this how-to guide, I'll reveal how to water down or
ignore some of Windows 8's more controversial features
and restore functionality you thought had gone forever.
While these tips aren't strictly about making Windows 8
like Windows 7, they address a few annoyances.
the Start screen and disable hotspots
When Windows 8 first loads, you'll notice how it
defaults to the new Start screen. If you'd rather go
straight to the traditional desktop we all know and
love, download a free tool called
Skip Metro Suite.
Once installed, launch the program and verify 'Skip
Start Screen' is ticked.
you're here, you'll notice that you can also disable
some or all of Windows 8's hotspots, allowing you to
safely roll your mouse into the corners of the screen,
without worrying about triggering the charms bar, apps
switcher or Start button. They're all enabled by
default, so simply untick those features you wish to
keep before clicking Save Settings.
the classic Start menu
The lack of a Start button (never mind Start menu) on
the Windows 8 desktop is annoying, but there are plenty
of options for getting it back.
for a Windows 8-friendly design.
Start8 goes the extra mile by
integrating the Start button and menu back into the mix,
but gives it advanced functionality that allows you to
launch Windows 8 apps from within desktop mode.
Basically, there’s no need to ever go to the Modern
Start screen if you have Start8 installed.
But if you want something more traditional (and free),
install the Classic Start Menu portion of
installed, you'll see the Start button appear -- click
this to open the Settings menu and pick your Start menu
design ('classic', XP and Vista/7 are all supported).
Click OK and your new Start menu is ready to go.
Another App that allows you to go straight to the
desktop after Boot.
This app is called RetroUI and costs $4.95
per license at:
The advantage in this utiltity is that it allows you to
boot directly to the desktop as well as restores the
Start Menu Button all in the same package, as seen
straight to the desktop - 2
you've set up your desktop programs as defaults and
sorted out your Start button dilemma, you need to
configure your PC to boot straight to the desktop,
bypassing the Windows 8 Start screen.
open the Task Scheduler by typing Schedule
task in the Settings search on the All Apps
screen, or by deep-diving to
Panel > System and Security >
Administrative Tools > Schedule Tasks.
the Task Scheduler is open, click Create Task
under Task Scheduler Library in the Actions pane. Name
your task "Boot to desktop" or something similar. Open
the Triggers tab, select New, and
choose At log on in the 'Begin the task'
drop-down menu at top. Click OK, and then open
the Actions tab, select New once again, and
enter explorer in the
the action and the task, and you're done! From now on,
every time you log in to Windows, you'll automatically
jump to the desktop, where an open Libraries folder will
Metro apps from the classic desktop
possible, by installing Classic Start Menu and Skip
Metro Suite, to avoid the Start screen entirely, but how
do you access modern apps without it? Simple, add a new
shortcut folder on your classic desktop. Right-click a
blank area of the desktop and choose New > Shortcut. Now
carefully type the following (or copy and paste it) into
the location box:
Next, give your shortcut a suitably descriptive name --
like Modern Apps -- and click Finish.
Customize the Win+X menu
lieu of the missing Start menu, Windows 8 provides a
handy selection of shortcuts when you press Win+X.
Customizing this list can be done by hand by browsing to
a hidden folder -- press Win+R, type 'appdata' and press
Enter. Now browse to Local\Microsoft\Windows\WinX, where
you'll find three sub-folders -- Group1, Group2 and
Group3. Inside these are your various shortcuts.
You can add, move and delete shortcuts from these
folders, plus add more groups. If all of this sounds
like hard work, try
WinAero's free Win+X Menu Editor
File Explorer ribbon
like the new ribbon-like user interface added to
the File Explorer in Windows 8, but if you prefer how
things were in Windows 7, you can disable the ribbon
quickly and easily using
WinAero's Ribbon Disabler
launch the tool after unzipping it (choose the x64
version if you're running Windows 8 64-bit), and click
Disable Ribbon Explorer, logging off and back on again
when prompted to effect the change.
opening files in modern apps
Double-click a media file in the classic desktop and
it'll open it in the corresponding modern user interface
app. To revert to traditional desktop apps for your
music, photos and videos, open the Control Panel and
choose Programs, followed by Default Programs. Select
Set Default Programs, pick your chosen app -- such as
Windows Picture Viewer for photos, or Windows Media
Player for music and video -- and click 'Set this
program as default'.
the Windows briefcase
Microsoft thinks everyone wants to use cloud services
SkyDrive to keep their files
synced across multiple computers. If you're a fan of the
old Windows briefcase, however, you'll be glad to learn
it's possible to get it back in Windows 8 with a rather
convoluted Registry tweak.
Click here to download a pair
of Registry files that simplify the process of switching
the briefcase feature on and off again.
POP email in Mail
The Mail app doesn't like POP email accounts, but you
can gain access to them. The secret is to configure your
web mail account to access your POP mail, which in turn
can be read in Mail. Why not use your Hotmail account --
log on at
and head over to Settings > 'More mail settings' to add
accounts by choosing 'Sending/receiving email from other
If you're unhappy that the traditional desktop no longer
supports desktop gadgets in Windows 8 (Microsoft would
prefer it if you used Modern apps instead), you'll be
pleased to learn you can restore the functionality with
the help of a free tool called
download and install the tool -- when the SmartScreen
Filter appears, click Details followed by Run Anyway to
ignore it. Once installed -- it's quite a slow process
-- your new sidebar will appear, which works in exactly
the same way as it does in previous versions of Windows.
If you'd rather your gadgets were individually floating
on your desktop rather than pinned to the sidebar, just
right-click the sidebar and choose Close Sidebar.
file or folder to the Start screen
The Windows 8 Start Screen lets you pin programs and
apps with no problems, but if you want to go further and
pin shortcuts to files, folders or certain special
shortcuts like the Control Panel, you'll need help in
the form of
Download, extract and launch this portable app, then
simply add whichever shortcuts you need, which will
subsequently appear on the Start screen for easy access.
the Lock Screen
you're the only user of your PC, then having to swipe
the lock screen and then enter your password might seem
like a waste of time each morning. Removing these
annoyances is a two-part process. Dumping the lock
screen requires a trip to the Registry Editor -- press
Win+R, type 'regedit' and press Enter. Now browse to the
following Registry key:
for a Personalization key -- if it's not present,
right-click the Windows key in the left-hand pane and
choose New > Key and call it Personalization. With
Personalization selected, choose Edit > New > DWORD
(32-bit) Value. Change its name to NoLockScreen,
double-click it and set its value to 1. Click OK, close
Registry Editor and reboot to effect the change.
Logging in automatically from here is much
simpler. Press Win+R again, but this time type
'netplwiz' and press Enter. Select your username, then
untick 'Users must enter a user name and password to use
this computer'. Click OK, enter your user password twice
and click OK again. Job done.
Windows 8 will no longer support the playback of DVD
movies, but you won't have to shell out for the
privilege of using a third-party tool if you install
Just install the app with the default settings -- again,
ignore the SmartScreen Filter warning -- and you'll find
your DVDs now play perfectly in VLC.