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Customize Start menu in Windows XP

By . Last modified: 2014-08-14.

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

By default there are only two programs pinned to Start menu - Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. If you use some program very often and you do not want to put it in Quick Launch toolbar, you can pin it to Start menu. You cannot pin folders, just programs.

These actions need dragging and dropping to be turned on for Start menu. Move down to read about this feature.

Open Start menu by pressing CTRL+ESC or WINDOWS KEY on your keyboard or by clicking Start button. Move your mouse pointer to All Programs and find your favorite program on the list.
Right-click on the program name and select Pin to Start menu:
Windows XP, Start menu. To pin a program to Start menu, right-click on it and select Pin to Start menu command.

Now the program appears on the top of Start menu, right under the default Internet browser and e-mail program:
Windows XP, Start menu. A pinned program appears on the top of Start menu, under Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.

If you want to unpin a program from Start menu, right-click on it and select Unpin from Start menu:
Windows XP, Start menu. To remove a pinned program from Start menu, right-click on it and select Unpin from Start menu command.

Deleting a program from recently used programs list

Sometimes there are programs on Start menu's most used programs list that are not necessary. You can delete them from this list easily. This will not delete the program or its folder, just the link from the list.

To remove a program for most used programs list on Start menu, right-click on it and select Remove from This List:
Windows XP, Start menu. To remove a program from most used programs list, right-click on it and select Remove from This List command.

The program will be removed and replaced by another program that you've used recently (if available).

Sorting Start Menu's All Programs list

When a new program is installed, its folder or link is placed at the very bottom of All Programs list. You can use mouse for dragging and rearranging programs on the list.

But some people like their programs sorted alphabetically for easy visual searching. To do that, open Start menu and stop your mouse pointer on All Programs. When All Programs list opens, right-click any item on it and select Sort by Name:
Windows XP, Start menu. To sort All Programs list alphabetically, right-click any item on All Programs list and select Sort by Name command.

Customizing Start menu Privacy options - program and documents tracking

Right-click on Start button and choose Properties.

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

Click Customize in the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window, Start Menu tab.
Windows XP, Start menu. Under Taskbar and Start Menu Properties click Customize button to select Start menu settings.

Customize Start Menu window opens. To clear and disable the list of most often used programs, set the Number of programs on Start menu to 0. If you just want to clear the list, click Clear List instead.
Windows XP, Customize Start Menu, General tab. To disable program tracking, set the Number of programs on Start menu to 0. To clear the list of recently used programs, click Clear List.

Next, open the Advanced tab. To stop displaying of recent documents on Start menu, clear the List my most recently opened documents check box. In case you just want to empty the list, click Clear List. This affects the My Recent Documents list in Start menu.
Windows XP, Customize Start Menu, Advanced tab. To disable recent documents tracking, uncheck the List my most recently opened documents box. To clear the list of recently opened documents, click Clear List.

Here's how the My Recent Documents list looks in Windows XP.
Windows XP, Start menu, My Recent Documents list

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

To further personalize Start menu and items on it, click the Customize... button in Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window, Start Menu tab.
Windows XP, Taskbar and Start Menu Properties. To personalize Start menu, click Customize.

Customize Start Menu window opens.

First, you can select the icon size in Start menu. If your display resolution is low or if you need to display more than 6 recently used programs, it might be useful to choose to use Small icons instead of the default Large icons option from the Select an icon size for programs section in General tab.
To display default Internet browser and e-mail program on the top left of Start menu, leave the Internet and E-mail check boxes activated in the Show on Start menu section. You can set the default program by selecting an item from the combo box.
Windows XP, Customize Start menu, General tab. To display more programs on Recently Used Programs list, select Small icons from the Select an icon size for programs section. To display default Internet browser and e-mail program on Start menu, leave both check boxes checked in the Show on Start menu section.

