Start button

Windows start buttons1. The Start button was first introduced with the release of Microsoft Windows 95 and featured in all future releases of Microsoft Windows up to Windows 8. The Start button allows users to access their computer programs or configure Microsoft Windows easily. The picture to the right shows different examples of the Start buttons found in Windows. The gray Start button at the top was the first Start button, found in early versions of Microsoft Windows. In the second picture, this Start button made a brief appearance in Windows XP. Next, Start was removed and the button was made into the Start Orb, which just had the Windows logo in a circle and used with Windows Vista and Windows 7. Finally, Microsoft removed the Start button from Windows 8, but later brought it back with Windows 8.1.

Note: To determine which version of Windows is on your computer, you can review our guide on How to determine Windows version.

By default, the Windows Start button has always been found in the bottom left-hand part of the screen. This can be changed to the top left or top right-hand of the screen by moving the Windows Taskbar. Clicking the Start button opens the Start Menu, which provides access to all the programs installed on the computer, as well the following:

  • My Computer - access to the computer hard drive, CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drives, as well as saved network locations
  • My Documents - common location where personal files are stored; changed to just "Documents" since Windows Vista
  • Search - search for files on the computer; Since Windows Vista, the Search text box replaced the "Run" option
  • Run - start programs by entering the program's executable filename and access a command prompt screen by entering the 'cmd' command; found in Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows.
  • Control Panel - access to operating system utilities and configuration options, as well as user accounts on the computer and the ability to change the password for a user account
  • Printer and Faxes - provides a list of the printers installed on the computer; since Windows Vista, changed to "Devices and Printers"

Note: In the initial release of Windows 8, the Start button has been replaced by the Start Screen. Later versions of Windows 8, more commonly referred to as Windows 8.1, have a Start button (shown in the image above, at the bottom) that opens the Start Screen.

2. Start is also a command line command that enables a user to start a separate window in Windows from the Windows command line. See the start command page for further information on this command.

3. The term start (startup) can also be used to describe when a computer loads a software program or the computer is first booting.

Also see: Apple menu, Button, Operating system terms, Push-button, Taskbar, Missing Windows Start button and Taskbar