How to Add a Classic All Programs Fly-Out Menu to the Windows 7 Start Menu

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The previous tip mentioned software for restoring the Classic Start menu to Windows 7. However, you might like to have a classic All Programs menu while keeping the good stuff that comes on the new Windows 7 Start menu. Here is a hack that will do just that.

But first please make a System Restore point or some other backup before you try to apply this tip. That way you can be sure you can get your original configuration back if something goes wrong

The hack uses one of the default (but unused) Start menu entries and turns it into a Programs menu. Administrator privileges may be required.  Here is how it goes:

  1. Use the procedure from an earlier tip (link here) to open the “Customize Start Menu” dialog.
  2. Scroll down the list and pick a folder you don’t normally use. Do not choose any entry for a folder that you are already using. Take care to leave important standard items like Control Panel alone. A likely candidate for many people to use for this hack is the “Recorded TV” folder and I will use that name in the instructions. Depending on your usage patterns, "Games", "Music", and "Videos" may also be possibilities for replacement
  3. Select “Display as a menu” for the chosen folder (figure 1) and click “OK” twice.
  4. Return to the desktop and open the Start menu.
  5. You should now find an entry on the right side called “Recorded TV”.
  6. Right-click “Recorded TV”.
  7. In the context menu, select “Properties”. Figure 2 shows the dialog that opens.
  8. Click “Include a Folder...” 
  9. In the folder dialog that opens, navigate to \ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs. Note that this is a “hidden” folder and you must first make hidden folders visible--see this link for the procedure.
  10. Click “Include Folder”. Figure 2 will return with the new folder listed.
  11. Highlight the "Recorded TV" entry under "Library Locations" and use the "Remove" button to delete it. 
  12. In the drop-down menu “Optimize this library for:” change the entry to “General items” (highlighted in yellow in figure 2).
  13. Click “OK”.

Figure 1. Configuring an item for the Start menu
Customize the Start menu

Figure 2.Configuring the new Start menu folder
Configure folder properties

You will now have a fly-out entry in the Start menu that will expand across the screen to show all the sub-folders and sub-sub-folders, etc. for the Programs list (figure 3). However, it will still be called “Recorded TV" on the Start menu. Rename the entry by right-clicking it and choosing “Rename” from the context menu. Enter “Programs” or your choice of name.

Now enjoy being able to open everything in the Programs list by hovering the mouse. And you still have all the new Windows 7 Start menu features. Note that you aren't limited to the Programs list. You could choose to add a different folder in step 9 above. 

Figure 3. An example of a fly-out menu
Example of fly-out menu

You can undo most of the hack by clicking the button “Restore Defaults” in the lower right part of figure 2. The Start menu will still show “Programs” so rename it back to “Recorded TV”. You can then remove the Start menu entry by selecting “Don’t display this item” as shown in figure 1.

One glitch for older or low-end PCs is that just mousing over an entry may not produce the fly-out effect because the graphics memory does not support it. In that case, you will have to click an item to get sub-folders to open.

This procedure works for Vista as well and for both 32- and 64-bit operating system. It can also be implemented by editing the Registry.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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