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Customize Start menu in Windows 7

How to customize Start menu in Windows 7 - pinning, privacy and other settings

By . Last modified: 2013-04-09.

Windows XP and Windows Vista had a section on the top of Start menu for default Internet and e-mail programs. Windows 7 has no such place by default. Obviously, you can find any program using Start menu Search box or pin most important ones to Taskbar, but if you really like to have some programs on the top of Start menu, use pinning.

To pin a program for quick access, find it using Start menu Search box or locate it using Windows Explorer. Right-click on the program name and click Pin to Start Menu.
Windows 7 Start menu. To pin a program to the top of Start menu, right-click on its name and select Pin to Start Menu.

Now the program is on the top of Start menu and a thin dividing line appears beneath it to tell off it's pinned.

In case you do not want a program to be pinned, right-click on its name and select Unpin from Start Menu.
Windows 7 Start menu. To unpin a program from the top of Start menu, right-click on its name and select Unpin from Start Menu.

Deleting a program from recently used programs list

If you need to tidy up the recently used programs list on Start menu, right-click on the program name you want to remove and click Remove from this list.
Windows 7 Start menu. To remove a program from Start menu recently used programs list, right-click the program name and select Remove from this list.

Pinning and unpinning items on Jump Lists

Recent items on Jump Lists are great, but sometimes it comes in handy to store an item on a Jump List permanently. For example, when you open many documents a day with the same program, its Jump List fills up and contents are replaced dynamically. But what if you have an important item that you need to open quickly any time? Answer to this is - use pinning.
To pin an item to a program's Jump List, move your mouse pointer over the item and click the Pin to this list mark.
Windows 7, Start Menu, program Jump List. To store an item on a program's Jump List permanently, move your mouse pointer on the item and click Pin to this list.

This will add Pinned section to the top of the program's Jump List.

When you no longer need a pinned document, click Unpin from this list mark to the right of the document's name.
Windows 7, Start Menu, program Jump List, pinned items. To remove an item from pinned category, click Unpin from this list.

Customizing Start menu Privacy options - program and documents tracking

Right-click on Start button and choose Properties.
Windows 7 Start menu. To customize Start menu settings, right-click on Start button and select Properties.

Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window opens. 

Below the Power button action is the Privacy section.
To see a list of recently used programs, leave the Store and display recently opened programs in the Start menu box checked.
To see a list of recently opened documents or items for each program (Jump Lists) and the Recent Items list, leave the Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar box checked. If you prefer to be very private about what you're doing on the computer, clear this check box - this prevents others seeing which documents and items you have opened.
Windows 7, Start menu, Privacy options. To see recently used programs on Start menu, check the Store and display recently opened programs in the Start menu box. To see recently opened documents or items for each program, check the Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar box.

Here is an example what recently opened items list looks like in Start menu. Here are recent pictures opened by IrfanView photo viewer.
Windows 7, Start menu. A list of recently opened items for Irfanview in Start menu.

And here's what a Jump List looks like in Taskbar. To see that list, right-click on a program icon in Taskbar.
Windows 7, Taskbar. A list of recently opened items for Irfanview in Taskbar. This is available by right-clicking on a program icon on Taskbar.

If you have Recent Items on your Start menu, you can also right-click it and select the Clear recent items list command to empty it.
Windows 7 Start menu. To clear recently opened documents list, right-click Recent Items. Then select Clear recent items list.

In case you just need to remove some items from a program's Jump List, you can right-click the program icon on Taskbar (the program must be running). If the program is in Start menu Recently used programs list, you can also use its Jump List there.
In the Jump List, right-click the item you want to delete and then click Remove from this list.
Windows 7, Taskbar Jump List for a program. To remove an item from Jump List, right-click the program icon on Taskbar. Then right-click the item you want to remove under Recent list and click Remove from this list.

It is a whole different story when you need to clear all Jump Lists at once. Microsoft has provided no easy way for this. But sometimes you just have to... Wink The process needs some brainwork to discover, but it is neither as difficult nor impossible as some web pages describe.

