How To Make Windows 8 Look And Feel Like Windows 7

If you have a PC with Windows 8 but miss Windows 7, there's no need to downgrade. Following a few simple steps, you can make Microsoft's current operating system look and feel almost identical to its predecessor. Here's how to bring back the Start menu and the attractive aero glass theme how to hide other Windows 8 elements like the Charms menu.

Getting tired of Windows 8 and its tiles' reign of terror? Laptop Mag's Avram Piltch shows you how to get the Windows 7 you know and love back -- without ever downgrading.

Step 1: Swap the Start screen for a Start menu

Without a doubt, the most unfamiliar (and, for some, most annoying) feature of Windows 8 is its tile-based Start screen. Where Windows 7 lets you choose from a list of applications by pulling up the Start menu, Windows 8 makes you go to a completely separate screen just to launch an application or conduct a search. There are a number of third-party Windows 8 Start menu apps including the free Classic Shell, but if you're willing to pay $US4.99, we recommend Start8, because it looks the most like the Windows 7 Start menu and allows you to control many other elements of the UI.

1. Download and install Start8. You can try the program for 30 days without paying for it.

2. Select Windows 7 Style and Windows 7 Theme under the Style tab.

3. Make sure Disable Translucency is unchecked.

4. Select the Desktop tab.

5. Check "Disable all Windows 8 hot corners". This setting will prevent the Charms and Windows 8 Start shortcut from appearing when you hover the mouse in a corner.

6. Make sure "Automatically go to the Desktop when I sign in" is checked. This way Windows 8 will take you straight to the desktop when it boots rather than making you go through the Start screen first.

7. Uncheck Disable Taskbar Translucency.

8. Select the Control tab.

9. Uncheck "show the Windows 8 menu when I press the right windows key". With this setting off, you won't accidentally end up on the Start screen if you hit the right Windows key.

10. Close the Start8 settings window.

11. View all your programs by clicking All Programs on the Start8.

12. Pin your favourite programs to Start8 by right-clicking on them and selecting Pin To Start8.

MORE: 5 Windows 8 Apps to Bring Back the Start Menu

Step 2: Install the Windows 7 Aero theme

With Windows 8, Microsoft took away the attractive translucent Aero glass effects and style many people love in Windows 7. Instead, the company made the desktop theme flat, solid and a little bit boring. While you can't get all of the translucent effects back, you can get a very similar look to Windows 7′s default theme.

1. Download and install UxStyle. This application tweaks your settings so you can install third-party themes you didn't get from Microsoft.

2. Download this Windows 7 theme from Deviant Art and open its zip file.

3. Copy the contents of the Themes folder from the zip file to C:WindowsResourcesThemes.

4. Double-click the Windows7Aero icon. Your theme should now change to Windows 7 Aero, complete with the default Windows 7 wallpaper.

5. To switch back and forth between this theme, a stripped down "basic" version of Aero or other Windows 8 themes, right-click on the desktop and select personalise.

MORE: How to Shut Down Windows 8 in Just One Click

Step 3: Add an Aero glass effect to window title bars

Even with the Aero theme installed, the window title bars and borders are opaque. While you can't make all parts of the UI have the smoky translucent effect they do in Windows 7, WinaeroGlass can make the title bars see-through.

1. Download and unzip WinaeroGlass to your desktop.

2. Double-click Winaeroglass.exe to turn on its visual effect. At present the app has no UI; it just works.

3. Copy WinaeroGlass.exe to the C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartup folder if you want it to start every time Windows 8 starts.

Step 4: Skip the lock screen

Windows 7 doesn't waste your time by making you swipe away a lock screen before you get to its login prompt. Fortunately, it's easy enough to disable Windows 8′s time-wasting lock screen.

1. Open Regedit by hitting Windows + R and entering regedit at the prompt.

2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MARCHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindows.

3. Create a registry key called Personalization if it doesn't already exist. You can create a key by right-clicking on the Windows key, selecting New then Key and renaming the folder that appears.

4. Create a new DWORD value and name it NoLockScreen. To create a DWORD, right-click in the white space on the right side of the window and select New then DWORD (32-bit) value. Rename the DWORD.

5. Assign NoLockScreen a value of 1 by double-clicking it and entering the number 1 in the dialog box that appears.

6. Close Regedit and reboot. From now on you will be taken straight to the login prompt.

MORE: How to Read POP Mail in Windows 8

Step 5: Run Windows 8 style apps in Desktop mode

Even if your desktop looks like Windows 7, you have a Start menu and your system boots you directly to the desktop, you may still want to run some Windows 8 apps. Under normal conditions, you'd be forced to run new style apps like Bing News or the People app at full screen in Windows 8′s Modern UI, but with the help of a utility called ModernMix you can run every Windows 8 program in its own draggable, resizable window on the desktop.

