Start menu

Updated: 04/01/2018 by Computer Hope

Windows Start menuThe Microsoft Windows Start menu is the primary location in Windows to locate your installed programs and find any files or folders. By default, the Start menu is accessed by clicking the Start button, located in the bottom-left corner of the Windows desktop screen. The picture to the right is an example of how the Windows 7 Start menu may appear.

Note: In Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, the Start menu has been replaced by the Start Screen. The Start menu returned in Windows 10 and is discussed later on this page.

Tip: You can press the Windows key on the keyboard or the Ctrl+Esc keyboard shortcut to open the Start menu.

What is accessible in the Start menu?

Below is an overview of the Windows Start menu found in Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7. If you have Windows 10 Skip down to the Windows 10 Start menu section.

Left Pane

The left pane shows recently started programs, or any pinned program shortcuts. In the above example, there is one pinned program separated by a line and then the recently ran programs.

All Programs

At the bottom of the left pane is the "All Programs" option, which displays all programs that have been installed on the computer.


Directly below the All Programs option is the "Search" bar. This useful feature allows you to type in the name of the program or file you're looking for and have the results displayed above.

Right Pane

The right pane shows each of the more commonly accessed sections of the computer, such as your Computer, Control Panel, Documents, Music, and Pictures.

Tip: You can find the version of Windows on your computer if you right-click on Computer and select Properties. In the System window you can view basic system properties, including the Windows version and access the Device Manager.

Shut down

At the bottom of the right pane is the Shut down button, which allows you to turn the computer off. You can also click the arrow next to the Shut down button to switch user, log off, restart, sleep, or hibernate the computer.

Windows 10 Start menu

The Windows 10 Start menu made some drastic changes to the Start menu available in previous versions of Windows as is immediately apparent in the picture below. One of the most noticeable changes is the integration of tiles (from the Windows 8 start screen) into the Start menu. From this Start menu, you can access all your programs through the "All apps" option and in the left pane.

Windows 10 Start menu

Operating system terms, Start