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How do I revert the Windows 8.1 user interface?

The Windows 8.1 user interface isn't popular among workers without a touchscreen, but one tool makes it easy to restore the familiar Windows 7 UI.

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 user interface was a departure from the familiar Windows 7 UI, which made it unpopular with many users early on. Presumably, it was the result of an effort by the Windows team to compete with slick iOS and Android interfaces.

Had it been an apples-to-apples competition between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 -- i.e., mobile only -- things would have been fine. Instead, Microsoft forced the UI on longtime desktop users, including those without a touch interface, and so Windows 8.1 will go down in history as one of the worst operating systems ever.

The reality is that it's not that bad. In fact, I have been a fan of the OS since it came out, but only because I changed its user interface back to the more tolerable Windows 7 style. How? A nifty program called Start8 by Stardock. It's the best $4.99 I've ever spent.

Almost everything else about Windows 8 is great. It's faster. It's more secure. It's more stable. It supports UEFI and boots up super quick. There are some free alternatives to Start8, such as IObit Start Menu 8 and Classic Shell, but I believe Stardock was first out of the gate with a solution to the Windows 8.1 user interface "problem."

It's funny -- Microsoft made a lame attempt to bring back the Start button in Windows 8.1 -- I'm guessing in an effort to keep directing users back to the Modern UI, which has been renamed the Metro UI but won't die. But what people also wanted was the Start Menu so they can access their computers and applications without being forced onto the new interface.

Rumor has it that Windows 9 is going to provide options for both the traditional Windows 7 UI and the Modern UI. I don't know where this will leave Start8 and the competition, but that's the great thing about innovation. Someone out there will always find a way to make Windows better.

Next Steps

The Windows 8.1 user interface refines OS features

Metro apps, designed for the Windows 8 UI, won't run on older versions

Learn more about how  Group Policy will alter the Windows 8 user interface, configuration

Will Windows 8 Metro really benefit users?

Will the Windows 8 touch interface change the way we work?

Get the basics on Microsoft's Windows 8 touch interface

This was last published in October 2014

Dig Deeper on Microsoft Windows 8 operating system

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Are you using Windows 8.1 with its existing Start button, or have you reverted to the older UI? In either case, how well has that worked out?
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Still using Windows 7 here, and now that Windows 10 is not so far away, I'm inclined to wait it out. If I had a Surface Pro, I'd be interested in Windows 8/8.1, but otherwise, not so much. 
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On my desktop computer, I primarily use the desktop rather than Metro UI. I have all of my most common programs pinned to the taskbar, and have made sure to set all my file type defaults set to open in desktop-based application rather than the MetroUI apps, which I've removed almost all of the tiles from. Once I unwound the Skype app/MSN login as localadmin and got the desktop version of Skype, everything else seemed to fall into place so I can just use Windows 8.1 almost exactly like I used Win7 without any kind of add-on.
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I have reverted back to the UI rather than the Metro.  It is far easier to use since I pinned all the needed apps to the desktop.  It is far to hard to find the apps in Metro.
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I'm looking forward to Windows 10. That said, from what I can tell, I'm still going to need to use Start8 or similar to keep the old-school Windows look and feel.
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is it possible to revert Win8 to Win7 if Win7 was never installed on the host computer? If that is possible then how about compatibility mode for XP apps?
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Might have to look at that program. I feel that the WIn8 interface is fine for mobile devices with out a keyboard or mouse. Not for a desktop device. If Win 9 give the option for switching the interface I may look into upgrading. Still using Win7 and liking it.
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