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How to Make Windows 11 Look and Feel Like Windows 10

Windows 11 Looking Like Windows 10
(Image credit: Future)

There are lots of reasons to upgrade to the preview version of Windows 11, but that doesn't mean you have to live with all aspects of the new user interface. Perhaps, like me, you don't like the new Start Menu because it takes up so much space. Or maybe you hate the fact that File Explorer is missing a ribbon menu or that right click menus only hold 7 options and force you to click "Show more options" to see them all.

The good news is that, with a combination of registry tweaks, third-party apps and some different art work, you can get some of the look and feel of Windows 10 back in Windows 11. The bad news is that Microsoft doesn't seem to want you to go back to a previous UI so it may disable any registry hacks you use in future updates. And these are hacks for a frequently-changing beta OS so there's no guarantee you won't run into bugs; proceed at your own risk.

Below, we'll outline a number of tweaks for different parts of the UI and you can use one, several, or all of them to get the look you want.

Get a More Windows 10-Like Start Menu

Sadly, at the moment, there's no way to bring back the exact Windows 10 Start menu. You can, however, install one of at least three third-party utilities that give you a menu design that's similar to Windows 7, which in its own way, is much closer to the look of Windows 10's menu, depending on how you customize it. 

And if, like me, what you dislike most about Windows 11's Start menu is how much screen real estate it takes up and how far apart the icons are, using one of these utilities is a great fix. We have a more detailed tutorial on how to replace the Windows 11 Start menu, but we'll also outline the basic steps below.

First, you need to choose which Start menu utility to install. The three main choices are:

  • Open-Shell: Free, open source and does not require any registry hacks to work with its own shell-shaped Start button. If you want the Windows 10 icon for your start button, you will need to use the classic taskbar registry hack.
  • StartIsBack++: Looks more polished than Open-Shell. Needs classic taskbar hack (see below) to work properly. Costs $3.99 but has a 30-day trial, after which it works with some diminished functionality.
  • Start10: Perhaps the most polished looking, this costs $4.99 and also has a 30-day trial and requires a registry hack to work at all.

If you install Open-Shell and don't want to have the bugs you get from bringing back the classic taskbar -- all of which we'll get to below -- all you need to do after setting up the program is to shift the taskbar icons to the left. To do that, just right click on the taskbar, select Taskbar Settings and then navigate to Taskbar Behaviors and choose Left from the alignment menu. 

left align the taskbar

(Image credit: Future)

Your Start button, which looks like a shell unless you upload a custom one, will then cover the Windows 11 button, and it will work. 

Open Shell with taskbar aligned to left and Aero shell icon

(Image credit: Future)

However, if you want to use Open-Shell and get the accurate Windows 10 Start button icon, you will need to restore the Windows 10 classic task bar and set Open-Shell not to Replace the Start button. The classic taskbar has its own Windows 10 Start button, so it will use that. 

Uncheck Replace Start button in Open Shell to get the Windows 10 Start button

Uncheck Replace Start button in Open Shell to get the Windows 10 Start button (Image credit: Future)

Get Windows 10's Classic Taskbar

If you want the most Windows 10-like experience, you can bring back Windows 10's classic taskbar in Windows 11 . . . at least for now. You need to use this method right now if you choose to use StartIsBack++ or Start10 or if you want to use Open-Shell and get the correct Windows 10 icon as your Start button. 

There's a simple registry tweak that will get you the classic taskbar, but before we go there, note the trade-offs. First, this is a registry hack that Microsoft is likely to disable at some point because the company clearly wants you to use the Windows 11 taskbar.  

Second, a few icons on this bar don't work and need to be hidden or disabled. There's a search box, but clicking it does nothing, and you may see a Cortana button that does nothing. The Task View button is worse than useless as it crashes when you click it, causing the taskbar to hide your icons for a minute or two while it recovers, so you should hide it also. Considering that the Windows 11 taskbar's Task View and search buttons work, this is a loss of functionality. However, you can search directly from the Start menu and hit Windows key + Tab to get the Task View menu.

