How to Use and Customize the Windows 10 Start Menu

The Start Menu in Windows 10 combines the best of both Windows worlds: The menu-based list that began in Windows 95 and the tile-based interface introduced in Windows 8. Just click or tap on the Start button and you see both merged into one interface. Convenient.

What’s great about the Start Menu is that it’s highly customizable, from the base color to its overall width. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the Windows 10 Start Menu.

Breaking down the Start Menu

The Start Menu actually has three parts: The Menu, the All Apps list, and the Tiles area.

The Menu flushes up against the left edge and provides shortcuts to the settings, documents, and pictures. Here you can also sign out of your profile and shut down the PC.

Next to the Menu is the All Apps list. At the top, you may see categories for Recently Added, Most Used, and Suggested categories followed by all apps and programs installed on your PC. Some of these are clearly listed while others will reside within parent folders. This list scrolls separately from the Tiles area located on the right.

The Tiles area is what connects your desktop experience to the touch-based aspect of Windows 10. It’s mostly the only interface on Xbox consoles and the easier input method on Surface devices (and other Windows 10 touch PCs). You can actually switch to “tablet mode” and use nothing but Tiles if that’s your thing.

While you can’t disable the Tile area, you can unpin Tiles from the Start Menu.

Resize the Start Menu

If you want to change the size of the Start Menu, here’s how:

Step 1:  Place the cursor over the top or right edge until it becomes two arrows.

Step 2: Click and hold the primary mouse button.

Step 3: Drag the mouse up or right, depending on the edge.

Step 4: Release the button when you reach the desired height or width.

Step 5: Repeat for the other side as needed.

Note: You can place the cursor in the Start Menu’s top-right corner and just drag that corner to resize both edges.

Making the menu larger vertically will give more space to the All Apps list and the Tiles area while adding horizontal space will only extend the Tiles. At its smallest horizontal setting, the Start Menu can only handle three medium columns of the smaller Tiles, but at its maximum setting, it can fit six.

Use Start Full Screen

If you actually prefer the full-screen Start interface from Windows 8, you can get it back in Windows 10. Here’s how:

Step 1: Click the Notifications icon on the taskbar followed by the All Settings tile in the Action Center. This opens the Settings app.

Step 2: Select Personalization.

Step 3: Select Start.

Step 4: Click the Toggle next to Use Start Full Screen to switch this feature on.

Now, when you click the Start button, the Start Menu fills the screen with a translucent overlay. The All Apps list is gone but the Menu remains. The desktop aspect is still intact, however, so you’re not locked into a tablet interface.

Add or remove folders

With the Personalization menu still open, you can tweak other options to customize the Start Menu. Here we can add or remove folders displayed on the Menu portion. This can help lead you to specific sections of Windows 10, like where it stashes your videos and music, and where it downloads files by default.

Step 1: Click the Choose Which Folders Appear On Start link.

Step 2: Click a Toggle next to the folder you want to appear on the Menu. There are 10 folders you can enable or disable.

Note: The Personal Folder option leads to your profile folder in the Users directory. The Network folder shows all devices connected to the local network.

Change the color

You can switch the Start Menu’s color, but the changes can also affect other sections and apps on Windows. These instructions assume you are still on the Personalization panel.

Step 1: Select Colors listed on the left.

Step 2: First, you have the option to choose a Light mode, Dark mode, or Custom mode. Custom will bring up two additional sections for choosing Light or Dark for both Windows and apps. If you are particularly interested in choosing Dark mode only for your Start Menu, you will want to choose Dark under Choose Your Default App Mode, or otherwise simply set everything to Dark with the top menu.

Step 3: Click the Toggle next to Transparency Effects to turn this feature on or off. Transparency will slow down older PCs, so be wary of possible performance drops with this toggled on.

Step 4: By default, the accent color is chosen automatically based on your desktop wallpaper. If you like the way Windows looks now, just leave it alone. If not, uncheck the box next to Automatically Pick an Accent Color From My Background to disable this feature. Now you can move on to Step 5.

Step 5: Click on a color swatch to define an accent color or click the Plus symbol next to Custom Color to create your own