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”

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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?