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Windows 7 - How to Change the Appearance of the Start Menu

The start menu has long been one of the main interface features of Windows. Windows 7 introduced some very welcome changes, including the addition of the start menu search box which allows you to search your computer for installed programs and files. Some features were, however, removed from the start menu with the launch of Windows 7. Most notably, there is no option to revert to the classic-style start menu without installing third-party software. Follow the tips below to learn how to customize the appearance and functionality of the start menu in any edition of Windows 7.

1 - Customizing the Start Menu
You can specify exactly what is displayed in the right-side panel of the start menu. If, for example, you don't want a list of all of the recent files and programs you have opened appearing, you can hide it by accessing the start menu settings. Right-click anywhere on an unoccupied area of the taskbar and click "Properties." Click the "Start Menu" tab to open the start menu properties page. Click the "Customize" button. A list of options will appear in which you can change various advanced options. You can, for example, choose which links and commands are displayed in the start menu, how sub-menus open and whether or not newly installed programs are highlighted.
You can also specify how many frequently-used programs you want to have displayed in the start menu. The fewer items you have displayed, the shorter your start menu will be. When you're satisfied with your new settings, click "OK" and click "OK" again to close the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties box. You can always go back and change you settings again later.

2 - Organizing Your Start Menu
Once you've installed a lot of programs, your start menu will quickly become cluttered up. Finding shortcuts to programs which you don't use so often from the "All Programs" section can become somewhat frustrating. One of the best ways to remedy this problem is to organize your start menu folders and sort them into categories.
Start menu shortcuts are located in the following two folders on your computer:
C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs
C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories

Open both of these folders in Windows Explorer and create folders for each program category such as Internet tools, games or productivity software and place the shortcuts to the programs that you use in their relevant folders. Assuming you want to have the same start menu shortcuts for every user account on your computer, you should create and move all of your shortcuts and folders to the second directory listed. Delete folders and shortcuts that you no longer need.
Organizing your start menu in this way can take some time, but you'll find it much easier to work with once everything is categorized and cleaned up. Any changes you make also take effect immediately.


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