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Restore the Start button and Start menu to Windows 8 with Start8

The biggest complaint I have heard about Windows 8 is that the Start button and Start menu are gone. No doubt this was a radical change in the way users interact with Windows. Being a Windows logo key fanatic since its introduction in Windows 95, I found the new Start screen to be less of a headache than most. But I still missed the Start button. The folks over at Stardock have recently released a great program called Start8 that brings both of them back and more.

Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 8 using Start8
Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 8 using Start8

Start8 is, in my book, the ultimate Start button replacement for Windows 8. Now before I go on, let's see if we can make some sense about all of the Start items. The Start button is located by default on the left-hand side of the Taskbar and has the Windows logo on it (Windows 95 - Windows 7). The Start menu appears when you left-click on the Start button (Windows 95 - Windows 7). The Start screen is the Windows RT (Metro) interface used in Tablets and Smartphones (Windows 8).

Windows 8 style start menu in Windows 8 using Start8
Windows 8 style start menu in Windows 8 using Start8

With Start8, you can get back the Start button and Start menu with a choice of what style you would like to use (Windows 7 or Windows 8). The Windows 7 style looks and feels just like the original. The Windows 8 style is a hybrid, with the Start screen appearing in-place of the Start menu. Both are highly configurable and can use custom images for the Start button.

Here's a breakdown of the styles and included features:

    Windows 7 style
  • Choice of themes (Windows 7 rounded edges, Windows 8 squared edges, black selection edges)
  • Use large icons
  • Show recently used apps
  • Open submenus when you pause over them with your cursor
  • Highlight newly installed apps
  • Show user picture
  • Choice of which shortcuts to display on the right-hand side of the menu
  • Add additional shortcuts to the right-hand side of the menu
    Windows 8 style
  • Choice of four different sizes or full screen
  • Display Start menu full screen with the Taskbar still visible
  • Choice of what the Start button and Windows logo key do
  • Can default to the applications view

Start8 is produced by Stardock, makers of ModernMix and Decor8. Here's a quote from the Stardock website:

What is Start8?

Microsoft Windows® 8 is shipped without the "Start" menu. Stardock heard the cries from Windows 8 users. We put the "Start" menu back in Windows 8. We accurately recreated the most used desktop feature billions of users depend on every day and packed it with additional functionality.

    Innovation
  • Windows 7-style Start menu with Windows 8 enhancements
  • Search for Windows 8-style (Modern UI) apps
  • Pin desktop and Metro apps to the start menu
  • Jump List support
  • Unified Search for apps, settings and files
  • Boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop
  • One click access to shut down, devices, music, documents, and videos
    Control
  • Configurable Start menu size
  • Windows 8 Start screen accessible from the Start menu
  • Clean, streamlined UI enhances Start8's usability
    Customization
  • Optionally disable the desktop Windows 8 "hot spots"
  • Supports WindowFX 5.1 start menu animations
  • Includes .ADMX template (in Group Policy folder)

Start8 is only $4.99 and, in my opinion, worth every penny. For more information on Start8 or Stardock, follow the links below:

Stardock

Start8

How to enable the Advanced Boot Options menu at start up in Windows 8

When performing computer repair on a Windows-based system, the one feature I like is the Advanced Boot Options menu. By pressing the F8 key at startup, you would get the advanced boot options menu, enabling safe mode, boot logging, debugging, etc. With the fast startup options inside of Windows 8 and modern motherboards, getting to the boot options menu is hard. Here's how to get the Advanced Boot Options menu back in Windows 8.

Warning! There is no default timer when the Advanced Boot Menu option is enabled in Windows 8, and the system will wait for user input every time it starts or restarts. This works excellent when troubleshooting Windows 8. You can also choose which Windows Boot Manager (WBM) you want to use, Standard (Windows 8) or Legacy (Windows 7, Vista). The first thing we have to do is edit the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) store using an administrative command prompt and bcdedit.exe.

Bcdedit is a command-line tool that modifies the boot configuration data store. The boot configuration data store contains boot configuration parameters and controls how the operating system is booted. It needs to be run at an administrative command prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8.

How to enable/disable the advanced boot options menu in Windows 8

The standard advanced boot options menu in Windows 8
The standard advanced boot options menu in Windows 8

The first thing we have to do is turn on the advanced boot options. Type or cut/paste the following code into an administrative command prompt:

bcdedit /set {globalsettings} advancedoptions true<

To turn off the advanced boot options, type or cut / paste the following code into an administrative command prompt:

bcdedit /set {globalsettings} advancedoptions false

How to enable / disable the legacy advanced boot manager in Windows 8

The legacy advanced boot options menu in Windows 8
The legacy advanced boot options menu in Windows 8

This next step will change which boot manager loads and is an option. If you want to boot using the older legacy boot manager used in Windows 7 and Vista, type or cut/paste the following code into an administrative command prompt:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

To restore the boot menu to the default, type or cut/paste the following code into an administrative command prompt.

