Had an opportunity last week to test out Windows 8 Professional. I did this on my Windows 7 Ultimate machine using Oracle’s VirtualBox free VM software. I have to say I was impressed at how well Windows 8 handled, especially since I was running it with only 2 GB of (virtual) RAM. I launched IE10 (which is very different from IE9) so I could download and install Chrome and Firefox.
Now, the two biggest complaints about Windows 8 is that you have to boot into the Metro (or Modern) UI and the removal of the Start Menu. Last week, there was an article on Tom’s Hardware about a $5 Windows 8 App that would allow you to boot directly to desktop and restore the Start Menu. In the comments section, a couple people mentioned Classic Shell, which does the same things as this $5 Windows 8 app but it is free (and also works with Windows Vista and 7).
So I downloaded and installed Classic Shell. Once you run the application Windows 8 automatically switches you into ‘Desktop’ mode. After the install (no restart needed), you will notice you have a start button (or in this case start shell). The first time you click on this you are given some configuration options for the “start menu”, which include Classic (Windows 95/98) Style, XP Style or Windows 7 Style. It is can also re-skin Windows Explorer (which seems to have moved to the “ribbon” style toolbar) and restore some missing features as well.
After you have finished the initial configuration, clicking the “start” shell will bring up a very empty (in Windows 8) Start Menu. You will need to create your program groups and add the programs within those groups. As mentioned earlier, Classic Shell also works in Windows Vista and 7 in that you can have either the Classic or XP style “start menu” along with some changes to IE9 and Windows Explorer. I have not tried this in Windows 7, but I am guessing your start menu should remain intact as it is simply changing the skin.
Overall, I am very impressed with Classic Shell. It is very quick and easy to install and setup. Plus, it is free and also works with Windows 7 and Vista.