. Download and install ModernMix. The application costs $US4.99 but has a free 30-day trial. You may need to enter your email address to receive a download link.

2. Select Windowed mode under "When launched from the Windows 8 Start Menu." With this setting enabled, even if you launch a Windows 8 app from the Start screen, it will open on the desktop.

3. Select "Never return to the Windows 8 menu when I close applications" under the Advanced tab.

4. Close the ModernMix settings window.

As long as ModernMix is running, all Windows 8 style apps (also known as Modern apps) will run in windows. You can even pin Windows 8 apps to the taskbar by right-clicking on their taskbar icons and selecting "Pin this program to taskbar."

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    This seems like a lot of effort to go to just to make Windows 8 worse.

      not sure Aero was all that great but Windows 8 is terrible. I've often heard it said minimalism is hard to do well and windows 8 proves that!..

        How exactly is Windows 8 minimalist? It is everything that was in Windows 7 plus a thousand new Metro-style additions. To me that seems like the very opposite of minimalist. As for being "terrible", that can only be true if Windows 7 is also terrible, because everything from Windows 7 is carried over. It is hardly any more different than Win7 is from Vista. After all, underneath they are Windows NT 6.0 (Vista), 6.1 (Win7) and 6.2 (Win8).

          Hey you didn't know that Windows 8 allows Ma Microslop to connect into your system anytime you're online and that they *actively* scan your system for *any* content or software *they* deem inappropriate (even when you're offline). Any drivers, programs (licensed or not) or other components Microslop doesn't want you to have, can be removed, disabled, etc. remotely. When asked about this, M$'s representative claimed, "it is to support a better user experience". Yeah right. And hey....just how long do you think it will be before someone "besides Microslop" hacks into that functionality and starts cruising around your hard drive looking for....oh I donno....maybe account numbers and passwords, personal identification and information, maybe license keys for software they want to pirate or access codes/keys to the company you work for?! Yes, Winblows 8 is absolutely terrible!

          BTW, "the underneath" or more accurately "the kernel" is not *exactly* NT 6.2 in Win8 and there are *significant" differences (not all good) between version NT 6.2 and 6.1 (and 6.1 and 6.0 for that matter). Besides what good is a new kernel if it adds components that serve to compromise your systems privacy and integrity?! The *only* way I will run Winderz 8 is buried in a VM on my ESX server behind multiple firewalls and protocol blockers where I can safely pick it apart to find a way to remove the ultimate spyware from the biggest producers of virusware in the world.....MicroShtuff!

          Also, most main stream manufactures (HP, Lenovo, Dell) are still supporting Win7 and offer a Windohs 7 replacement for their product line because of the wide spread push back from the consumer audience. Kinda reminds me of when ME and Vista were released. Anytime a new OS release impacts hardware sales negatively you just have to know it's not going to be long lived anyway. And one more thing....just to throw more gas on this fire....many of the largest American Corporate IT Depts. are *not* planning to move to Windows 8.....ever. I am a Sr. VP of IT for one of the largest IT Departments in the world, (over 150k physical midrange servers and 10's of thousands of VMs, 100's of mainframes and so many workstations you couldn't count them all in a lifetime) and *we will not* be allowing Win8 in our infrastructure ever, at all, in any way. Just saying.... DDDM

            Wow Dr. Dan. I wish I knew all that before I bought a new laptop with Windows 8. I tried 8 out for a few months on a separate partition and hated it on my old laptop but thought that it is probably the way of the future so I bought a Thinkpad X1 Carbon with a touchscreen and Windows 8 thinking I would dual boot using 7 and having 8 there in case I ever wanted to switch. Well I still hate 8. I haven't installed anything yet because I didn't think this out well enough ie this laptop had no DVD drive to install 7. I had no idea about MS having total access to my machine but you sound like the most knowledgeable person I have read yet on the subject of how bad Windows 8 is. The touch screen even added about half a pound to this ultra light laptop. All I can say is CRAP!! I really screwed up. As well as thanks for the eye opener.

    Umm, if you want the look and feel of Windows 7, my tip is to install Windows 7.

      Maybe you like the look and feel of windows 7, but you would like to be able to use some of those windows 8 apps. Computers come with Win8 installed now, so either way you've gotta do something to get there.

        Yeah, I agree. And most Windows 8 PC's can't be downgraded to Windows 8.