First, open Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window by right-clicking on Start button and clicking Properties. Make sure you are on Start Menu tab!
Under Privacy section clear the Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and  the taskbar box. Click Apply.
Windows 7, Taskbar and Start Menu Properties. To clear all Jump Lists at once, clear the Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar box. Click Apply button. Next, re-enable the check box and click OK.

Next, re-enable the check box and click OK. Check it out - the Jump Lists are empty now! Cool

Free CCleaner is also capable of clearing Jump Lists - the option is available in Windows Explorer section of Cleaner tab.

Customizing the looks of Start menu - items displayed, highlighting of new programs, etc

First, you can select default action for Power button in Start menu. Power button is located to the right of Start menu Search box.
Windows 7 Start menu. Power button is located next to Start menu Search box.

You can set the Power button to switch users, log off, lock computer, restart the computer or shut down the computer - whatever you do most often.
Select your preference from the Power button action box.
Windows 7, Start menu. To change what Power button in Start menu does, select an action from Power button action list.

Next, click Customize... button in Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window.
Windows 7 Start menu. To select items displayed in the right side of Start menu, click Customize.

Customize Start Menu window opens.
Computer is set to Display as a link by default. This is fine for most of us, but you can also use Display as a menu - this will display all fixed and removable drives while you hover your mouse over Computer item in Start menu.
Connect To is pretty much unneeded in Windows 7. This command will open a list of available wireless (wi-fi), VPN (virtual private network) and dial-up connections, so that you can connect to a different network by clicking on its name. But there is a much easier way of opening the same list - just click (not right-click!) the Network icon in Taskbar Notification Area to select a wireless, VPN or dial-up connection to connect to. Then click an item on the list to connect to it. Network icon is the one with monitor and cable on the left side (between Power and Sound icons on the picture below).
Windows 7, Customize Start menu. You do not need to add Connect To item to Start menu. To see a list of available wireless, VPN and dial-up networks, just click the Network icon in Taskbar Notification area.

Control Panel can finally be removed from Start menu in Windows 7. As long as you leave Search programs and Control Panel option checked (described later in this article), you no longer need to enter the endless maze of Control Panel options. Just type in something you need (such as "device manager", "system information", "event viewer", etc) to Start menu Search box and click the needed item. If it makes you feel safer, you can leave Control Panel setting to Display as a link, though. Smile
Default Programs can be safely unchecked. This is the equivalent of what Set Program Access and Defaults is in Windows XP. As you do not need to change your default programs or file associations often, this one is pretty unnecessary.
Devices and Printers opens a list of all printers, webcams, fingerprint readers, etc installed and connected to your computer. There you can configure these. Leave this one checked if you have local or network printers connected and you need to configure these often.
Documents is essentially what My Documents is in Windows XP. Leave this one to Display as a link, because displaying a menu of all items available in this folder might take a lot of time and slow down your computer.
Windows 7, Customize Start menu. Always leave Computer, Control Panel, Devices and Printers and Documents checked. Check Connect To only if you switch between wireless, VPN or dial-up connections often. Uncheck the Default Programs box.

Here's what Computer displayed as a menu looks like in Windows 7 Start menu. It does make opening specific drives easier.
Windows 7 Start menu, Computer displayed as a menu.

Let's scroll down the Customize Start Menu options.

Set Downloads to Display as a link if you download documents and programs often. This will add a link to your default downloads folder in Start menu. Again, do not use Display as a menu here because loading a list of the folder contents might take a long time.
Enable context menus and dragging and dropping removes or adds the ability to use right-click menus and rearranging items with mouse, but also the ability to pin and unpin programs and items on Jump Lists, plus removing items from Recently used programs list. This one is recommended if your mouse is acting strangely and moves items accidentally, or if you have a curious kid playing with your computer often. You can still launch a program as an administrator by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Enter on your keyboard.
Favorites menu is a list of Internet Explorer favorites. Check this if you need to open links from favorites really often.
Display Games as a link if you like to play games that came with Windows. Otherwise, it is safe to set it to Don't display this item.
Leave Help checked, this is a link to Windows 7 Help and Support Center - a place for finding answers to your problems.
Highlight newly installed programs is up to you really. If this one is enabled, new programs (freshly installed) on Start menu will be highlighted with yellow or orange background color to make it easier finding them. But you can still use Start menu Search Box for finding these. If you don't like the highlighting, clear the check mark. See pictures below for highlighting examples.
Homegroup is necessary only if you have joined one. Homegroup is a group of computers on the same local network that share some resources (files, printers, etc).
Display Music as a link if you have some music (mp3-s, wma-s, etc) on your computer. If you're not a music fan, you might as well turn the link off. Never use the Display as a menu option here, as building the list of all available music can severely affect the performance of your computer.
Windows 7, Customize Start Menu. Set Downloads to Display as a link.

