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How to install and show classic Windows Explorer and Start Menu on Windows 7 and 8

Windows 8 Pro and 10 does not come with the Start button. It's a pain when you are in desktop mode of your Windows 8 Pro or 10 computer. The good news is that you can follow the steps in this article and install the classic start button onto your Windows.

Almost anyone who has used Windows 7 (or Vista), 8, 10, or onwards hates its Windows Explorer (and/or the Start Menu). If you rush to the Folder Options and try to configure it, you'll quickly find that it's impossible to make it look like the traditional XP style of the Windows Explorer, especially the common buttons like Copy, Paste, Cut, Up Button, or Refresh. From Windows 7 upwards, there is just no such thing as classic explorer.

I am so used to the Classic XP explorer style so I searched and searched for a solution and ended up with a good and free one - Classic Shell from SourceForge (the open source community, so you can absolutely trust it). It adds some missing features to Windows 7 and Vista to make the Windows Explorer and start menu more like the classic XP's start menu, a classic toolbar for Windows Explorer, and classic toolbar for Internet Explorer.

Below are some of the main features about Classic Shell.

Classic Start Menu

With Classic Shell, the Classic Start Menu is a highly customizable replacement for the Windows start menu.

The Classic Start Menu is a clone of the start menu from Windows 2000, XP and Vista that sadly is missing from Windows 7. It has a variety of advanced features:

  1. Drag and drop to let you organize your applications.
  2. Options to show Favorites, expand Control Panel, etc.
  3. Shows recently used documents. The number of documents to display is customizable.
  4. Translated in 35 languages, including Right-to-left support for Arabic and Hebrew.
  5. Does not disable the original start menu in Windows. You can access it by Shift+Click on the start button.
  6. Right-click on an item in the menu to delete, rename, sort, or perform other tasks.
  7. The search box helps you find your programs without getting in the way of your keyboard shortcuts.
  8. Available for 32 and 64-bit operating systems.
  9. Has support for skins, including additional 3rd party skins. Make your own!
  10. Fully customizable in both looks and functionality.
  11. Support for Microsoft Active Accessibility.

Classic Explorer

Classic Explorer adds a toolbar to Windows Explorer, replaces and fixes some usability problems for Windows 7.

The Classic Explorer is really a joy to use. It is a simple plugin for Windows Explorer. You can easily turn it on or off.

  1. It adds a toolbar to Windows Explorer for some common operations like Up to parent folder button, Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete, Refresh, Email, etc.
  2. The Classic Explorer toolbar is fully customizable and very easy to use.
  3. Replaces the unfriendly Windows Explorer in Vista and Windows 7 with the more user-friendly classic version similar to Windows XP.
  4. Handles Alt+Enter in the folder panel of Windows Explorer and shows the properties of the selected folder.
  5. It has options for customizing the folder panel to look more like the Windows XP style or to not fade the expand buttons.
  6. It can show the free disk space and the total size of the selected files in the status bar.
  7. It can disable the breadcrumbs in the address bar.
  8. It fixes a long list of features that are broken in Windows 7, missing icon overlay for shared folders, the jumping folders in the navigation pane, missing sorting headers in list view, and more.

If you have questions about Classic Shell, here are the places to go for answers on SourceForge.

Install Classic Shell

Download Classic Shell installation file from SourceForge and install it.

The welcome screen - installation wizard starts.

End-user license agreement.

Choose the components to install - select the way you want features to be installed.

Ready to install.

Successfully completed the installation wizard.

The Classic Start Menu replaces Windows 7 start menu by default

After Classic Shell is installed, if during the installation process you selected the feature to allow Classic Start Menu, your Windows 7 start menu should have already been replaced by the classic start menu. Screenshot below is how my start menu looks like after installing Classic Shell.

The Classic Start Menu is highly customizable. To configure it, click Start -> Settings -> Classic Start Menu

Below is the Settings windows for Classic Start Menu. You can see the customizable features are so rich.

Let the Classic Explorer show up

For Classic Explorer, it's not automatically enabled and displayed by default. This is because Classic Explorer is installed as a toolbar onto the Windows 7's Windows Explorer, so you have to manually make this toolbar show up. To do this, go to Control Panel and select Folder Options. Then click View tab, tick the setting "Always show menus", then click OK to close Folder Options window.

Below are some extra settings that are recommended.

You should immediately notice that the Windows Explorer menu bar is displayed. On the menu bar, select View -> Toolbars -> Classic Explorer Bar.

If you can't see the Toolbars menu, you need to restart your Windows Explorer (close all your Windows Explorer windows and open it again).

Or you can click on the menu bar and select Classic Explorer Bar, which is just above "the Lock the toolbars".

When the Classic Explorer is displayed for the first time, it's located at the upper-right corner of the Windows Explorer window. You can drag it to the upper-middle section of the Windows Explorer window or place it under the menu bar. See below.

If you can't drag the Classic Explorer Bar, you need to unlock the toolbars first. To do so, right click anywhere on the toolbar stripe, then untick the text "Lock the toolbars". See below.

Here is how the classic toolbar looks like after I placed it under the menu bar - very similar to Windows XP style.

Configure the Classic Explorer

Now, you can configure the Classic Explorer bar. Click the last icon on the Classic Explorer bar.

When the settings windows is displayed, click All Settings to let all the configuration tabs appear.

Rearrange the buttons

The first tab I normally go to is the Toolbar Buttons tab. Notice that, on this tab, there is no Up or Down arrow available to move the button icon up and down, but you can drag and drop a button icon to any place you want in the left pane. You can even drag a button to create a sub-menu of another button.

Here is how my Classic Windows Explorer looks like after rearranged the toolbar buttons.

Note that there are options available when you right click on a button in the left pane. Each button is customizable.

Notice that an additional Up button is automatically added to the left of the Back and Forward button at the upper left corner. Because the Up button is also displayed on the Classic Explorer bar, this is a duplication and I want to hide it. To configure, open the Up Button tab on the Classic Explorer bar settings window. Click [Don't show] radio button. This removes the Up button from the upper left corner of the Windows Explorer.

Select [Don't show] radio button to make the Up Button on the upper left corner disappear.

Finally, I got all the buttons that I really need all the time.

Happy Installing!


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