Restore the Start Menu
Stardock

Restore the Start Menu

The Start screen represents a fundamental re-working of Microsoft's vision for how you interact with Windows. The colorful, updating tiles provide a wealth of information at a quick glance -- but the change isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Apps like Start8, RetroUI, and Classic Shell restore functionality similar to the Start menu from Windows 7. And with extra customization tweaks, these tools let you fine tune how the Start experience works.

Start8, from Stardock Software, is available for $4.99 after a free 30-day trial. RetroUI offers a one-install license for $4.99. Classic Shell is free.

Bring Back the Glass
UxStyle

Bring Back the Glass

Flat design is all the rage in 2013. Windows 8 is flatter, Google sites are streamlined, and even Apple's iOS 7 removes much of the faux leather and stitching that have characterized iPhones and iPods since their introduction.

Windows 8 flattened itself, in part, by chucking a brick through Aero Glass. The translucent, colored window borders in Windows 7 are gone, replaced with a single theme-based, solid color.

If you miss the elegance of Aero Glass, download UxStyle. The Windows 8 version is experimental -- and the program won't work on Windows 8.1 at the time of publication -- but when you've got it running, the Aero-style window decorations return to Windows 8. Configure them like you would have in Windows 7.

Browse from the Desktop
Microsoft

Browse from the Desktop

By default, Internet Explorer decides whether to open the desktop or modern version of the browser depending upon the context in which any particular link was clicked. That can make the experience feel random.

Want to do all your browsing in one place? You can force Internet Explorer to open all links on the desktop by opening the Internet Options menu (click the cog icon on the desktop version of the browser) and selecting the Programs tab. From there, select your preferred option from the Opening Internet Explorer section, save the settings, and re-launch the browser.

Tweak the Taskbar
Microsoft

Tweak the Taskbar

Leery of installing a separate program to emulate the Windows 7-style Start menu? Then the jump lists in Windows 8 could help: Just create a folder of shortcuts and pin it to the taskbar.

To more closely emulate the Start menu, right-click the taskbar and select "Toolbars," then "New Toolbar." In the folder box at the bottom of the screen, type "%ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs" (no quotes) then click "Select Folder." A new taskbar item, called Programs, appears -- and when you click it, you'll get the menu tree for all of your installed apps.

Mix It Up
Stardock

Mix It Up

Does your favorite app stubbornly refuse to play nice in desktop mode? Although Windows 8 includes a snap feature, permitting side-by-side views of a Modern-style app with the desktop, tools like Stardock Software's ModernMix take compartmentalization one step further.

The utility -- a free 30-day trial then $4.99 retail -- gives modern apps a small box in the corner that pops them into a standard window on the desktop. You can even pin apps on the taskbar and create desktop shortcuts.

For $49.99, the ObjectDesktop includes ModernMix and several other tools, including Start8, in a single package.

Run the Desktop Version
Microsoft

Run the Desktop Version

Several high-profile apps for Windows 8 -- including Skype and SkyDrive -- include both a desktop app and a modern version. You can use both... or just the one you prefer. You'll have to download the desktop versions, though, because only the modern apps ship with Windows 8 or appear in the App Store.

If you use SkyDrive on a device with a small primary device, a simple and well-documented hack lets you move your default SkyDrive folder to a removable drive like an SD card. SkyDrive doesn't support SD cards by default, but by creating a folder link, you can trick the program into accepting the card -- a feature that has helped many users of the 64 GB versions of the Microsoft Surface Pro.

However, in the Windows 8.1 preview, you cannot change the SkyDrive location (the Desktop app won't even install!) and at the time of publication, Microsoft is noncommittal about whether it will support the ability to move folders in the final version of Windows 8.1. So if you plan to upgrade when Windows 8.1 is released in October 2013, install the Desktop app and make your tweaks before it's too late.

Get Out of Dodge
Microsoft

Get Out of Dodge

Using Windows 7, you could just click "Start" and then "Shutdown" when you wanted to wrap up. In Windows 8, there are several different ways of shutting down, some of which require as many as four separate clicks.

Get back your one-click shutdown through a simple desktop shortcut that you can pin to the task bar or Start screen.

Right-click the desktop, select "New" then "Shortcut," then type "shutdown /s /t 0" (no quotes) in the location box. Give the shortcut a name then save it. For extra clarity, right-click the shortcut, select "Properties" then "Change Icon" to modify the icon.

Remove the Padlock
Microsoft

Remove the Padlock

The simple login box in Windows 7 has yielded, in Windows 8, to an immersive start screen with a photo various notifications. From there, you need to swipe or click the screen to reveal the re-designed login window.

Don't want to deal with the lock screen? Remove it by opening the Registry Editor (press Win+R and type "regedit") and search for:

HKEY_LOCAL_MARCHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows

Select the folder key called Personalization. Create it if it doesn't exist, then select it.

Right-click in the white space on the right half of the screen and add a new 32-bit DWORD value. Name it "NoLockScreen" and give it a value of 1. Save and close Regedit, then reboot.

Wait for 8.1
Microsoft

Wait for 8.1

The free Windows 8.1 upgrade, scheduled for release in October 2013, improves some aspects of the interface that many folks complained about after Windows 8 was first released.

Among the changes: The return of the Start button. Sorta.

Microsoft has re-introduced a shell of a Start button in Windows 8.1. The button won't return the Windows 7-style menu, but it will activate the Start screen. That's unlikely to satisfy critics. But much better: Right-clicking on the button displays common system settings -- the same kind that appear from the "Win-X" hotkey command.

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