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The Start menu is the main gateway to everything your computer has to offer. All installed programs can be accessed here, you can view different locations on your computer, and you can use it to search and view files.

Using the Start Menu

You should be fairly comfortable using the Start menu now, but a refresher never hurts. Click the Start button in the lower left-hand corner of your screen to view the Start menu:

Figure 1: Windows start menu.

Click an item in the list on the left to open the program, and use the links on the right to access different areas of your computer or change settings.
Point to the (>) arrow beside a program name to open content or features recently used by that program:

Figure 2: Recently used features arrow.

Search parts of your computer by typing part of a file or program name into the Search Bar at the bottom of the menu:

Figure 3: Search of programs and files.

Finally, you can click Shut down to turn off your computer or use other power options:

Figure 4: Power options in start menu.

Customizing the Start Menu

Most people will find the default Start menu layout easy to use. However, if you would rather not have so many icons, or have a very specific layout that you like to use, Windows lets you customize just about everything. To customize the Start menu, right-click in an empty space on the taskbar and click Properties.

When the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box appears, click the Start Menu tab, and then click Customize:

Figure 5: Start menu properties.

The Customize Start Menu dialog box will appear:

Figure 6: Options to customize the start menu.

The list at the top of the window allows you to modify many of the main commands in the Start menu. Each of the items in the Computer Control area of the Start menu can be displayed as a link to a folder, displayed as a submenu inside the Start menu, or removed from the Start menu.

You can choose to enable/disable the Favorites folder which gives you quick access to all the stored Web sites on your computer. You can also choose to highlight any programs that have been installed recently:

Figure 7: Favorites folder and highlight new programs options.

There are other options that can be enabled here as well. If you have a network of printers that you have access to, you can add a Printers link to view the properties and print queues of the different machines. You also have the option to add a Run command, which lets you open programs by entering their specific launch command.

You can also control how many recently used programs to display and how many recent items to show in a Jump List (like how many previously visited Web pages in Internet Explorer). Finally, you can undo any changes and restore the default Start menu by clicking the Use Default Settings button:

Figure 8: Number of recent programs and items displayed.

Click Cancel to discard any changes you have made or click OK to accept the changes.

Using the Pinned List

The Start menu contains an area at the top where you can "pin" commonly used programs. By default, there are no items pinned to the list; instead, the order of programs shown when you click the Start menu will change depending on how often you use the program.

You can add any program to the pinned list by right-clicking a program icon in the Start menu and clicking Pin to Start Menu:

Figure 9: Option to pin an item to the start menu.

Now each time you click the Start button, that program will always be at the top of the Start menu and separated from the other icons with a faint line:

Figure 10: Program pinned in the start menu.

Conversely, if you want to remove an item from the pinned list, right-click the pinned icon in and click Unpin from Start Menu.

Other Start Menu Properties

There are a few other commands that you can use to modify the Start menu. Right-click the Taskbar and click Properties, and then click the Start Menu tab:

Figure 11: Start menu properties.

By default, the power command in the Start menu will shut down the computer. You can click the combo box and select a different power option, like Restart or Log off.

You can also enable or disable the ability to display recently used programs and files/items in the Start menu.