How to make Windows 8 seem normal

Summary:Windows 8 can run like real, honest-to-goodness Windows. Plain, simple, slightly upgraded, but what you'd expect with Windows, old-school Start menu and all.

 

Windows 8 – despite Microsoft’s dreadfully misguided marketing decisions – turns out to be a quite fine operating system. Oh, I’m not talking about the tiled Start screen and the so-called “Modern UI” apps. I’m talking about Windows, real honest-to-goodness Windows.

I’ve been using Windows 8 on my media center Mac mini for just over a month. Only one application has ever crashed on it: Firefox. Once. I’ve only switched to the Mac side to tweak a Bluetooth setting.

And I haven’t found a single Metro (or Modern UI) app that I need to run.

I’m running Windows 8 like Windows. I boot into a Windows desktop, I use a traditional Windows Start menu, and I do all the Windows stuff I’ve always done. Windows 8 is a little faster, has a few cool additional features, seems a bit more solid, and just runs like Windows.

So, despite my friend Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ claim that Windows 8 is a failure (he and I have been to this dance before, actually), Windows 8 can seem perfectly normal in daily use.

The trick is a $5 piece of software.

There are other, free Start menu substitute products out there, but I just went out and bought Start8 from Stardock. Stardock has been around, tweaking the Windows desktop experience, since the beginning of time. I figured if anyone’s going to keep software up-to-date, it will be them.

The process was simple. I set up Windows 8 initially, which meant I had to live in the tile interface for a few minutes. I quickly installed Chrome so I wouldn’t have to deal with IE. And then I bought and downloaded Start8.

Installation of Start8 is like any other install. Once installed, I got a nice little Start menu in the corner of my screen.

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Start8 has a few additional settings that help make Windows 8 seem normal. The key is the Desktop tab. These are my settings:

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The key to Windows 8 normalcy are the two items I have checked: "Automatically go to the Desktop when I sign in," and "Disable bottom left hot corner when the taskbar overlaps it."

That’s it. That’s all you have to do to get rid of the Windows 8 Start screen confusion. I actually left an icon for the Windows 8 Menu on my Start menu. That way, I can easily go into the tiled Start menu if I want to (I don’t, normally, but once in a while I check to see if anything has gotten interesting).

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The acid test was introducing Windows 8 to my wife.

She’s very happy with Windows 7 and wasn’t really sure about Windows 8. I set up Windows 8 to run normally (using Start8), and set her loose.

Not one complaint. Not one question on how to do things. To her, it was all perfectly normal. It was just, simply, Windows.

And isn’t that all we’ve all ever wanted, really? Just, plain, Windows.

 

Topics: Windows, Windows 8

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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