Organizing the Start button

Spring cleaning for the list of programs installed on a Windows XP machine

Michael Horowitz

Michael Horowitz wrote his first computer program in 1973 and has been a computer nerd ever since. He spent more than 20 years working in an IBM mainframe (MVS) environment. He has worked in the research and development group of a large Wall Street financial company, and has been a technical writer for a mainframe software company.

He teaches a large range of self-developed classes, the underlying theme being Defensive Computing. Michael is an independent computer consultant, working with small businesses and the self-employed. He can be heard weekly on The Personal Computer Show on WBAI.


Michael Horowitz
2 min read

If the list of installed programs on your Windows XP computer is annoying long, a little organization goes a long way. Try moving items that you never expect to use to a folder called "NeverUsed" and move items you very rarely use to a folder called "Infrequent". I've done this for years, on many computers, and never regretted it.

To begin, right click on the Start button, "Open All Users" and double-click on the Programs folder. In the Windows Explorer window, right click over nothing and select "New" and then "Folder". Name the new folder "NeverUsed" and then repeat the process to make another new folder called "Infrequent".

Then, right click on the Start button again, select "Open" and double-click on this copy of the Programs folder. If you can, re-arrange these two Windows Explorer windows so they are both visible side-by-side.

We need two windows because some programs are installed for all users of Windows, while others are installed for use by just the user logged on when the program was installed. The entries for each program are shortcuts. Moving a shortcut is harmless, it does not impact the actual program in any way.

The process of moving the shortcut for a program into one of these new folders consists of two steps. First, right click on the shortcut to be moved and select "Cut". Then, right click on the destination folder (Infrequent or NeverUsed) and select "Paste".

I find that I never invoke the Adobe Acrobat Reader or Windows Media Player directly, so they are good candidates for the Infrequent folder. I don't use Outlook Express, so it goes into the NeverUsed folder. I always invoke Internet Explorer from a desktop icon, rather than the Start button, so it gets moved to the NeverUsed folder too. Other candidates for NeverUsed include MSN Explorer, Set Program Access and Defaults, Windows Messenger and Remote Assistance.

At times, I have worked with computers that came with tons of software from the hardware vendor. If your computer is like that, organizing all that stuff under a single folder named after the computer manufacturer should neatened things up.

Think of it as spring cleaning.

See a summary of all my Defensive Computing postings.