Windows 8: Why did Microsoft replaced the classic Start menu with the new Start screen

Windows 8 Start screen customized

On Tuesday Microsoft explained why they replaced the classic Start menu with the new Start screen.

In a post published at the Building Windows 8 blog, Alice Steinglass explained that after various studies, Microsoft realized that the classic Start menu was mostly used to launch applications that you rarely use, and that more users are using the taskbar as the place to start a new application. She also said about the Start menu: ” It affords limited customization, provides virtually no useful information, and offers only a small space for search results.”

“The Start screen is not just a replacement for the Start menu — it is designed to be a great launcher and switcher of apps, a place that is alive with notifications, customizable, powerful, and efficient.” Alice said. At the end of the day, Microsoft noticed that the menu didn’t keep with the modern way in which we all use our PCs today, and there is a new trending in the replacement of the Start menu. And thanks to many feedback from engineers, designers, developers, IT workers, and other power users, we now have a new Start in Windows 8

Windows 8 Start screen shortcuts

Microsoft found that average PCs are cluttered with an array of system notifications, long lists of folders on the Start menu and shortcuts, plus many applications are installed over the time making it difficult to organize and group what is important. The new Start screen was designed to address these issues by providing a larger space with more connectivity, a better interface to open and operate apps. Also the new Start screen allows the end-users to group apps any way they want with live tiles that always display important information. This was something impossible with Windows’ 7 Start menu that only provided a simple flat list. 

Microsoft’s Start screen also improves the search experience, now the user can simply start typing and Windows will instantly start a search through different parts of the operating system, applications, and other data. This is a really step up from Windows 7 that can’t scale the results.

Windows 8 search result

But… All of these wasn’t that easy, Microsoft knew they needed to be able to load live tiles instantly and efficiently. The concern of long battery life and instant performance were also important to the experience of any mobile device. If every app launched and loaded a process when you entered Start (the traditional “gadget” model), it would slow down the performance of navigating to it, scrolling, etc.

Alice explained: “To address this, the Start screen uses a single process to pull down notifications from the Windows Notification Service and keep the tiles up to date. The tiles are cached, so they can load instantly when you go to Start. The result is that the tiles aren’t apps—they are a system-provided surface that can quickly tell you what’s new with your app. They are an extension of the apps you use (or the apps you develop), providing instant access to relevant content without costing battery life or slowing down performance.”

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, 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 Email him at [email protected].