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What to expect from the Microsoft Windows 10 Start menu

The Windows 10 Start menu puts the horrors of Windows 8 in the past. It offers better configuration and more customization, and it simplifies Control Panel versus Settings window confusion.

If a company is considering upgrading to Windows 10 or it's already deployed the operating system, it's important for admins to know what they can do to maximize the user experience, especially with respect to the Microsoft Windows 10 Start menu.

Fortunately, Microsoft made a real effort to make Windows 10 more user-friendly than the often-chastised Windows 8. The operating system adapts to you, allows you to make changes to the startup menu and more.

Explore what Microsoft did to fix some of the Start screen issues from Windows 8, where the Control Panel and Settings window fit in, and how IT administrators can standardize the Start menu.

Continuum fits Windows 10 to your device

Raise your hand if you liked the Windows 8 Start screen.

Fortunately, Microsoft made a real effort to make Windows 10 more user-friendly than the often chastised Windows 8.

If you're like most people then your hand is probably still firmly on your mouse. It was not a popular feature because Microsoft was so focused on mobile device functionality it forgot you still do most of your work on desktops. And even when Microsoft allowed you to bypass the Start screen in Windows 8.1, you were still not satisfied.

Windows 10 is much more user-friendly in this regard. First of all, the Start menu is back. The Start screen is too, but don't panic. Microsoft's latest OS has a feature called Continuum which lets Windows 10 know what type of device you are using. If you are using a tablet, Continuum boots to the touch-screen friendly Start screen; and if you are on a desktop, it goes with the more traditional Start menu. And Continuum keeps track of what's going on while you use a device. So if you are using a 2-in-1 device and attach a keyboard, Continuum switches the OS's orientation to match.

Can you customize the Start menu?

Windows 10 also delivers some customization options for the Start menu. If you go into system settings, click the Start button, click Settings, then personalization and a dialogue box pops up. In the dialogue box click the Start tab and you have the option to turn on or off the show most-used apps, show recently added apps, use Start full screen, and show recently added items in Jump Lists or the taskbar features.

You can also customize live tiles in Windows 10. Just right click on a live tile and you have the option to unpin it from the Microsoft Windows 10 Start menu, or resize the live tile. You can also move live tiles around by dragging and dropping them wherever you want. Finally, you can create your own live tiles out of any app by going into the Start menu, clicking All Apps and right clicking an app to pin it to the Start menu.

How to standardize the Microsoft Windows 10 Start menu

Unfortunately not all IT admins are going to want you creating the Start menu of your dreams. Some of them might think it's better to standardize the Start menu. To do so, admins must set up a model PC where they can build the best Start menu for their organizations. On the model PC, admins can arrange the live tiles however they see fit and make any other changes they deem necessary. Once they are satisfied with the layout they just export the Start menu to an XML file using the Export-StartLayout –Path C:\temp\Start.xml command in PowerShell. Then they take that file and send it to the Group Policy Editor. This process only works with Windows Server 2016.

The Control Panel/Settings window conundrum

Microsoft included a Control Panel and Settings window in Windows 8 because it wanted you to be able to change your settings easily in tablet or desktop mode. Control Panel was for the desktop users and the Settings window was a subset of the Control Panel for touch-screen users.

With Windows 10, Microsoft wanted to bring everything under one roof, but it still included both the Control Panel and Settings window. Why? The Control Panel ultimately exists for backward compatibility whereas the Settings window is the real hub for making changes. Just about anything you can do in the Control Panel you can also do in the Settings window.

Next Steps

Comprehensive Windows 10 guide

A look at Windows 10 privacy settings

How to customize the Windows 10 Action Center

This was last published in March 2016

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