3windows 8 logoHow to restore a proper UI to Windows 8 & Server 2012

Windows 8 and Server 2012 have now RTMed and as expected the good old UI of desktop and startmenu has been replaced with a horrible new UI (previously called Metro).  In their ultimate wisdom Microsoft have left no way to switch back to the old desktop/start menu system, but thanks to various tweaks and tools it is possible to get 90% of the interface restored – good enough to be fully usable.  Below I document the various steps and tweaks required.

1. Turn on “desktop experience” (Server 2012 only)

  • Open powershell and type these 2 lines
  • Import-Module ServerManager
  • Install-WindowsFeature Desktop-Experience

2. Get a proper start menu

  • Update (12-Dec-2012) – if you are willing to cough up $4.99, Start8 is a fully functioning start menu replacement – I can’t tell any different from the real Windows 7 start menu, except for the extended customisation options.  You can try it free for a month too.
  • Download and install ViStart
  • Other start-menu replacements are available but currently ViStart is the closest visually to the original start menu

3. Apply a nicer theme

  • Save your current theme from a Windows 7 PC
  • Copy it across to the new PC
  • Double click on it to apply it.
  • This will replace the desktop wallpaper and will apply some transparency effects

4. Get rid of “the ribbon” in folder views

5. (a) Start on the desktop not in Metro (Server 2012)

  • Open regedit
  • Expand HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion
  • Create a new key called “server” (or take ownership and change permissions if it already exists)
  • Create a new 32bit DWORD called ClientExperienceEnabled and leave it set to 0. (or change it to 0 if it already exists)

5. (b) Start on the desktop not in Metro (Windows 8)

  • Open control panel: Administrative tools: task scheduler
  • Expand the “task scheduler library”
  • Create a new basic task
  • Call it “Show Desktop” and click next
  • Choose “When I Log On” and click next
  • Start a program is selected – click next
  • In “program/script” enter “%systemroot%\explorer.exe”
  • In “Arguments (optional)” enter “shell:::{3080F90D-D7AD-11D9-BD98-0000947B0257}”
  • Finish and close task schedule

6. Don’t open server manager at logon (Server 2012 only)

  • In server manager click “manage”
  • Select “server Manager Properties” in the pull-down dialog
  • Tick “Do not start Server Manager automatically at logon”

7. Completely disable Metro (active corners, charms bar, etc)

  • Update (12-Dec-2012) – if you use Start8 you no longer need this option.
  • Search google and download the file FxxkMetro.zip – I recommend the ZippyShare results as you don’t have to register to download
  • Run the app on startup by placing it (or a shortcut to it) in %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

8. Other visual tweaks

  • Make sure full visual effects are turned on – especially on server 2012
  • Open control panel
  • Click on System
  • Click on System again
  • Click on advanced system settings
  • Make sure you’re in the advanced tab
  • Click the top settings button (in the performance section)
  • Select “adjust for best appearance”

Please send us your thoughts by commenting below! If you would like to subscribe please use the subscribe link on the menu at the top right. You can also share this with your friends by using the social links below. Cheers.

Leave a Reply


gravatarKarl Burrows

It is worth the $5 with Start8 to bypass all of this. I use it on my installs of Server 2012 and Windows 8 and set it to boot to desktop. 5 minutes to download and setup and you are done. Got tired of all the tweaks and registry edits to enable for each install. Not worth my customer’s time.

gravatarJon Scaife

Absolutely agree – I’m using the same thing. $5 (£3) is very cheap for what it does. I wonder what their sales figures look like – a message to Microsoft perhaps?