Where’s My Start Menu In Windows 8?

Running Windows 8 - Thumbnail ImageThese days, there seems to be three main food groups of technology — Apple, Google and Microsoft. With all of the various computer screens that I stare at these days, it’s usually powered by one of those three companies. That’s a far cry from earlier in the millennium, back when I was mostly a Windows guy. I remember the days when Internet Explorer drove +90% of website traffic. Today, Microsoft is struggling to stay relevant in an Android and iOS world. The October release of Windows 8 is an attempt to remedy that.

Considering my recent frustrations with Apple, and my continued contempt for Google, I was looking for reasons to get excited about the latest upgrade to Microsoft’s mighty operating system. Yet, it just feels wrong. The easiest way to know this is to look for the “Start Menu”. It’s gone. Why would you do that Microsoft?

For more than a decade, I could count on the bottom-left spot of my screen. That’s where the Windows action would begin. I could launch an application, open a document, use a “Run” command, shut down the computer and lots of other useful stuff. Instead, I get the “Metro” interface. This was an incredible disappointment for me, as I don’t want to work from a touchscreen. I actually like using a mouse.

That preference doesn’t seem to matter in Windows 8. It wasn’t long before I found myself trapped in the PC settings. How do I close this window? How do I get back to Metro? Where’s my desktop? If I’m a tech-savvy guy, how’s an average computer user going to react to this? It’s as if Microsoft wants to create work for IT support teams. A nearly two-decade old standard has been replaced — I don’t think it’s for the better.

Perhaps I would be in a better mood if Windows 8 didn’t remind me of my broken Microsoft Account. Many years ago, I created an XBOX live account for “Photics” and for XNA game development. Something must have happened to this account, as I’m unable to login. Despite numerous attempts to reset my password, and battles with the fragmented Microsoft tech support teams to resolve the problem, the account is still broken. The XBOX live team states that my account is, “forever stuck in a corrupted state.” Because of this account issue, I can’t fully enjoy Windows 8.

That’s when I started to wonder, “Why bother?” The truth is that I didn’t install Windows 8 on a PC. I installed it on a Mac. VirtualBox allowed me to test things out. After my disappointment with Mountain Lion, this was an opportunity for a return to Windows. With GameSalad supporting Windows 8, and Stencyl soon to do the same, there could be lots of money to be made with Microsoft. Yet, with such a lousy experience, I didn’t feel motivated enough to continue. Windows 8 makes it harder to use my computer than Windows 7, Windows XP… or even Windows Vista. Windows 8 was so bad that it makes Mountain Lion look like a great upgrade.

It’s not impossible to get the “Start Menu” back. Third-party software can recreate something similar. Yet, I didn’t see an inherent way to accomplish this task. One of the things I used to like about Windows was consistency. I used to be able to disable the features that I didn’t like. With Windows 8, it’s a dramatic break from tradition.