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Classic Windows Start Menu (CWSM)

Version 4.08.10 for Windows 10 Technical Preview
Go to download section

Windows 7 has eliminated the classic Start menu present in Windows XP, and replaced by a menu that has became slower and tricky for most users. Moreover, incoming Windows 8 seems to have supressed the Start button itself by creating a launch pad very practical for touch displays but not for the most of PC's. Now, you can recover them for free.


For Windows 7 versions, no installation is required, just unzip downloaded file to a folder of your choice (I recommend Program Files\Classic Windows Start Menu, but will work with another one), and double-click on cwsm.exe. In opposition, CWSM will need installation under Windows 8, because it offers some additional features, just follow the installation wizard and reboot when finished.

How does it work?

Since it's a replacement for the Start menu, proceed as usually, with both mouse (left click to open, right click to show context menu), and keyboard (arrow keys to move, return to select or first character of each item). Just one difference, please note that almost every item's context menu has three new entries at bottom, added by CWSM in order to:

 Create a folder: type its name and go.
 Create a shortcut: a wizard will open to guide you.
 Sort: only the current menu, the current menu and any derived submenu, or directly all items in the Start menu.

Only for fixed elements (Manage, Find Files, etc) you have access to their specific properties, mainly icons, and command-line for a few items.

Add new items (even Internet addresses or URL's) with drag & drop. You can delete them from context menu. To move or sort items use drag & drop again to place them at the desired position (you will see a cursor to indicate the insertion point).

Search box

Picked from the original Start Menu, it allows users to look for a program or a document by typing any word or set of characters of its name, and CWSM will list in real time all matching items. To use it...

- with your mouse, click directly on the search box and then write your searching criteria, then just click on the desired item, or use scroll wheel to go up and down within the list until you find it.

- with your keyboard, and from main level menu, use Up/Down to highlight the box and press Enter, or just press Tab key to activate the search box, again write the characters to search, and press Up/Down keys to make a different choice. Finally, press Enter to launch. To exit from the search box and return to main menu, press Tab or Escape

Other features

Right click on Start menu button to open CWSM context menu and get acces to:

 About: version, license and copyright, as well as links to visit my web page and contact me. I will release updates as often as I could.
 Settings: to customize your own menu. Please see next section for further information
 Explore: to open folder where is located current user's Start menu
 Explore all: that will open Start menu for all users
 Exit: to quit CWSM and return to default Windows Start menu

Settings and customization

Settings are grouped into three tabs:


 Icon size, for both main level and secondary levels
 Selection style, how items will appear when selected.
 Cursor style, appearance of cursor that indicates insertion point when moving or adding items
 Recently installed applications, hightlights them to know what icons are new in your menu.
 Submenu delay, time to wait until a menu brings up when mouse hovers over its parent
 Main menu elements, lets you choose which elements you would like to see on main level of Start menu, and sort them as desired, just drag any item to/from current main menu.
 Recent documents, to access the most recently used documents and folders; you can sort them by name or by the last modification date.
 Show classic appearance, to get rid of glass, transparencies and visual styles, and getting more performance; also you can return to Windows XP log off and turn off screens.
 Start automatically with Windows, will load CWSM each time you start your computer and will be ready to use.
 Skip Metro startup screen, only under Windows 8, to go directly to your desktop.


 Menu style, your menu with or without borders.
 Menu (background), sets menu transparency and whether it blurs or not all windows below, also colors can be customizable. Note that full black (0x000000) is a transparent color, so if you choose it as a plain background color, it always be transparent, no matter which level of transparency you chose. For those users of Windows 8, 'Blur background' has been replaced by 'Disable background transparency' that will disable menu transparency. Right clicking on samples #1 and #2 will swap them.
 Menu (text), choose text color and font, and glowing text if you want to make your menu more readable


Is the left-side band of the old Windows XP Start menu, I brought it back, with the following settings
 Choose its style, no ribbon, ribbon with background or with image.
 Ribbon (background), see Menu (background), all settings are similar.
 Ribbon (image), displays an image of your choice, which can be stretched to fit its full area, or just its width, all no-covered area will be painted with the selected color.
 Ribbon (text), again see Menu (text), all settings are similar, but now you can show text with black glow.
 Ribbon (content), to display OS version or your favorite message.

More customization

You can make additional changes to your Start menu style, open images folder located under CWSM directory. There you will find backgrounds for the Log off (logoffback.jpg) and Turn off (shutdownback.jpg) dialogs. There is no specific limitation about size, but all images will be expanded or shrunk to fit 1/4 of screen dimensions. Additionally, buttons from these dialogs can also be changed, but remember to respect file names. Here you are the chart:






Switch user

Log Off






















You can also create more styles for selected items or highlighted items by editing or adding images with these names: selected[number].png and hilight[number].png. An alpha channel for this images is not mandatory, it's on you, but you'll achieve better results when playing with transparency. Dimensions are not important, but keep in mind that any image will be resized to fit the selected item.