On the bright side, enabling the classic taskbar also gives you back the Windows 10 File manager (with ribbon) and the Windows 10 right click context menus. However, if you don't use the classic taskbar, you can get those back in another way, which we'll explain in a section later. It also allows you to unlock the taskbar and drag it to the sides or top of the screen.

If you're willing to live with the downsides, here are the steps for getting the Windows 10 taskbar in Windows 11. Make sure your third-party Start menu app is installed before you take these steps.

1. Open Regedit. You can get there by hitting Windows key + R and typing regedit into the run box.

2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell\Update\Packages

navigate to the appropriate registry key

(Image credit: Future)

3. Create a DWORD (32-bit) Value called UndockingDisabled and set its value to 1. You create new values by right-clicking in the right pane of Regedit and selecting New->DWORD (32-bit) Value, then renaming the entry to the appropriate name and double-clicking on it to get the value dialog box. 

Create a value called UndockingDisabled and set it to 1

(Image credit: Future)

4. Close Regedit and restart Windows. You'll now have the classic Windows 10 Start menu and, if you installed your third-party Start menu, a working Start menu that is more compact than Windows 11's and has a built-in search function.

Open-Shell and Windows 10 Classic Taskbar in Windows 11

(Image credit: Future)

However, you'll notice that the clock, volume control and network icons are missing from the right side of the taskbar. You'll want to get them back.

5. Hit Windows key + R and enter shell:::{05d7b0f4-2121-4eff-bf6b-ed3f69b894d9}  to launch the notification control panel. 

open the notification area control panel

(Image credit: Future)

6. Click "Turn system icons on or off."

click turn system icons on or off

(Image credit: Future)

7. Toggle Clock, Volume and Network to On then Click Ok.

toggle clock, icons and network to on

(Image credit: Future)

You'll have those icons back on the right side of the taskbar, but next, you should hide the icons you can't use, particularly the Task View button that crashes when you click it.

8. Right click on the desktop and select Personalize.

click Personalize

(Image credit: Future)

9. Open the Taskbar submenu.

open Taskbar

(Image credit: Future)

10. Toggle Task View to off.

toggle task view to off

(Image credit: Future)

If you really want to, you can leave the search box and/or Cortana button in place since they don't cause any harm, but they also don't do anything, so you'll probably want to hide them.

11. Right click the taskbar and highlight Show Cortana button to make it disappear.

Show Cortana button

(Image credit: Future)

12. Open Regedit and navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Search

13. Set Searchbox TaskbarMode to 0.

set Searchbox TaskbarMode

(Image credit: Future)

14. Close Regedit and restart Windows.

Ungrouping Taskbar Icons

One Windows 10 feature you might miss is the ability to maintain separate taskbar icons for each of your windows. By default Windows 10 and 11 both combine all your windows from a particular program -- for example, your web browser -- into a single icon, which you must hover over to see the window titles. However, in Windows 10 and -- if you use the Windows 10 classic taskbar in Windows 11 -- you can change this behavior.

To ungroup your taskbar icons in Windows 11, you must have the classic taskbar enabled and then do the following:

1. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer in Regedit.

2. Create a DWORD (32-bit) Value called NoTaskGrouping, if it doesn't already exist, and set it to 1. (h/t to user Dacrone on the Windows Eleven Forum for sharing this).

Set NoTaskGrouping to 1

(Image credit: Future)

3. Close Regedit and restart Windows.

You should now see separate icons for every window you have, including and especially browser windows. 

Ungroup tasks

(Image credit: Future)

Get Windows 10 File Manager and Context Menu

Windows 11's File explorer lacks the helpful ribbon menu you see in the Windows 10 version. That's annoying because many key functions, while still available, aren't as easy to find.

Windows 11 File Explorer

(Image credit: Future)

Even worse, the context or "jump list" menu you get when you right-click on the desktop or in some other parts of the UI is limited to just 7 items and if you want to see more, you'll need to select "Show more options." That's an extra click you don't have in Windows 10.

