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Welcome to the latest installment of Ask ZDNet, where we tackle your toughest tech questions because we love a challenge.
Think you can stump the Ask ZDNet editors? Take your best shot! Send your questions to ask(at)zdnet(dot)com.
In the mailbag this week: How to make Windows 11 more like Windows 10.
Every new version of Windows brings out its share of negative reactions from people who wonder why Microsoft felt it necessary to change things up for no obvious reason. Windows 11 seems to have kicked that reaction up to, uh … 11, especially with the decision to remove some features that power users took for granted.
The good news is that there's a thriving community of developers building tools, free and paid, to remove Microsoft's changes and turn the Windows 11 interface into something more familiar. We can recommend these four:
ExplorerPatcher: This free, open source project lets you replace the Windows 11 taskbar with the Windows 10 version, disable the Windows 11 context menu and command bar in File Explorer, and tweak the Start menu and search box. There's a full list of features in the project's wiki.
Open Shell: Longtime Windows users might remember a utility program called Classic Shell, whose original purpose was to restore the Start menu to Windows 8. That project was abandoned years ago, but a group of volunteers picked up the codebase and turned it into the free Open Shell. Its biggest claim to fame is the ability to restore the Windows 7 Start menu and the Windows Explorer toolbar.
Start11: This commercial product from Stardock offers a 30-day trial; after that, you'll need to pony up $6 for a single device or $15 for a license that works on up to five devices. You can replace the Windows 11 Start menu with its Windows 7 or Windows 10 version, move the taskbar to the top of the display and restore the taskbar context menu, and change a bunch of customization options.
StartAllBack: The bold promise of this commercial tool ($5 for a single device, with discounts for additional installations) is to "unsweep [the] classic UI from under the rug." The list of tweaks includes the ability to drag and drop items onto taskbar icons, improvements to Start, File Explorer, and context menus, and "lightweight styling and UI consistency." Like Start11, it offers a 30-day free trial.
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