Microsoft 'U-turn' sees Start button back on Windows 8

Windows 8.1 screenshot Microsoft has released screenshots confirming the return of a Start button to Windows 8

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Microsoft has confirmed a Start button is returning to the desktop mode's taskbar of its Windows 8 operating system.

The lack of the facility - which had been in every previous version since Windows 95 - has been one of the most controversial aspects of the software.

However, it will not offer all the functionality previously associated with the feature.

Instead it will take users to the recently-introduced "Metro" interface.

"We've improved the way you navigate to Start with the mouse by changing the Start 'tip' to be the familiar Windows logo," the company said in a blog post.

"The new tip appears anytime you move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen, and is always visible on the taskbar when on the desktop."

On current versions of Windows 8, the start tip would only appear when users hovered their cursor over the lower-left corner of their screen.

In the 8.1 update, the area will be more visible.

A left-click on the tip will bring up a tile-based Start Screen - formerly known as the Metro interface - designed for touch-screen users.

A right-click will display a small menu of other options such as Event Viewer, Device Manager and Disk Management.

Another change will allow users to boot their computers directly into desktop mode, meaning they can avoid ever using the Start Screen if they wish.

Windows 7 Start button The Windows 7 Start button triggered a menu with apps and other links

Many users had complained that ditching the traditional Start Menu and introducing the Start Screen had made the system less straight-forward to use, meaning businesses which adopted it would need to retrain staff.

'New Coke'

Microsoft had been stung by claims that the expected reintroduction of a Start button would mark a major U-turn.

An article in the Financial Times described the move as one of the "most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola's New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago" - making reference to the soft drinks company's decision to ditch a new recipe after overwhelming customer dissatisfaction.

Microsoft later issued a statement saying it was "unfortunate" the FT did not represent the "good response to date on Windows 8."

A preview download of Windows 8.1 will be released to the public in June, and a final version before the end of the year. Both will be free of charge to existing users.

'A fudge'

Chris Green, principal technology analyst for the Davies Murphy Group, told the BBC he did not think the change would be enough to silence the critics.

"What they're proposing to do is a bit of a fudge.

"It's the bare minimum to say they've addressed people's complaints while not having to really backtrack on anything."

He said Microsoft faced a challenge in being able to innovative with Windows while also keeping its vast user base comfortable.

"When new operating systems come along, same with major applications, everything moves around. People hate it because they have to re-learn from scratch."

Other changes that will appear to users running the update include:

  • Added customisation options, with more choice over colours and backgrounds on the Start Screen.
  • An improved search function that covers web content as well as apps, files and settings on the PC.
  • A new version of the firm's web browser - Internet Explorer 11 - which Microsoft said would offer improved tools for developers.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I have had to pay £150 to have windows 7 put on a new laptop. I'm am absolutely seething at how difficult, frustrating and useless windows 8 can make using a laptop.

    Mice, keyboards, remote controls, and touchpads are here to stay for the foreseeable future - deal with it microsoft

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    24. politicsofenvy "I must admit I like Windows 8. It made my old lap top running Vista useful again for £25".

    I much prefer Windows 7. Unlike Vista it runs really well on most older machines. My wife's 2006 Compaq laptop was too slow for the Vista which came pre-loaded and 'downgrading' to XP involved losing a lot of functionality as HP never provided XP drivers for it. On Win7 it flies!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    some things are good, and some are bad, and some are awful
    and this is a real awful crock
    did not realise how bad until i bought new hp laptop - only to find cannot downgrade - not chuffed
    microsoft have to produce such crocks to bring in income, even though not needed

    microsoft would be moving the peddles, and steering, and gear stick in vehicles given the chance - wheels too

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    A multiple XP user, I'm not entirely convinced that W8 on a Desktop is as bad a some suggest. Simply press the Windows key on the keyboard and pick your program, easy. I know it is hard to get used to shutting down 'cold' when most are accustomed to three clicks but it is easier/faster just to press the power button on the box to shut down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I must admit I like Windows 8. It made my old lap top running Vista useful again for £25.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Owning a Windows 8 laptop, I find the lack of a start button fine - the laptop having a designated 'start' keyboard button. That said, the operating system is far too touchscreen orientated i.e. on all their 'apps' there is no 'X' (exit) button - instead you have to do dragging motions designed more for touch. When it comes to real life, there are merely superficial benefits of owning a Windows 8.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I'm an active Wins 8 user and have been since launch. Removing the Start Button was a big mistake and the fix described does not address the real user issue of ease of use. I have shortcut work-rounds for some of the issues on my desk-top (frequently used apps, control panel, switch off restart etc) but this is not ideal. Microsoft needs to make the PC version of Win 8 work for the user.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Not a fan of the new win 8 format - have been struggling with new laptop to perform what used to be simple tasks on XP. I'm sure its good for tablets but not so much traditional lap/desktop. If it aint broke dont fixt it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    As noted elsewhere, if you hate Windows 8 Metro screen and the lack of the start button - don't despair, and no need to reinstall Windows 7, just use the Classic Shell free download.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    A great improvement to Windows 8. However, it's not perfect by any means! I'm yet to figure out why Microsoft are concentrating on the touchscreen market so much for their flagship operating system. And before anyone claims it's not just for touchscreens, you are sadly deluded. The tiles are too big and it just feels clunky with a keyboard and mouse! Concentrate on your core customers Microsoft!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Nope - not good enough.

    I am sticking with Windows 7.

    Its far superior to Windows 8........ and far easier to use!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Microsoft introduce change for changes sake to make money. I value the fact that I learnt and can still use my laptop computer and applications with MS XP that I bought 12 years ago!! Why be a SLAVE to corporate hegemony? Use a cheap iPad or SmartPhone for the internet (Google search, You Tube, etc) and you're sorted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Surely this will make things worse not better. The new "Start" button will occupy the bottom LH corner and make it difficult if not impossible to use any of the 3rd party Start button replacements which millions of dissatisfied Win 8 users have already installed.
    This is Microsoft sticking 2 fingers up to their customers and saying 'we will make it impossible for you to retain a start button!' :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Makes you wonder why they launched it instead of improving 7 but then again is this not the trick continual change for the sake of it . Never mind wait till 9 comes out

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I use Windows 8 after I got a laptop when my PC died. My PC used Windows XP, so admittedly it took a little getting used to Windows 8, but it's not as bad as people make out. I like the start menu, with the apps for email and the news. I find the people who complain the most about Windows 8 are people who don't use it, or are Apple Fanboys. I think people are complaining over nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The start button with a "metro-interface" smacks of a Tesco with a limited choice and premium price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    The start button is very logical, I'm glad it's going to return.

    Perhaps, those with touch screens don't miss the button, as navigation is much easier?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Windows 8 acts and looks like an OS that was rushed into production without any real consideration for the fact that there are millions of users who are not intersted in "tablet technology". I played around with it for a few days before getting frustrated and ditching it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    windows 8 is better on performance but Microsoft changed too much. the interface looks dull and its not designed for a desktop (which XP and win7 are). whilst the start button is a step in the right direction, the system needs to be made more user friendly and not something that tries to satisfy all devices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    If I never see the Metro screen again it will be too soon....


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