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Bypass the Windows 8 Start screen with RetroUI

New software lets you ignore the Win 8 Start screen so that all you ever see is the traditional desktop.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Still not crazy about the Windows 8 Start screen? A new app helps you avoid it entirely by taking you directly to the desktop.

Sold by a company named Thinix, RetroUI breezes right past the Windows 8 Start screen to deliver you to the desktop. You can still choose to open the Start screen and other Windows 8 UI features, or you can disable them entirely so that the Charms bar, hot corners, and other Win 8 elements are inaccessible.

The software costs $4.95. But you can try before you buy via a 14-day fully functional trial version. And that's just what I did.

Installing RetroUI sets up a shortcut on your Windows 8 desktop called RetroUI Settings. Double-clicking that shortcut opens a window where you can configure the program.

The first option sends you to the Windows desktop after you log in, while the second option takes you to the desktop from the Lock screen. In both cases, you can still access the Start screen and other Windows 8 features through the hot corners and Charms bar.

The third option disables the entire Windows 8 environment after you log in. That includes the Start screen, Charms bar, and hot corners. All such features become inaccessible via keyboard, mouse, or touch, rendering the Windows 8 UI persona non grata. The problem here is that the Start menu is still missing in action on the desktop, so you have no easy way to navigate any area of Windows.

Concerns had been raised in the past that Microsoft would purposely tweak Windows 8 to prevent people from bypassing the Start screen. But RetroUI seemed to perform without any trouble, at least in the current Windows 8 RTM (release to manufacturing) version.

RetroUI is geared toward individuals as well as businesses. The $4.95 license allows personal use of RetroUI on up to three computers. A $4.95-per-PC license for RetroUI Pro is available for enterprises, though bulk licensing is also an option. The Pro version lets IT administrators customize and deploy the software throughout their organization.

RetroUI may be of use to companies who roll out Windows 8 but don't want their users to have to learn the new environment. Personally, I'd rather keep the Start screen and other elements around and just install a Start menu replacement so I can more easily access my applications and files in the desktop. ViStart, Classic Shell, and StartMenu7 all offer free utilities that bring variations of the good, old-fashioned Start menu to Windows 8.