We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Start Menu?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Microsoft® introduced a feature in the Windows® 95 operating system (OS) called the start button, located at the bottom left corner of the toolbar on the computer desktop. This button was carried forward into subsequent Microsoft® Windows® operating systems, though beginning with Vista®, the graphic was updated to a Microsoft® logo sometimes referred to as the orb button. Left-clicking the start button opens the start menu, a navigational tool for launching applications, performing searches, running command line tasks, and accessing various Windows® components.

The Windows® desktop allows for icons to serve as shortcuts to frequently used programs, but the start menu offers quick access to all installed programs through the Programs submenu. Clicking on a listed application launches the software without need of navigating to its executable file, usually located in the program’s installation folder. Regardless of how many working programs or windows are open on the desktop, the application launcher can be two clicks away by using the start button or orb on the Windows® toolbar.

The start menu is also a handy shortcut to Windows® components such as the Help and Support menu, Administrative Tools, the Control Panel, and the built in file manager, accessible by clicking on Computer in Windows® 7 systems, for example. Shortcuts to folders like Documents, Music, Pictures and Games might also appear here, according to configurable choices.

The Search programs and files engine is also available via the start button. This provides a quick, easy way to pull up a file, folder, picture, song, or to find misplaced files or data. Entering the name of the desired file or folder, or the first few letters of the name will return a list of matching items. Wild cards can be used to search for a group of files, such as all files with a particular extension.

The command line field is also available through the Run menu, accessible from the start button. Command line tasks are executed in a DOS-like environment. One example of command line use would be to run the internal hard drive checker called Checkdisk, which checks the integrity of storage drives. Command line syntax must be exact for command line tasks to be executed.

In newer operating systems, a shortcut to the logged-in user’s profile and affiliated settings is also a click away inside the start menu. Clicking on the user’s icon will bring up menus for changing passwords, adding or deleting users, changing privileges and other related tasks.

The log off button, shut down, sleep and hibernation options are also accessed via the start button. Restarting and locking the system are grouped with these functions as well.

The start menu can be customized in a variety of ways depending on the operating system. Programs can be pinned or unpinned to the initial window, saving the extra clicks required to drill down through the Program submenu. Applications can also be ordered to user-created folders making navigation friendlier and quicker.

The entire look and feel of the start menu can be customized. In Windows® XP®, for example, two skins are available; classic and XP®. The classic skin mimics a retro Windows® 98 graphic user interface (GUI). Starting with Vista® operating systems, many more skins, themes and choices are available.

The way that files and folders appear in Explorer® can also be customized here. Configuration choices are available by right-clicking the start button, choosing Properties, clicking the Start Menu tab, then clicking the Customize button. Taskbar and Toolbar tabs provide even more options. For further customization choices check Microsoft® online articles and user forums. Instructions can differ along with available options, according to the operating system.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Wisedly33 — On May 01, 2014

@Scrbblechick -- Ehh, Microsoft laid an egg with Windows 8 period, and not just because they took away the start menu. That Metro interface has got to be the clunkiest thing in the universe! I got a new laptop and I never use the Metro interface. I always use the desktop. Always. I'm one of the millions who downloaded some freeware to get my start menu back! What a dumb move by MS.

By Scrbblchick — On Apr 30, 2014

Microsoft laid a giant egg when they did away with the Start menu for Windows 8. I think that's the biggest complaint I've heard about it. The good news is that freeware is available online where people can download a program that restores the Start program and also gives the desktop a more classic look. It's popular, too, with downloads in the millions.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.