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How to Turn Windows 8 into Windows 7

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 4/29/2014

Besides reinstalling Windows 7, what are some things you can do to minimize the distracting "Metro" interface if you have a non-touch enabled device? This article will cover a few options you have for helping turn your Windows 8 computer back into a familiar user interface.

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    Minimizing Metro

    There are two main issues people have with Windows 8: the lack of a traditional Start menu and Metro apps that can’t run in a window. Luckily, there are some inexpensive options for fixing these two major oversights.

    Although Microsoft has admitted the lack of proper Start menu has led to customer complaints and that they are looking to re-implement it, we don’t have a timeframe for when that will happen. Microsoft has made good strides in improving the user interface with Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Update 1, but they have a ways to go.

    If you want a resolution today, keep reading.

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    Figure 1: Start8

    Figure 1: Start8 
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    Start Menu

    Let’s tackle the confusing Start menu first. A few solutions out there replace the Windows 8 Start menu with the one from Windows 7 nearly perfectly. Free solutions such as Classic Shell 4.0 work very well for bringing back the old menu. My favorite is Start8 from Stardock software. Although Start8 is about $5.00, I’ve found the price to be well worth it.

    Let’s take a look at installing and configuring Start8. As you can see in Figure 1, Start8 perfectly renders the classic Windows 7 start menu. Classic Shell’s setup closely follows Start8 so following along shouldn’t be too difficult if you are going to use Classic Shell.

    1. First, download the trial of Start8. If you find you don’t like it, you can save yourself a few bucks and remove it.
    2. Once you’ve finished installing, Start8 will start.
    3. On the Style tab, be sure to select the Windows 7 style (Figure 2). The application automatically saves as you go so you can just close out the window when you’re happy with the configuration.
    4. You can change the look of the Start button and alter the color theme on the Style tab as well.
    5. The Configure tab lets you alter many things including the size of icons and which shortcuts you want to appear on the Start menu (Figure 3).
    6. If you do have a tablet-based device, you may want Start8 to work differently depending on whether or not you are docked. If so, the Control tab has many options available for you. Likewise, the Desktop tab gives you several options for controlling the look and feel of the Windows Desktop. I’ve found most of the default options to be sensible, so play around with these as you desire.

    Once you close Start8, you will find your Windows 7 Start menu is back where it belongs.

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    Figure 2: Start8 ConfigurationFigure 3: Configuration Tab
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    Windows 8 Apps

    The other main issue people have with Windows 8 is the segregation of Modern Apps and regular Windows applications. Modern Apps will always run from the Modern UI and will always run full screen. If you want to use the traditional Windows Desktop, it may be maddening to you that you can’t easily switch between windows.

    Tools such as Stardock’s ModernMix give you control over how Apps will run. For example, if we want to run Modern apps in a window (as opposed to full screen), ModernMix gives us that option. While ModernMix also runs about $5.00, you can pick up the bundle of Start8 and ModernMix for about $8.00 directly from the Stardock store.

    Let’s take a quick look at ModernMix.

    1. Once downloaded and installed, the ModernMix application will open.
    2. On the General tab, select which options fit you best. Note that you can select how apps run when started from the Windows 8 Modern menu versus applications started from the Desktop. You can also easily switch between windowed and full screen mode by using an overlay in a corner of the screen or by hitting F10 (Figure 4).
    3. The App Settings tab lets you specify which window policy you want to use for individual applications. If there is one Modern App you always want to run full screen while another should always run windowed, this is where you’d set it.

    Like Start8, most of the default options are sensible, so only play around with them if you want to tweak how your apps appear further.

    I hope this article gave you some ideas for getting back to familiar Windows 7 territory while waiting for Microsoft to implement its own fixes for these oversights. Good luck!

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    Figure 4: ModernMix

    Figure 4: ModernMix