The Start Menu: in all probability it’s where you start, every time you turn on your PC. Disregarding a hiatus with Windows 8, it’s been a staple of the Windows desktop for generations with proven credentials as an efficient app launcher. Unfortunately, it still tends to attract inordinate amounts of bloat as you use your PC.
On a fresh Windows 10 install, the Start menu’s apps list is fairly tidy. Most apps, particularly UWP ones from the Store, are displayed at the root of the menu. Windows also includes a few folders, such as “Windows Accessories,” to group together less frequently-used utilities.
As you add more apps to your PC, your apps list can quickly start to lose its structure. Apps are able to add whichever shortcuts they like to the menu, and there’s little consistency between programs. Desktop apps in particular have a tendency to create a new folder for themselves and include a plethora of uninstallation, settings and website links. Over time, you might find it harder to locate an app, and you’ll also see unwanted shortcuts showing up in Windows Search.
Start Menu folders
All is not lost. You can manually move, create and delete Start menu shortcuts to restore some order to your PC. Under the hood, Windows relies on the same Start menu shortcut storage system as all older releases.
App list entries are located in one of two folders on your PC. These locations are nothing more than regular directories, the contents of which are automatically displayed in the Start menu.
The two directories are as follows:
The easiest way to open either of these locations is by using the Run prompt (press Win+R to open it quickly). Copy and paste the directory into the box and press “OK.” Alternatively, you can copy and paste the directory paths into the address bar in File Explorer.
As we noted above, these paths really are just regular folders. You should see immediately how the structure of your Start menu is replicated within the two “Programs” folders. If you want to delete an unwanted shortcut or folder, just select it and hit delete. When you reopen the Start menu, you’ll find it’s disappeared.
What to do now?
When you’re looking for a particular shortcut or folder, remember it might be in either of the two directories. A quick way to get to where a shortcut is located is to right-click it in the Start menu and choose “More > Open file location.”
Generally, software installed for every user of your PC will add its shortcuts to “%programdata%,” whereas programs installed for your profile only will be in “%appdata%.” Every shortcut and folder you add to the “%programdata%” location will show in the Start menu for all user accounts on your PC.
With the Start Menu storage system exposed, you should now be able to tidy up your apps list. You could try moving desktop apps out of individual folders, or creating your own custom folders to collect different kinds of app. Use File Explorer to copy, paste and delete shortcuts and folders as you see fit.
Adding new shortcuts
You might also want to add new shortcuts to the menu. In this example, we’ll add a link to the “winver” utility which displays the “About Windows” version prompt. We’ll name our link “About Windows” in the Start menu.
Open your Start menu folder (we’ll use “%appdata%”, since we don’t want other user accounts to see our shortcut). Right-click File Explorer’s background and choose “New > Shortcut.” In the prompt which appears, type “winver” and press OK. On the next screen, type “About Windows” to name your shortcut. Press OK and open the Start Menu – you should see your shortcut appear!
If you’re creating a shortcut to a program which doesn’t come with Windows, you’ll need to know the path to its executable file first (usually a “.exe” file). You can use the “Browse” button in the shortcut wizard to find programs on your PC. They’ll usually be inside the “C:WindowsProgram Files” folder, within a directory titled with the name of the program or developer.