/last updated on April 5, 2013/
Like or not, Windows 8 is here. And believe it or not, it’s the future to both Windows and Microsoft. But to end users, it is the mix of now and future. While the future is still unknown, the present is getting better with Windows 8 around.
To make the future brighter while still keeping the present pleasant, a lot of developers around the world are not only busying on developing new shiny Windows 8 Apps for the future, but also creating a lot of tweaking tools trying to make Windows 8 a better platform as well.
Here are a list of the best ones I’ve collected over the time, some we’ve covered before and some we haven’t. From this point on, this list will be treated as an always up-to-date list of tweaking tools for Windows 8. Because of this, I will be updating it constantly whenever there are new ones out that are better. Also note that only freeware will be listed.
The ditched Start Menu is being badly missed by many many early Windows 8 adopters, I have to admit, me included. Here are the tools to bring it back.
1. Pokki Menu
The Pokki Menu makes accessing and organizing your favorite apps, websites, files and folders more simple and convenient. Search your PC and the web to add your favorite apps and sites, then organize them like you would on a smart phone.
The Pokki version of Start Menu in Windows 8 looks awesome. You can also check out our review of the Pokki Menu here.
StartMenu8, brought to you by IObit, offers a perfect solution that not only brings back the missing Start Menu and Start button, but also offers the option to boot straight to desktop.
3. Classic Shell
Classic Shell is a collection of features that were available in older versions of Windows but were later removed. It has a customizable Start menu and Start button for Windows 7 and Windows 8, it adds a toolbar for Windows Explorer and supports a variety of smaller features.
Startw8 is a completely free windows 8 tweaking tool that brings the missing Windows 7 Style Start Menu that can be activated by the Win key, equipped with log off, lock, and turn off button, traditional search field, etc..
8StartButton is a fully new designed Start Menu that looks unique, different, and highly configurable and customizable.
6. Handy Start Menu new
Handy Start Menu is a free system utility designed specificallyfor Windows 8 to bring back the missing Start Menu, aiming to make Windows 8 a much friendly operating system.
Boot Straight to Desktop
To those who spend most of their time on Desktop, rather than on Start Screen and Modern App, it makes more sense if Windows 8 can boot straight to Desktop. We’ve covered a 3 ways that can do that without a 3rd party tool. However, tools like StartOnDesktop can make things a lot easier.
If you have IObit’s StartMenu8 installed for Start menu, you can turn the option to boot straight to desktop right in the tool.
The boot experience has been revamped in Windows 8, with a brand new GUI powered Boot Manager that does many things.
Boot UI Tuner is a boot experience tweaking tool for windows that enables/disables some hidden features in Windows 8 boot to make the boot experience more user friendly.
Win+X Menu Editor
WinX Menu, aka the power user menu, is a list of commonly used commands that can be brought up from the bottom left corner by simply press Win + X keyboard shortcut. Win+X Menu Editor serves to provide you a simple and useful way to edit Win+X menu without system files modification in Windows 8. It keeps untouched your system integrity.
Bring back the Desktop Gadgets
Desktop Gadgets are officially pulled off on Windows 8. Microsoft suggests using equivalent modern windows 8 app instead with the snap feature staying on top side by side with other apps, including desktop.
But for those Desktop Gadgets hardcore users, you will have to rely on the 3rd party utility tools to bring the missing Gadgets back on to your desktop. 8GadgetPack is one of the best out there.
Tweaking the Start Screen
Put aside the controversial of having two UI in one system, the Modern UI looks pretty to me. We don’t really need to tweak it to make it better. But hey, since nothing is perfect, and nothing is going to fit for everyone, we still need some tools to tweak it to at least make ourselves happy.
Start Screen Animations Tweaker - a portable tweaking tool that puts some animation onto the start screen.
Pin to 8 – formerly known as Start Screen Pinner, it’s the universal pinner software for Windows 8 that let you pin almost anything to the Start Screen or Taskbar.
Tile A File – is a simple tool that makes tiles on to the Start Screen for files that you commonly use so that you can quickly launch those files later on. It’s a native Windows 8 App that you can directly download and install from Windows Store.
Custom Tile Maker – a native Windows 8 App that creates a grid of custom Windows 8 Start Screen tiles out of any given images. Because it’s a native Windows 8 app, you can download and install it directly from Windows Store.
OblyTile – another Start Screen Tile making tool that creates a tile for any given program and pin it right on to the Start Screen.
Decor8 to personalize the Start Screen by customizing its background images, color scheme, and randomly rotating the Start Screen background.
Metro Scaler new to customize the Start Screen by setting up the scale to a specific display size.
Miscellaneous tweaking tools
Ease of Access Replacer to easily replace the Easy of Access button on the Logon Screen with different useful options. With this tool, you can even put a CMD prompt to the logon screen.
For those who miss the Aero effects in Windows 7, here is a detailed instruction on how to bring it back in Windows 8, by AddictiveTips. I haven’t personally tried it and will leave it to you to try out.
AutoPin Controller finally puts a stop to auto pinning the installed program to Start Screen. With this little tool you can temporary disable pinning feature, then you can install everything you want and it will not be pinned. After that you can unlock pinning feature again.
Tiny Windows Borders is a free portable Windows 8 tweaking tool that allows you to easily change the size of Windows borders in Windows 8. If you are not quite happy with the seem-to-be-too-wide windows border in Windows 8, this tool can make your life easier to change them.
7+ Taskbar Tweaker is an ultimate free taskbar tweaking tool not only for Windows 7 but also for Windows 8 as well. You can tweak almost every aspect of taskbar you can think of, including the mouse clicking, hovering, wheeling. You can even customize an action when double or middle clicking the empty space of Taskbar.
All-in-one Tweaking Suite
Tweak Me! is an all-in-one optimization utility that offers more than 180 registry tweaks for all commonly used versions of Windows. Some of the features offered in the tool are aimed specifically for Windows 8.
Glary Utilities Free is another whole suite package for Windows optimization, mostly performance oriented with user-friendly interface.
IObit Advanced SystemCare Free 6 is an easy-to-use system performance optimizer.
I am pretty sure that there are many others out there I’ve missed. So as I mentioned earlier, I will be treating this as an always up-to-date list with new tools I will be discovering and adding down the road.