How Does the New Windows 10 Start Menu Work?

By Andy Rathbone

In Windows, everything starts with the Start button and its Start menu. The Windows 10 Start menu differs quite a bit from its predecessors. That’s because it’s designed for both a desktop PC and a touchscreen tablet. In fact, the menu changes slightly depending on whether it’s running on a tablet or desktop PC.

On a desktop PC, the Start menu’s right edge is filled with a row of tiles, shown here. Each tile represents an app (a small program designed mainly for touchscreens). On the left edge, the menu lists your most recently accessed apps and programs, as well as frequently accessed places on your PC.

A desktop PC’s Start menu stays in the screen’s bottom-left corner.
A desktop PC’s Start menu stays in the screen’s bottom-left corner.

On a tablet PC, by contrast, the Start menu’s tiles fill the entire screen, shown in the following image; it hides the left pane shown earlier.

A tablet’s Start menu fills the entire screen with easy-to-touch buttons.
A tablet’s Start menu fills the entire screen with easy-to-touch buttons.

To see that left pane and its handy list of shortcuts, tap the three lines (shown here) in the screen’s upper, left corner; the pane reappears along the Start menu’s left edge.

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Despite the remodel for Windows 10, the Start menu still offers a way to start programs; adjust Windows settings; find help for sticky situations; or, thankfully, shut down Windows and get away from the computer for a while.

The tiles along the Start menu’s right edge may be new, but they’re not mere visual baggage. For example, the Calendar tile constantly updates to show the current date and day, as well as your next appointment. The Mail tile cycles through the first words of your latest e-mails.

Your Start menu will change as you add more programs and apps to your computer. That’s why the Start menu on your friend’s computer, as well as in this book, is probably arranged differently than your computer’s Start menu. And if the tiles don’t meet your needs, you can remove them completely.

Try the following tricks to make the Start menu feel a little more like home:

  • To launch a program or app, click or tap its name or tile. The program leaps to the screen.

  • Keyboard fans can fetch the Start menu by pressing the Windows key on their keyboard.

  • Were you unable to spot your desired program or app listed on the Start menu? Then click the words All Apps in the menu’s bottom-left corner. A column appears, listing all of your Windows programs and apps in alphabetical order. Scroll through the list until you find your desired app.

  • On a touchscreen, navigate the Start menu with your finger: Pretend the Start menu is a piece of paper lying on a table. As you move your finger, the Start menu’s items move along with it.

  • If the Start menu still fills the screen on your desktop, click the Action Center icon in the screen’s bottom-right corner (shown in the margin). When the Action Center pane appears, turn off Tablet mode by clicking the Tablet mode tile in the pane’s bottom-left corner.

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  • If you’ve arrived here from Windows 8, be aware that Windows no longer contains hidden menus tucked into every desktop corner. Only one hidden corner menu remains: Point a mouse pointer in the screen’s bottom-right corner to see a quick peek of the desktop, which is handy when looking for something you’ve stashed there. Move the pointer away, and the sneak peek disappears.