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard

Customize the Start screen in Windows 8 with Decor8

I've been using Windows 8 for some time now, and there has been one thing I wanted to change but couldn't. It's the limited choice of colors and images you could use on the Start screen. Come to find out, the folks over at Stardock have a great product called Decor8 that does just that.

The background settings inside of Decor8
The background settings inside of Decor8

With Decor8, you can change everything on the Start screen. You can use your images for the background and adjust all of the colors: background, accent, standard tile, and text. You can even change the color of the Charms bar with Decor8.

The color settings inside of Decor8
The color settings inside of Decor8

Decor8 also has some cool background effects too: fade, blur, color, and contrast. You can change how the parallax scrolling (where the background scrolls, but slower than tiles) works. You can even create a custom color scheme from the background image. Here's a quote from Stardock's website.

What is Decor8?

Windows 8 limits your start screen customization options to only a few provided background images and a few pre-defined color schemes. Decor8 removes these limitations and provides the freedom to personalize your start screen with your own images and colors.

    Background Images
  • Choose from more background images to personalize your start screen
  • Add your own photos and images
  • Select multiple images to create a custom slideshow
  • Randomize background images in timed intervals for a fresh look
  • Apply effects to scroll, fade, blur, recolor and add contrast to your background images
  • Choose your own image for your lock screen background
    Color Schemes
  • Decor8 will automatically create a color scheme to match each of your background images
  • Or you can customize the color scheme, it's up to you. Custom color schemes can also be applied to your charms bar
  • Choose one of the standard Windows color schemes Create, save and apply your own color scheme
    Customization
  • Control how many rows of tiles are available on your start screen

Decor8 comes from Stardock, makers of ModernMix, and is only $4.99. I found it to be well worth the $5 bucks. For more information on Decor8, follow the link below.

Decor8 - Personalize the Windows 8 Start screen with Decor8

How to securely erase all of the data from your Windows based computer

Do you have an old Windows-based computer you would like to get rid of but want to make sure that all of your data is securely erased? Or maybe you would like to wipe all of the data from your hard drive and perform a clean Windows installation? Either way, you'll want to make the data is completely wiped out. Here's how to securely erase all of the data from your Windows-based computer.

Back-up all folder(s) and file(s) you want to save

This is the time to double and triple-check for any folder(s) and file(s) you may want to keep. If you plan on reinstalling Windows, make sure that you have all of the installation media available. If you need to create the recovery media stored on your computer, this is the time to do it. Once the hard drive is wiped clean, the recovery media images will be gone too.

Windows XP Backup

Windows 7 / Windows Vista Backup

Windows 8 Backup

Download and create bootable media with disk wiping software

The best way to completely wipe clean a hard drive is by booting the computer up on a CD/DVD or USB drive. This way, you can erase all of the space on the hard drive. There are several free utilities for doing this, including Darik's Boot And Nuke, CMRR - Secure Erase, and PC Disk Eraser. I recommend the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD), which has all of these and more already built-in. Just download the image file (.ISO) and use your favorite disk burning software or Windows built-in disk burning to create the bootable media. You can even create a UBCD bootable USB drive.

Encrypt the contents of your hard drive

This step may seem unnecessary, but it makes data recovery virtually impossible on the drive you will wipe. Windows has a feature called Encrypting File System (EFS) built-in, but it's disabled by default. It allows files to be encrypted transparently with a File Encryption Key (FEK). For more on EFS, check out this Wikipedia article. So even if someone could recover the data on the drive after the wiping, it would be in deplorable condition. After that, the data would have to be unencrypted, and being in such a bad condition, would be hard, if not impossible.

  1. Open File Explorer / Windows Explorer (Windows logo key Windows logo key + E).
  2. Select the file(s) and/or folder(s) you want to encrypt.
  3. Right-click on the items selected and then left-click on Properties from the context menu that appears.
  4. On the General tab, left-click on Advanced.
  5. Left-click the check box for Encrypt contents to secure data.
  6. Left-click on OK. Be patient; encrypting the folders and files may take some time.

Insert bootable media and restart the system

When you restart your system, it should boot up on the media you created. Follow the on-screen instructions. If using the UBCD, navigate to HDD > Disk Wiping for the list of utilities. Each program will have similar data destruction settings. I always look for the latest Department of Defense standard (currently DOD 5220.22-M). If you really want to clean your hard drive, just run two or more of the disk wiping programs included on the UBCD.

If your system does not boot up on the media you just created, you may have to change the computer's boot order. Check the 'splash' screen that first appears when you start your computer. Sometimes there is an option for boot device or menu, usually an F key. If not, you will have to change it manually inside the BIOS (Basic Input Output System). The BIOS can generally be accessed by pressing the DEL or F2 key when the 'splash' screen appears. It's always recommended to check your motherboard documentation on which keys are used to access the BIOS and where in the BIOS to change the boot order.

