Microsoft knows what you want Windows to look like. That, at least, seems to be the company’s message with Windows 11. It brings big changes to the user interface and continues the trend of making user customization more difficult. It is currently not possible to completely revert Windows 11 to the look and feel of Windows 10, and given Microsoft’s current attitude towards UI customization, it may not be. never. Still, there are several key adjustments that can make you more comfortable.
The most obvious design change in Windows 11 is the move of the Windows Start menu from its traditional location nestled on the left side of the taskbar to the center of the taskbar. Fortunately, this change is easy to undo.
Open the Start Windows menu then the Settings application. In Settings, go to Personalizationso Taskbarand open Taskbar behaviors. You will see a field titled Taskbar alignment with a drop-down menu. Change the drop-dox menu from center to left.
The change takes place immediately.
Delete new icons
While we’re at it, let’s disable the new icons added by Windows 11. These are also in the Taskbar section of Personalization settings. You’ll see a list titled “Taskbar Items” which includes four options: Research, Task view, Widgetsand Discuss. Use the toggles next to each to disable all four icons.
Important note about search: There is currently no way to restore the full search box from the Windows 10 taskbar. Disabling the new search icon means that you cannot access search by clicking on a field or an icon in the taskbar. It will still be available through the Windows + S keyboard shortcutyet.
Microsoft is kind enough to let you easily change the location of the start menu and remove some icons, but the start menu himself is another story. You will need to use a third-party program.
The free option is Open-Shell, an open source program (formerly known as Classic Shell) that can replace the Start menu. Download the program and install it. However, make sure to disable Classic Explorer and Classic IE during installation. If you don’t, Open-Shell will also modify Windows Explorer in a way that doesn’t match the look of Windows 10.
Once installed, open the program called Open-Shell Menu Settings. Select the Windows 7 style menu, then open the Skin tab. I used the Fluent-Metro skin for this guide. In truth, it works more like a Windows 7 start menu with a Windows 10 lick of paint, but it was the best skin I could find.
While Open-Shell works well, it’s not perfect. It cannot properly replace the Start menu and does not restore Windows 10 functionality.
Stardock’s Start11 is an easier option. It doesn’t have Open-Shell’s start menu icon problem and doesn’t require any installation of additional files to provide an attractive menu in Metro design style. However, Start11 costs $5, so you’ll have to decide if its ease of use is worth the price. We’ve tested Start11 (as well as the StartAllBack alternative, another $5 program) and highly recommend both if you want Windows 11 to look more like Windows 10. Windows 11 Tasks.
Windows 11 taskbar icons are quite similar to Windows 10, so you might not feel the need to change them. Other operating system icons are very different.
First, download a Windows 10 icon pack. A variety of these can be found online: I used a Windows 10 Build 10125 icon pack. Put your icons in a folder you’ll remember easily.
Let’s start with the desktop icons. Open the Settings app, select Personalizationto open Themesand then Desktop icons. A menu will appear with the usual five desktop icons present. Click an icon you want to change, then press Change Icon. Navigate to where you placed the icon pack, select the icon you want to use, then press Open. I have replaced the trash can icons in the screenshot below.
You can also change icons for individual folders and shortcuts. Right click on an item and open Propertiesthen head to the Personalize tongue. At the bottom you will see the Change icon button. Click on it and select an icon you want to use as described in the previous paragraph.
Unfortunately, Windows 11 doesn’t let you change some icons, including new icons for user drives and folders in Windows Explorer. However, you can use Drive Icon Changer to change drive icons.
Disable rounded corners
Rounded corners are key to Windows 11’s new look. Not everyone loves them, however, and there’s more bad news. It is currently not possible to modify them via Windows 11 itself or a third-party solution.
You have an option. Windows 11 will revert to square corners if you disable hardware graphics acceleration (this will also disable other visual features such as transparency).
Well there is one other option: you can disable your graphics hardware. To open Device Managerto expand Screenshot taken, and then right-click the graphics card listed. To select Disable device. Your screen will flicker for a moment, but when Windows comes back, the rounded corners will be gone.
I don’t recommend it though. Disabling your graphics hardware will make the Windows user interface sluggish and stilted, and you won’t be able to use 3D apps or games until you turn the hardware back on.
Finally, you can restore the original Windows 10 wallpaper. This is not included with Windows 11, but is available from various online sources, such as this 4K sample on Imgur.
Right-click the image after uploading it, then select Set as wallpaper. The change will take effect immediately.
Where to go from here
Windows 10 purists will be disappointed to learn that this leaves several Windows 11 features, like the new context menu and File Explorer, in the operating system. A variety of registry hacks circulating online claim to partially or completely disable these features, but in my testing they caused side effects or in many cases didn’t work at all, probably because Windows 11 has received many updates over the past few years. month.
Keep an eye out for projects that aim to help users change the look of Windows 11, such as ThisIsWin11. This project isn’t particularly useful right now because it mostly replicates the tweaks you can make manually, but it can evolve into a more feature-rich option.
It also wouldn’t hurt to let Microsoft know you want more customization options. Much of that ultimately falls to Microsoft, which has phased out customization options from the Windows interface over time.
For now, enjoy the changes you’ve made. Windows 10 might not be fully restored, but hey, at least the Start menu is fixed.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 7, 2021, but has been updated to include links to our reviews of Start11 and StartAllBack.