Start menu revisited

New start screen.

If you’ve been following the updates the Shell team has made to the Start menu in Windows 10 Insider Preview Builds in 19H1, (which from the feedback we’ve received, it’s clear that a lot of you have been doing just that,) you’ll know that we’ve made some significant changes since the last Windows release.

So how has Start gotten to where it’s at now, and how are Windows Insiders helping us determine what’s next? Let’s take a look!

Streamlining the user experience

One of the first things we did with Start in 19H1 was to build on the usability improvements we introduced in earlier versions of Windows. This all began with a popular request from Insiders, expand the ability to remove pre-installed apps from Start. In 19H1, we more than doubled the number of pre-installed apps that can be removed.

Next up, we introduced a new way to easily unpin a folder or group of tiles. Managing multiple tiles has been one of your most upvoted requests for Start, and these unpin options help you configure your tiles even faster. At first, we rolled out to a test group of you, before making it available to all Insiders in the Fast ring.

Menu with unpin option displayed.
An easier way to unpin a folder or group of tiles.

We also introduced a simpler default Start layout for new devices, new user accounts, and clean installs. (Check out the layout at the top of this article.) This gives you a sleek, one-column design and fewer top-level tiles. Coupled with the earlier updates, users not only get a cleaner design on day one, but also get features to keep it that way, quickly and easily.

And we weren’t done, yet. We also added a little Fluent Design polish to the left navigation pane in Start, where the power button lives, and rolled it out as another experiment with Insiders. The experiment automatically expanded the left navigation pane on mouse hover to reveal button labels, making it easier to identify the different functionality in this pane, like the Documents and Pictures folders.

Your feedback was incredibly valuable, and on devices with labels, we saw an increased use of these functions. We’re now planning a larger rollout of this experiment to a retail audience to get even more feedback.

Finally, we experimented with showing an orange indicator on the power button when the device has an update requiring reboot (including new builds we release). We found that about 25 percent more Insiders who saw the indicator used this option to update their devices, so we decided to roll out the experience to all users.

Start menu with orange mark on power button.
The power button gets an orange indicator to signal a reboot is needed.

What’s next

As we moved through 19H1, you also provided us with valuable feedback on performance issues that cropped up with certain Insiders Preview builds. We were able to quickly address these issues (like delays in launching some Win32 apps) with the next builds, but we also introduced an update that would have an even deeper effect on reliability overall: we created a separate app for the Start menu experience in Windows.

Up until then, Start was part of the broader Shell experience. Moving Start into its own app, while of course still feeling integrated into the Shell, gives you several benefits. By protecting Start from potential issues impacting other surfaces, Insiders saw measurable improvements in Start reliability. With the new app in place, Start was opening much faster. Even better, because Start is such a big part of the overall Windows experience for most users, we saw these reliability improvements contributing to performance improvements for the entire OS.

As we plan for the next release of Windows, we’ll continue to keep a close eye on Insider feedback to help refine and improve our Start menu experience. Thanks for joining us on this exciting path forward!