Search for files and folders faster in Windows 8 with Indexing Options

Being in computer repair, I have to keep track of a lot of client files and folders. The Search charm in Windows 8 works great, but sometimes the files or folders I'm looking for are not in any of the default (libraries, off-line files, and e-mail) index locations (program and system files are excluded, as most people rarely need to search them). Adding files and folders to the Indexing Options is easy. Here's how to modify the Indexing Options inside of Windows 8.

How to access the Indexing Options in Windows 8

Main screen for Indexing Options inside of Windows 8
Main screen for Indexing Options inside of Windows 8

  1. Swipe in from the right side of the screen or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charm bar. Left-click on Search button in Charm Bar, then Left-click on Settings in the Search charm.
    or
    Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + W to bring up Settings in the Search charm.
  2. Type Indexing Options in the Search field on the Search pane.
  3. In the results on the left-hand side, left-click on Indexing Options.

How to add a file type to the index in Windows 8

If you use an unusual file type that's not currently recognized by the index, you can add it to the index so you can search in Windows 8 by that file type.

Advanced Indexing Options File Types tab inside of Windows 8
Advanced Indexing Options File Types tab inside of Windows 8

  1. Open Indexing Options (see above).
  2. Let-click on Advanced. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. In the Advanced Options dialog box, left-click the File Types tab.
  4. In the Add new extension to list box, type the file name extension (for example, "txt"), and then left-click Add.
  5. Left-click Index Properties Only or Index Properties and File Contents, and then left-click OK.

How to add a folder to the index in Windows 8

Indexed Locations screen for Indexing Options inside of Windows 8
Indexed Locations screen for Indexing Options inside of Windows 8

  1. Open Indexing Options (see above).
  2. Left-click on Modify.
  • To add or remove a location, select or clear its check box in the Change selected locations list, and then left-click on OK.
  • If you don't see all locations on your PC in the list, choose Show all locations. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice. (If all locations are already listed, Show all locations won't be available.)
  • If you want to include a folder but not all of its subfolders, select the folder, expand the folder, and then clear the check box next to any subfolder you don't want to be included in the index. These folders will appear in the Exclude column of the Summary of selected locations list.
  • Indexing all of the files/folders on your system is not recommended. It is recommended that you index only your frequently used files and folders for best performance.

How to rebuild the Index inside of Windows 8

The index requires almost no maintenance. However, if the index can't find a file that you know exists in an indexed location, you might need to rebuild the index. Rebuilding the index can take several hours, and searches might be incomplete until the index is fully rebuilt.

  1. Open Indexing Options (see above).
  2. Left-click on Advanced. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. In the Advanced Options dialog box, left-click the Index Settings tab, and then left-click on Rebuild. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

How to index encrypted files in Windows 8

Before you add encrypted files to the index, we recommend that you have Windows BitLocker (Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise only) or a non-Microsoft encryption program enabled on your system drive (the drive that Windows is installed on). The index will automatically rebuild each time this setting is changed. This can take a long time and might cause searches to be incomplete until the process is complete.

  1. Open Indexing Options (see above).
  2. Left-click on Advanced. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. In the Advanced Options dialog box, left-click the Index Settings tab,
  4. Left-click the Index encrypted files check box to select it and then left-click OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    Notes:
  • Although you can use a non-Microsoft program to encrypt your system drive, non-Microsoft file encryption programs are not supported. Windows only supports files encrypted using the Encrypting File System (EFS).
  • Suppose you add encrypted files to the index, and you're not using full-volume encryption for the location of the index, encrypted data from your files, for example. In that case, text from an encrypted Microsoft Word document will be added to the index. The index is obscured so that it's not easily readable if someone tries to open the index files, but it doesn't have strong data encryption. If someone were to gain access to your computer, they could extract your data from the index. Therefore, the location of the index should also be encrypted to help protect your indexed data.

How to index words with and without diacritics as different words in Windows 8

Suppose you commonly use diacritics (small signs added to letters to change the pronunciation of words) in your file and folder names. In that case, you can configure the index to recognize words with diacritics differently. By default, Windows recognizes diacritics according to the language version you are using. If you change this setting, all diacritics will be recognized. The index will automatically be rebuilt each time this setting is changed. This can take a long time and might cause searches to be incomplete until the process is complete.

  1. Open Indexing Options (see above).
  2. Left-click on Advanced. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. In the Advanced Options dialog box, left-click the Index Settings tab.
  4. Left-click the Treat similar words with diacritics as different words check box to select it, then left-click OK.

How to change the location where the index is stored in Windows 8

If you need to free up space on a hard disk, you can change the index's location. If you change this location, the Windows Search service will automatically be restarted, and the change will not go into effect until the restart is complete.

  1. Open Indexing Options (see above).
  2. Left-click on Advanced. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. In the Advanced Options dialog box, left-click the Index Settings tab.
  4. Under Index location, left-click on Select new, browse to and left-click the new location, then left-click on OK.
    Note:
  • When you change the index location, you should choose a location on a non-removable hard disk formatted using the NTFS file system.

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

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Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

Bring your computer to us and save

Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

Contact us

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