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How to use the Windows 10 Start menu

The Start menu in Windows 10 has similarities to its counterpart in Windows 7 but also has some surprises. So how does it all work now?

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

The Start menu in Windows 10 is part Start menu and part Start screen. screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

With Windows 10, Microsoft has returned the Start menu to its rightful place. But the new menu offers a few surprises with its dual-personality of part Start menu and part Start screen. How can you use and even personalize the menu so it works best for you?

Assuming you've installed Windows 10 on a PC, click the Start button after Windows appears, and you'll see the new Start menu with its hybrid approach. On the left, the familiar menu column appears with shortcuts to your applications and settings. On the right, a screen full of tiles to Windows apps displays so you can access key Windows apps right from the menu.

Click the All Apps setting on the left, and Windows displays all of the apps installed on your PC. Click any shortcut on the left to open that particular app or setting. Click any tile on the right to open a specific Windows app, such as Mail, Calendar, or News.

Need to search for an app, file or other item? Simply type your word or phrase in the search field, and a list of suggestions pops up.

Want to shut down or restart Windows? Click the Power button at the bottom of the left column, and Windows will at the very least display options to Shut down and Restart. Want to lock your PC or sign out of your account? Right-click your account name at the top of the menu, and you'll see a menu with three options: Change account picture, lock and sign out.

OK, now let's say you want to change or personalize some aspects of the Start menu. Here's where your right mouse button comes into play. For example, you want to add File Explorer as a tile on the right side of the menu. Right-click the link for File Explorer and click Pin to Start. A tile for File Explorer appears on the right. Maybe you want to add Files Explorer to the taskbar instead. Right-click the link for File Explorer and click Pin to Taskbar.

Now let's say you want to manage certain apps. Click the All Apps setting. Right-click any app, and you'll typically see four options: Open, Uninstall, Pin to Start (or Unpin from Start if the app is already set up as a tile), and Pin to taskbar (or Unpin from taskbar if the app is already there). Simply click the option you want.

OK, next step. Let's say you want to manage the tiles that appear on the right side of the menu. Right-click a specific tile, and a menu pops up with certain choices: Unpin from Start, Pin to taskbar, and Resize. Most apps will also have an Uninstall option. An app that can appear as a Live tile will also have one of two choices: either turn Live tile on or turn Live tile off, depending on the current setting. Again, simply click the option you want.

By customizing the left column and the right column, you can easily control how much you want to stick with the standard Start menu and how much you want to tap into the tiled Start screen portion.