How to Customize the Windows 8.1 Start Screen

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Customizing the Start Screen

Even hardcore Windows 8.1 advocates have to agree that at times it seems like Microsoft split Windows into two separate operating systems: the familiar desktop and the blatantly different modern interface. You can’t escape it, or so it seems, as Windows throws the large, colorful tiles and bland background in your face whenever you boot the computer, sign in or switch from the desktop.

Fortunately, you can ease that transition through customization. Aside from the standard options of the tiles themselves, Windows offers several quick tweaks primarily aimed at desktop users. These include employing the desktop background on the Start screen, giving desktop apps priority on the apps list and bypassing the modern interface entirely when you boot your computer. However, these customization options don’t appear on the Start screen itself; instead, you must less-intuitively tweak the settings from the desktop taskbar.

  1. Right-click an empty area of the Windows taskbar and select Properties.
  2. Click the Navigation tab, check the following options as appropriate and click OK

When I sign in or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start. This option bypasses the Windows Start screen and goes directly to the desktop whenever you boot your computer, close all applications or log off and sign back in. Show my desktop background on Start. Selecting this option mirrors your desktop background behind the Start screen tiles.

Show start on the display I’m using when I press the windows logo key. This option only applies to multi-monitor setups. Enabling it shows the Start screen on the currently active monitor, rather than defaulting to the designated main display.

Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start. Enabling this option skips the Start screen’s main tiles and displays the full list of applications instead.

Search everywhere instead of just my apps when I search from the Apps view.

By default, searching from the Apps list only searches applications; checking this option extends the search to your entire computer. However, this entry is only available if you selected the previous option.

List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it’s sorted by category. This option gives priority to desktop apps in the Apps list, so if you rarely use the modern interface, you won’t dilute the list with modern apps you never use.

However, you may also want to tweak the tiles themselves, so continue reading.

Customizing the Windows Start Screen Tiles

  1. Right-click any tile on the Start screen and select Resize to change the tile size. In this bottom menu, you also have the option to Turn Live Tile Off to prevent displaying data automatically in selected tiles or Unpin From Start to remove selected tiles from the Start screen.
  2. Right-click any app from the Apps menu and select Pin to Start to add it to the Start screen. You can also select Pin to Taskbar to have it ever-available on your desktop’s taskbar.


  • Screenshots taken by author.