How to Customize Your Windows 10 Start Menu

By Andy Rathbone

Give yourself a fighting chance by organizing your Windows 10 Start menu into your own customized workspace. The Start menu defaults by splitting itself between two columns: names of apps on the left, and tiles of apps on the right. The clumps of tiles aren’t set up in any particular order, however, which comes at a cost: How can you find your favorite stuff?

The following steps begin with a small dose of organization: purging unwanted tiles and adding tiles for your favorites. Keep following these steps, and you’ll eventually reach organizational nirvana: A Start menu full of neatly labeled groups (collections of related tiles) that match your interests.

You can organize the tiles any way you want, into any number of groups with any names. For example, you may want to organize the Start menu tiles into four groups: People, Work, Play, and Web. (For a quick peek at what organized and labeled groups look like, check out this figure.)

Organized and labeled groups
Organized and labeled groups

But no matter how organized you want to be, follow these steps to begin turning that haphazard Start menu into your own piles o’ tiles:

  1. Remove tiles you don’t need.

    Spot a tile you don’t need? Right-click it and choose Unpin from Start from the pop-up menu. Repeat until you’ve removed all the tiles you don’t use. (On a touchscreen, hold your finger down on an unwanted app and then tap the Unpin icon, shown in the margin.)

    Choosing Unpin from Start doesn’t uninstall the app or program; removing the tile merely removes that item’s “start” button from the Start menu. In fact, if you accidentally remove the tile for a favorite app or program, you can easily put it back in Step 3.

  2. Move related tiles next to each other.

    As an example, you might want to keep your people-oriented apps — Mail, People, and Calendar — next to each other. To move an app to a new location, point at its tile with your mouse and then hold down your left mouse button as you drag the tile to the desired spot. As you drag the tile, other tiles automatically move out of the way to make room for newcomer.

    On a touchscreen, hold down your finger on the app; when the pop-up menu appears, drag the app to its new position.

    When you’ve dragged an app’s tile to the desired spot, to set it into its new place.

    To conserve screen real estate, shrink a wide rectangular tile to a small square tile: Right-click the wide tile, choose Resize from the pop-up menu, and choose a smaller size from the second menu. (You can also enlarge an app’s tile, turning it into a live tile that shows updated information about the app’s contents.)

  3. Add tiles for apps, programs, folders, and files you need.

    After you’ve purged any unwanted tiles, rearranged the remaining tiles, and added new tiles for items you need, your Start menu may meet your needs. If so, stop. You’re done!

    But if your Start menu still sprawls below the Start menu’s bottom edge and you can’t find important items, keep reading.

    Still here? Okay. Look closely at the Start menu, and you see two groups of tiles. Windows labels them “Life at a Glance,” and “Play and Explore.” If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t notice the subtle gap separating the two groups. And that brings you to the next step.

  4. To create a new group, drag and drop any tile away from the two existing groups.

    Drag and hold a tile away from the existing groups. A horizontal bar appears, as shown here, creating an empty space below it for your incoming tile. Drop the tile, and the tile forms a new group of one lonely tile, located below the two other groups.

    To create a new group, drag and hold a tile away from the two groups. When the bar appears, drop th
    To create a new group, drag and hold a tile away from the two groups. When the bar appears, drop the tile.
  5. To add more tiles to your newly created group, drag and drop additional tiles into the group.

    Drag and drop new tiles next to your new group’s first tile to keep it company. After you drop a tile into a group, you can drag the tile around to a new position within the group.

    Want to create yet another group? Then repeat Steps 4 and 5, dragging and dropping a tile away from the existing groups to create yet another group.

    You might find groups of related tiles to be enough organization for you. If so, stop. But if you want to label the groups, go to the next step.

  6. Name the groups.

    Click in the blank space directly above any group of tiles, and a box appears, ready for you to type in a name or replace the existing name. After typing the name, press Enter, and the box disappears, leaving your tile group bearing its new name.

    Type in names (or change existing ones) for any other tile groups, as well.

    When you’ve finished naming the tile groups, you can finally bask in your organizational prowess, as shown.

    Your Start menu may be easier to work with when organized into labeled groups of related tiles.
    Your Start menu may be easier to work with when organized into labeled groups of related tiles.
    • There’s no right or wrong way to organize the Start menu. Just as in real life, be as organized or as messy as you want.

    • As you install new apps and desktop programs, remember to look for them in the All Apps area, not on the Start menu itself. To keep things organized, right-click the newcomers and choose Pin to Start menu. After you place your new apps as tiles on the Start menu, you can drag and drop them into your existing groups or make new groups for the new tiles.

    • Feel free to create a group for your favorite websites, as well, making it easy to get to them straight from the Start menu. (To pin a website to the Start menu, click the Settings menu in Edge and choose Pin to Start from the drop-down menu.)

Windows 10’s Settings app, found in the Start menu’s bottom, left corner, offers additional ways to tweak the Start menu. To find the Start menu settings, click the Start menu, choose Settings, and click the Settings app’s Personalization tile. When the Personalization page appears, click Start in the left pane, and the Start menu’s options spill out to the right.

The Start menu offers these options:

  • Show most used apps: Leave this on to let the Start menu automatically stock your Start menu’s Most Used section.

  • Show recently added apps: Leave this on, and newly installed apps appear in their own section.

  • Choose which folders appear on Start: The Start menu normally offers links to File Explorer and Settings. Click here to stock that section with other destinations, including Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, HomeGroup, and Network.

  • Use Start full screen: Designed for Windows 8 lovers, this makes the Start screen fill the screen, just as it did in the previous version of Windows.

  • Show recently opened items in Jump Lists on Start or the taskbar: Leave this turned on so you can return to favorite destinations, both listed in the Start menu and on the taskbar’s jump lists.

There’s no right or wrong way to set these settings. Stick with the default settings or experiment to see which settings work for you. They’re all toggle switches, so you can always return and flip the toggle again if a settings change doesn’t meet your needs.