Here's an example how new program highlighting looks like with IrfanView being the freshly installed program.
Windows 7 Start Menu. If Highlight newly installed programs is turned on, newly installed items on Start menu will be highlighted with different color. Windows 7 Start Menu. If Highlight newly installed programs is turned on, newly installed items on Start menu will be highlighted with different color.

Let's scroll down the list again.
Network is not needed unless your computer is joined to some corporate network (domain).
When Open submenus when I pause on them with the mouse pointer is checked, a folder on Start menu will be opened after you stop your mouse pointer on it for a second. If the option is unchecked, you must click on a folder on Start menu to open it.
Personal folder is something like user's profile folder was in Windows XP. Leave it to Display as a link. There you can find Documents, Pictures, Music and other personal folders.
Pictures is again up to you. If you have photos and pictures on your computer and you want a quick access to them, leave this setting to Display as link. In case you have no interest in photos, you can remove it from Start menu by selecting Don't display this item.
Recent Items in Windows 7 is really no longer needed, as all programs have their own Jump Lists and Recently used items lists. Leave this one unchecked.
Recorded TV is turned off by default and only those who use Windows Media Center for recording TV shows should use Display as a link option here.
Run command is no longer needed in Windows 7. Use Start menu Search Box for launching programs and commands instead, or press Windows Key+R to open Run dialog.
Windows 7, Customize Start Menu. Leave Personal folder and Pictures in tact. Clear Recent Items and Run command check boxes.

Scroll down the Customize Start Menu again - for the last time. Wink
Set Search other files and libraries to Search with public folders. This enables Start menu searching for items in Public (shared) folders and it will probably give better search results when you share your computer with other people.
Leave Search programs and Control Panel checked. This means you no longer have to enter the labyrinth-like Control Panel, just type the needed item's name into Start menu Search box and click the item you need.
Sort All Programs menu by name option (when turned on) essentially sorts all folders and items by name in ascending order. This makes finding items easier. If you turn it off, all new folders and items will be added to the bottom of All Programs menu, just like in Windows XP.
System administrative tools is a place normal users do not need very often. Besides, all items there are perfectly findable via Start menu Search box. Leave this one to Don't display this item unless you need to access Event Viewer, Computer Management, Local Security Policy or other consoles often.
Use large icons is a must for modern high-resolution displays. This will use larger icons and fonts for Recently used programs list on Start menu and therefore makes reading a bit easier. But if you like small text or you want more than 10 recently used programs on your Start menu (described later in this article), clear the check box.
Videos is again your choice. If you have many videos on your computer and you want quick access to them, set this item to Display as a link. Because creating a list of all videos available would take some time, I do not recommend setting this one to Display as a menu. Or you can just remove this item from Start menu by selecting Don't display this item.
Windows 7, Customize Start Menu. Set Search other files and libraries to Search with public folders. Check the Search programs ans Control Panel box, Sort All Programs menu by name box and Use large icons box.

If you need more than 10 recent programs on your Start menu, move your eyes to Start menu size section. Set Number of recent programs to display to your liking. Remember to uncheck the Use large icons box from options list above, otherwise your Start menu might look stretched out.
If you want to see more than 10 recent documents or items in program's jump list, adjust the Number of recent items to display in Jump Lists option.
Use Default Settings button restores Start menu to its original state. Click this button only if you really messed something up on Start menu and you can't find a way to recover.
Windows 7, Customize Start Menu. Adjust Number of recent programs to display and Number of recent items to display in Jump Lists as you like.

And finally, click OK to accept changes. Smile

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