      But then you wouldn't get those big speed improvements =[

        Exactly! And they are significant, especially on an older or less powerful machine, like a netbook.

      Agreed. I tried updating our mediaPC to Windows 8. Within a month it was back on 7.

      For all of the hype I couldn't really find any additional advantages or noticeable features in Win8. The metro screen looked pretty enough but I didn't find any standout apps that weren't available on Win7.

      The final nail was when it wouldn't let me run custom screen resolutions across multiple monitors. And then finally wouldn't boot into the GUI one day.

      I now run Rainmeter and a few other tweaks on top of Win7 which provide all of the benefits of Win8's metro screen without losing Win7's functionality and versatility.

      Which is a pity in a way. I was ready to really like Win8 and thought it would be ideal for a media computer. But not to be.

        How does Rainmeter provide any of "the benefits of Win8's Metro screen"? It's a whole different thing. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it and use it every day but I don't see the connection with Win8.

      I agree, if you do like Windows 7 that's probably the system you should be using. The question is how?

      If I go an purchase a new laptop today, I'll be very hard pressed to find one that doesn't come with Windows 8. How do I buy and install Windows 7 on that laptop (legally)?

        OEM copies of Windows 8 have downgrade rights attached to them, well at least the Pro copy does. All you need is a key off another machine and ring up MS say your evoking your downgrade rights provide the details for both keys and they activate you. 100% legit. The hardest thing if its your only PC where do you get a Win 7 key from. Maybe also how many machines at JB or Hardly Normal are sold with Pro.

          That's a pretty big conditions there, which pretty much no-one outside of businesses and enthusiasts will be able to reach.

          I couldn't find any laptops for sale at Jb Hi-Fi that had Windows 8 Pro. Looking at various manufacturers websites, you really need to get a business laptop to get that edition of Windows.

          God knows where someone like my mother would obtain a legal copy of Windows 7 and it's product key, without having to pay for it. Even then she would have to go to a specialised computer retailer and hope they still have stock for sale.

      Plus what's going to happen to your machine when Microsoft releases SP1 and all these Start menu add-ons fail miserably as they are broken by the changes. So yeah want Windows 7 interface stick with 7. Want what 8 has to offer then put up with the change.

    Am I the only one who finds Aero rather tacky looking after having used 8?

      Aero as in windows key + tab? I HATE that feature.

        I didn't even know that was a thing.

          Haha. Probably best you didn't know. It has been in place since Vista. It's more useless than useful I think.

        Nah, Aero as in the glassy theme.
        That win+tab feature is pretty useless though. Really gimmicky.

          Hmm, never heard it called Aero before. I've heard win+tab called aero though.

            What. What rock have you been living under these last 5 years? The theme's been called Aero ever since it came out...I'm rather perplexed as to how you've never heard it called Aero before o_O

              Never had the convo about the theme.. Never really cared what it was called either :P

    Just install "Start 8", let it do it's thing and forget the rest of the crap mentioned in this article.

    Why is there no mention of StartIsBack? It offers the same Windows 7 style and pretty much all the same features as Start8, but is much cheaper ($5 will get you 5 licenses). Another benefit is that is uses DLL wrapping to access remnants of start menu still in Windows 8, thus doesn't require extra services to run, unlike Start8 (uses less resources). Having used all options, I find StartIsBack the best.

    pffft this is free and it does all of that

    Never mind Windows 7 - how do I get back to my XP setup?

      Why stop there? How about Windows 3.11 setup? :P

    I don't really miss the old Start Menu, I have become quite fluent in the new Windows 8 way. Sometimes using Windows 7 when fixing someone machine and the right click on the bottom left corner of the screen does nothing drives me a little nuts but that's minor. It is no where as bad as people with Windows XP, Vista and 7 that go back to the old Windows 2000 style start menu. No easy clickable way to get to My Computer. (I said clickable so don't say just press Win-E as that doesn't work remotely easily)

    If you're looking at a new laptop and will be stuck with Win8, I'd recommend going for a touchscreen. I set one up for a colleague recently and thought I'd hate it (having read all the guff about ergonomics and sore arms). Seriously, it is so much faster getting around an OS by touching the screen, at least in Win8 it is.

    I found not having to reach for the mouse, wiggle it to find the cursor, then move to my destination, I just pressed the destination. It's a very fluid experience and other than double-taps, I found it completely superior to the mouse experience in Win7.

    All of that said, I prefer my Win7 to Win8!

    Does doing all this allow me to use a few re-sizeable windows? I couldn't watch videos and type in word at the same time when I tried the RC

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