Windows 10: The difference between expanded Start menu and Tablet mode explained

Understanding the expanded version of the Start menu and Tablet mode in Windows 10.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore presenting Windows 10

In Windows 10, Microsoft is removing the Start screen and bringing back the Start menu, which is just one of the way the software maker is making the operating system more easy to use.

Microsoft is also introducing “Tablet mode” (Continuum) in Windows 10 that allows users to move seamlessly from a traditional windowed to a full-screen, optimized for touch, environment.

The Start menu looks similar to the menu users that were familiar in Windows 7, but the new menu also has a modern part similar to the Start screen. The Start menu in Windows 10 includes two sizes: the default regular size and users can also click the top-right “Expand” button on the top-right corner to make the menu full screen, which Windows 8 users will find familiar to the now gone Start screen.

Start menu on Windows 10

How to customize the Start menu on Windows 10

On the other hand, the Tablet mode also offer a full-screen Start menu, which is where some users may find these two features a bit confusing.

However, there is a big difference between expanding the Start menu and the touch-optimized mode.

Expanded Start menu

When making the Start menu full screen, users only get a bigger menu where they can fill up the screen with more Live Tiles, which will make the menu more familiar with those who liked the Start screen in Windows 8, but nothing else.

Windows 10 Start menu Expanded mode
This is the Start menu expanded. Notice there is a button on the top-right corner to shrink the menu back to its original size.

Tablet mode

Tablet mode offers a lot more features that help users on touch-enabled devices to be more productive. When this mode is enabled automatically or manually via the Action Center, users will get a full screen Start menu, just like the “Expanded” version, but now the restore button will not be available to shrink the menu to its regular size.

Windows 10 Start menu on Tablet mode
This is the Start menu in Tablet mode. Notice there is a button to shrink the menu.

In addition, modern and traditional apps, plus the desktop environment (e.g., File Explorer), will only run full screen mode, very similar to the Metro environment in Windows 8; and users won’t be able to access the desktop, which also means that icons on the desktop will not be available to users.

Windows 10 desktop on Tablet mode
Tablet mode desktop.

While in Continuum mode, users can swipe from left inwards to switch between open apps — just like in Windows 8 — and swiping from the right inwards will access the Action Center. You might have noticed that you can no longer grab and pull down an app to close it, but if you’re in Tablet mode the functionality is still available.

In the end, what you should take away is that if you ever see a Windows 10 PC with the Start menu in full screen, it doesn’t necessary mean that it’s using Tablet mode. And clicking the “Expand” button from the Start menu is not the way to enable Tablet mode either.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows expert and the Editor-in-Chief who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He is also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 12 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows, software, and related technologies, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me.