And finally, just for Windows 8, start button appearance can also be modified: you must create three images named start-normal.png, start-hover.png and start-pushed.png, then restart CWSM to force them to be reloaded.


In order to use it with your own language, I provide three files: settings.ini, specific for each language, and two additional settings.ini.eng and settings.ini.spa to help with translation. I encourage you to make your own translation, because all of these files are Unicode and plain-text format. For example, to display 'Help' into your own language, edit settings.ini, look for the line:


and change it to:


Remember to keep the integrity of all labels to avoid unpredictable behaviors of the menu. This file also keeps user's settings, and all are editable, but avoid that and instead change them through the Settings dialog.


Get fast access to Shutoff through keyboard by pressing Windows key, followed by Space and then numbers from 1 to 4, to select Hibernate, Standby, Shutdown and Restart, or its highlighted character.

Settings file (settings.ini) is usually located at c:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\CWSM\settings.ini.

If you have always launched one item on main menu by one key stroke (for instance, pressing 'T' to 'Turn Off') but now you can't because there are two or more items beggining with the same character, don't worry, by changing LocalShutdown=Turn off to LocalShutdown=Shutdown or LocalShutdown=Close system or LocalShutdown=Quit, so 'S', 'C' and 'Q' will do the work.

Classic Windows Start Menu is available under the terms of a Creative Commons License. If you agree, proceed to download (scroll down to see a version history):


32 bits Win8

64 bits Win8

32 bits Win7/Vista

64 bits Win7/Vista v4.08.5






  English Download Download Download Download
  Swedish thanks to Martin Elovsson Download Download Download Download
  Polish thanks to Paweł Stachowiak Download Download Download Download
  Czech thanks to René Langer Download Download Download Download
  German thanks to Dennis Heimerl Download Download Download Download
  French thanks to Bernard Millon Download Download Download Download
  Italian thanks to Luciano Paravella Download Download Download Download
  Russian thanks to Dmitry Yerokhin Download Download Download Download
 Note #1: delete settings file located at c::\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\CWSM\settings.ini before updating.
 Note #2: here you are the most recent versions of CWSM, if you need a previous one, please click here.

Suggestions are welcome at sourcecodeboy@gmail.com. If you're reporting errors, please indicate OS version, architecture (x86 o x64) and a description as detailed as possible (even attaching a screenshot).

Version 4.0 has basically the same features than previous versions but improved (for those who may be interested in, all base classes have been completely rewritten). For example, 64bits version now it's a native 64bits application.

Version 4.01 beta changes:

 added Search Box feature
 fixed: setting 'number of recent documents to show' now is saved to disk
 fixed: some items that before didn't launch (like built-in games) now work properly

Version 4.02 beta changes:

 Search Box improved
 fixed: all settings are properly saved
 fixed: main menu displays as it should first time is shown

Version 4.03 beta changes:

 fixed: Search Box is displayed appropriately when visual styles are disabled

Version 4.04 beta changes:

 menus can now include a background image
 added customizable color for glowing text
 fixed: About dialog now shows real current version

Version 4.05 beta changes:

 fixed some display bugs

Version 4.06 beta changes:

 fixed more display bugs
 added a theme manager

Version 4.07 beta changes:

 fixed focus-stealing issue
 fixed some minor bugs

Version 4.07w8 beta changes:

 adds the missing start button, only for Windows 8 (it will work under W7, but you'll have two start buttons!)

Version 4.08 beta changes (both versions):

 improvements to menu behavior and search box

Version 4.08.1 beta changes (both versions):

 alpha channel fixed for showing transparent menus under Windows 8 (to enable, uncheck 'Blur background'); no more overexposure effects.
 added glowing text in W8 version
 fixed some minor bugs

Version 4.08.2 beta changes (Windows 8 only):

 now you can skip Metro startup screen.
 created a self-installer instead of a zip file.

Version 4.08.3 beta changes (both versions):

 drag & drop list to customize main menu
 support for multiple image formats, including .gif, .jpg, or .png
 customized selection and highlighting images

Version 4.08.4 beta changes (Windows 8 only):

fixed full screen issue
active edges may be enabled/disabled independently
menu frame available, but shows display issues when transparency is also active

Version 4.08.5 beta changes:

menu frame fixed
classic style now looks as it should
fixed some minor issues