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by JB Burke

Q. I bought a new computer recently and it came preloaded with Windows 8. It seems very foreign to me – I'd just gotten used to Windows 7. How can I get back to normal?

A. Windows 8 comes with a touch-screen oriented Start Screen, and most desktops don't have touch screens. Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) himself has said that seems weird, and even he hasn't adopted Windows 8 yet. It has a desktop mode along with the touch-screen designed Start Screen, but there you'll find no Start button. You are expected to use the Start Screen as your launch point for most applications.

Where is the start button in Desktop mode? Well there are a couple of simple solutions to that problem – one is free, and one costs a few dollars. Both of the solutions bring back the Start Button we are all used to, and they both make a few changes to Windows 8 that make it more familiar to those of us who already know Windows 7. The free solution is Windows Classic Shell. It provides a customizable start menu, returns the Start Button, and gives you a toolbar and status bar for Windows Explorer and a caption and status bar for Internet Explorer. Go to their web site for an overview of what your enhanced screens will look like.

The second solution is Stardock's Start8. Start8 returns the familiar Windows Start Button, and integrates certain functions of Windows 8 with the look and feel of the Windows 7 Desktop. It lets you configure the Windows 8 Start Screen size, makes the Windows 8 Start screen accessible from the Desktop Start menu, and allows you to disable some of the Windows 8 "hot spots" that can be annoying when in desktop mode. You can try it free for 30 days.

I think they are both fine solutions, and you might try each to see which works best for you.

Published: Courier 2/17/13 - Page 3C