Customise the Windows 8.1 Start Screen

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I don’t think I need to discuss in depth the issues that users have had when migrating to the Microsoft Windows 8.0 and 8.1 operating systems. It was meant to be a new approach and unfortunately, users were just not amused at the new interface. Having said that I had used Microsoft Windows 8.0 on a few computers during technical support requests and joined in the frustration of other users about navigating and finding utilities that I could find with my eyes closed on earlier operating systems. I had avoided it like the plague, that is until now..

I finally relented and can now say I’m running Microsoft Windows 8.1 without much frustration. I had originally anticipated running Windows 8.1 until such time that Windows 10 was launched and available, however, that time has since passed and I’m not too worried about getting my hands straight into Windows 10. I’ve worked out the kinks and have customised it the way I want it to work. So, in the spirit of being positive when referring to an operating system which has been superseded, I am going to show you how to customise the notoriously ugly and confusing Windows 8.1 Start Screen.

When you first start up a Windows 8 or 8.1 machine you see this tablet like screen appear and many users, myself included, were just confused on where to click, what to click on and how to open the programs we wanted. Users expect the very familiar desktop to appear and then utilise the luxury of the Start menu to navigate and launch applications. The Start Screen replaced the Start menu and now appears on startup.

The Start screen is broken up into two areas: Start and Apps. The Start screen contains some quick links to familiar areas of the computer such as Control Panel whilst the Apps screen provides access to the built-in Apps which come with Windows 8 and 8.1 plus any additional Apps you wish to download. The Apps screen also contains any programs that you have installed such as Microsoft Office or Adobe programs. Apps for Windows 8.1 are very similar to what we’ve all become to know as Apps on our smartphones. They are mini-programs that you can download from the Windows Store which provide you with additional functions on your computer.

Remove items from the start screen

When you first launch Windows 8 or 8.1 you will see the start screen has displayed some default applications plus some new ones. Some of these you may use and some you may want to get rid of.

To remove items from the Start Screen, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start button to launch the Start screen


  1. Locate the item you wish to remove
  2. Right mouse click the item and select Unpin from Start


  1. The item will be removed

Even though you have removed an item from the start screen you can still access it via the Apps screen.

Add items to the start screen

To truly customise your start screen you need to add the programs that you want to have easy access to.

To add items to the start screen, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start button to launch the Start screen
  2. Click the downward arrow in the bottom left corner


  1. You will now see the Apps screen
  2. Locate the application you wish to add to the Start screen
  3. Right mouse click the application and choose Pin to start


  1. Return to the Start screen and check the application is now visible

Relocate items on the start screen

If you do not like the order in which the applications are being displayed on the start screen, you can easily move them around into a layout which suits you. I tend to have all the Microsoft programs displayed together in one group and then icons for the Control Panel and other Windows utilities that I use on a regular basis also together.

You can also give the groups a name to help you identify them quickly.

To name a group of icons:

  1. Right mouse click the blank blue area on the screen above the top row of apps


  1. Click Name groups
  2. You will now see a text box appear above each group of applications
  3. You can click into the text box and type a name to suit
  4. Press Enter or click outside the text box when you have finished

I hope this gives you a good start on how to customise your Windows 8 and 8.1 start screen.

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