New context menu

(Image credit: Future)

Fortunately, you can get both the File Explorer and the Context menu back to their Windows 10 states, with a single registry tweak. If you've already turned on the Windows 10 classic taskbar by navigating to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell\Update\Packages and setting UndockingDisabled to 1, the classic File Explorer and context menu are already enabled. 

However, if you choose not to use the classic taskbar, you can still get them back by following these steps (h/t to Winaero for discovering this).

1. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions in Regedit. 

2. Create a new registry key called Blocked if it doesn't already exist.

Create Blocked

(Image credit: Future)

3. Create a String Value named {e2bf9676-5f8f-435c-97eb-11607a5bedf7} in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions\Blocked key.

Create new string value

(Image credit: Future)

4. Close Regedit and restart Windows.

Get Windows 10 Wallpaper in Windows 11

One of the most non-Windows things about Windows 11 is its default wallpaper, which looks like some kind of flower. Unfortunately, the other preloaded wallpapers aren't much better as none of them has the famous Windows logo on them.

So, even though it is a minor change, getting the default Windows 10-branded wallpaper on your Windows 11 desktop will really make it look and feel like the older OS. To get the Windows 10 wallpaper in Windows 11:

1. Get the Windows 10 wallpaper and copy it to your Windows 11 PC. If you still have access to a PC with Windows 10 installed, or perhaps you still have the Windows.old folder on your Windows 11 PC, you can find the Windows 10-branded wallpaper in C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows as img0.jpg. If you don't have access to Windows 10, you can find copies of the wallpaper on sites like WallpaperCave.

location of Windows 10 wallpaper

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

2. Right click on the desktop and select Personalize.

personalize

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Open the Background submenu.

Open background submenu

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. Click Browse Folders and select the file.

Click Browse photos

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The background will now look like standard Windows 10.

Windows 11 with Windows 10 wallpaper

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

How to Get the Windows 10 Recycle Bin in Windows 11

The Windows 10 look and feel would not be complete without using the same recycle bin icon. To be honest, the Windows 11 recycle bin doesn't look radically different from the old version, but it is a slightly different angle that shows a head-on view of the bin rather than the original, three-quarter view.

Fortunately, you can get the Windows 10 recycle bin icon back, provided that you still have access to a copy of Windows 10 to copy the relevant file from.

1. Grab the imageres.dll.mun file from the C:\Windows\SystemResources folder on a Windows 10 PC.

2. Copy the file to your Windows 11 PC and make sure you put it somewhere you plan to keep it permanently. If you move, rename or delete this file after choosing an icon, you'll get a blank icon on your desktop.

3. Right click on the desktop and select Personalize.

Personalize

(Image credit: Future)

4. Open the Themes submenu.

Open themes

(Image credit: Future)

5. Click "Use custom theme."

Click use custom theme

(Image credit: Future)

6. Click Desktop icon settings

click desktop icon settings

(Image credit: Future)

7. Select "Recycle Bin (full)" and click Change Icon.

Click Change Icon

(Image credit: Future)

8. Click the Browse button and select the imageres.dll.mun file from its location. 

Browse for new DLL

(Image credit: Future)

Note that you'll need to pull down "All Files" selector in the dialog box or you may not see the file listed.

Select all files

(Image credit: Future)

9. Pick the icon of the full recyle bin and click Ok.

Select the icon

(Image credit: Future)

10. Repeat this process for "Recyle Bin (empty)".

11. Click Ok on the Desktop Icon Settings menu.

Click on Desktop Icon Settings

(Image credit: Future)

Now your Recycle bin icons should be changed. You can always get the old ones back by highlighting them and clicking the Restore Default button.

Windows 10 Recycle Bin icon in Windows 11

(Image credit: Future)

By following all of these steps, you can a Windows 11 interface that looks and feels a lot more like Windows 10, along with some of the functionality you might miss the most. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that all of these hacks keep working as new preview builds come out.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
  • peachpuff
    Its not even out who cares...
    Reply
  • Soaptrail
    peachpuff said:
    Its not even out who cares...