Next, open the Advanced tab.
Leave the Open submenus when I pause on them with my mouse option checked. If this is turned off, you'll have to click a Start menu folder to open it.
To disable displaying newly installed programs with an alternate background color, clear the Highlight newly installed programs check box.
Windows XP, Customize Start Menu, Advanced tab. To disable displaying new programs with alternate background color, clear the Highlight newly installed programs check box.

This disables the "New programs installed" notification and highlighting of new programs on Start menu.
Windows XP, Start menu. Highlight newly installed programs turned on. A yellow pop-up appears each time a new program has been installed. Windows XP, Start menu. Highlight newly installed programs turned on. New programs and folders will be highlighted.

In the Start menu items list, leave Control Panel set to Display as a link. Displaying it as a menu can slow down your computer quite a bit.
In case you want to lock Start menu items and disable right-click menus, clear the Enable dragging and dropping option. This prevents accidental removal or rearrangement of items on Start menu, but also pinning and unpinning programs, plus the ability to remove individual items from the list of recently used programs.
To display a menu of Internet Explorer favorites (bookmarks) on Start menu, enable the Favorites menu option.
Windows XP, Start menu. Customize Start Menu, Advanced tab. Set Control Panel to Display as a link. Turn on the Enable dragging and dropping option.

Scroll down a page on the Start menu items list.
Leave the Help and Support item checked for easy access to manuals.
My Computer is displayed as a link by default. If you want to be able to open specific hard disks or removable and network drives, or Shared Documents straight from Start menu, set this to Display as a menu.
Please note that this might slow down your computer while opening the menu - if so, use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+E to open My Computer quickly.
Windows XP, Start menu, Customize Start Menu, Advanced tab. Leave My Computer displayed as a link.

Here's how the My Computer menu looks:
Windows XP, Start menu, My Computer displayed as a menu

Similar following items - My Documents, My Music and My Pictures - should all be left as a default, Display as a link. Opening these as a menu will severly affect the performance of your computer if there are many items in these folders.
If you are on a home network where computers share printers or files, you might want to enable the My Network Places item to access shares quickly. Else, leave it disabled.
Windows XP, Start menu, Customize Start Menu, Advanced tab. Enable the My Network Places option only if you have shared resources on home network.

If you are using both wired and wireless connections to the Internet or local network(s) and you need to reconfigure network properties often, you might want to set the Network Connections item to Link to Network Connections Folder. This opens a list of installed network cards.
In case you use dial-up networking, VPN connections or need to switch between wi-fi networks frequently, set this option to Display as Connect to menu.
Otherwise, set Network Connections to Don't display this item.
If you have local or network printers or faxes connected, enable the Printers and Faxes option.
The Run command on Start menu depends on your needs. Remember, you can open the command with keyboard shortcut Windows Key+R.
Windows XP, Start menu, Customize Start Menu, Advanced tab. If you do not have a home network, set Network Connections to Don't display this item. Enable Printers and Faxes only if you have local or network printers connected.

If you have so many items on the All Programs list that they don't fit in one column, the Scroll Programs option displays arrowheads on the top and bottom of the list, rather than extending the list to  the right. If the option is disabled, All Programs list will be displayed in multiple columns.
Search item allows an easy access to Windows Search. You can also open Windows Search window with keyboard shortcut Windows Key+F.
Clear the Set Program Access and Defaults option as you do not need to reconfigure this often.
System Administrative Tools depends on your needs. If you need to open Computer Management, Event Viewer, Services or Performance consoles often, set this to Display on the All Programs menu and the Start menu for easier access. But if you do not use these items frequently, leave the option at its default - Don't display this item.
Windows XP, Start menu, Customize Start Menu, Advanced tab. Clear the Set Program Access and Defaults check box.

Here's how a long Start menu looks with Scroll Programs disabled and enabled.
Windows XP, Start menu, Scroll programs turned off. Programs are displayed in multiple columns. Windows XP, Start menu, Scroll programs turned on. Programs are displayed in one column, with arrowheads for scrolling up or down.

 

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