    Agreed, right now if you are upgrading to the preview of Win11 you want the "new car smell" until we all upgrade in the fall this article is not needed and even made me laugh.
    Reply
  • Darkbreeze
    I'm not sure why you'd even want to do this, when the ONLY point of Windows 11 is that it has a different look/aesthetic. I've read about nor found no major changes, so far at least, in terms of new technologies, file system advances or other improvements under the hood that would lead me to believe that in that regard there is any difference between 10 and 11, aside from the way it looks and handles navigation. In fact, seems they've REMOVED a fair number of features, like Cortana and tiles, which I'm in favor of but not everybody will be.

    So if you are going to install Windows 11 and make it look like Windows 10, why wouldn't you just run Windows 10?

    In the past, making Windows 10 look like 8.1 or 7 made sense, because there were a lot of fundamental changes under the hood, yet a lot of people preferred the look and navigation methods of the older OSes, but had the only change from them to 10 been the way it looked, that too would have pretty much been pointless, as this is. All of which ignores the fact that Windows 11 isn't meant to be used as a primary daily driver OS at this time. It isn't "done" baking by any means. It's not even a "preview" yet. It's JUST a piece of beta software that Microsoft is hoping everybody will beta test for them, although we already know that any of the actual, insightful feedback they are given will likely not be what makes it into the final pie.
    Reply
  • Geezer760
    "How to make windows 11 look and feel like windows 10", EASY, stick with windows 10 done.
    Reply
  • Horse Badorties
    But what if I want it to look like Windows 95?
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Horse Badorties said:
    But what if I want it to look like Windows 95?
    Write your own interface/theme.
    Reply
  • Darkbreeze
    No need to do that either. Classic shell can make ANY version of Windows, at least from 10 and back, look like ANY other version of Windows INCLUDING shell behavior. I'd be surprised if Windows 11 didn't work with it, or didn't work with it for long as there are still independent parties offering some level of support for the product and so far it has worked continuously for every version of Windows 10. It can even make it look and act like Windows 3.1, but with the Windows 10 tech under the hood.
    Reply
  • DRagor
    New era of greed ... "pay 40$ to have your Windows look like true Windows"
    Didn't knew MS creates ransomware :rolleyes:
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Said it before and I'll say it again: Microsoft needs to stop fiddling with things that work perfectly fine, such as the file explorer, and focus on things which direly need attention, such as Windows Defender scan speed and system resource impact.

    Start wise I'm fine with the tiled interface, and I was totally against it when it debuted with 8, but as smartphones have become much more commonplace, it doesn't bother me. What DOES bother me is Microsoft's blatant refusal to give us collapsible tile groups and ability to sort tile group contents alphabetically.

    The changes to file explorer and the context menu, meaningless changes which result in reduced productivity, are as bad as the Ribbon UI.
    Reply
  • apiltch
    Darkbreeze said:
    I'm not sure why you'd even want to do this, when the ONLY point of Windows 11 is that it has a different look/aesthetic. I've read about nor found no major changes, so far at least, in terms of new technologies, file system advances or other improvements under the hood that would lead me to believe that in that regard there is any difference between 10 and 11, aside from the way it looks and handles navigation. In fact, seems they've REMOVED a fair number of features, like Cortana and tiles, which I'm in favor of but not everybody will be.

    So if you are going to install Windows 11 and make it look like Windows 10, why wouldn't you just run Windows 10?

    In the past, making Windows 10 look like 8.1 or 7 made sense, because there were a lot of fundamental changes under the hood, yet a lot of people preferred the look and navigation methods of the older OSes, but had the only change from them to 10 been the way it looked, that too would have pretty much been pointless, as this is. All of which ignores the fact that Windows 11 isn't meant to be used as a primary daily driver OS at this time. It isn't "done" baking by any means. It's not even a "preview" yet. It's JUST a piece of beta software that Microsoft is hoping everybody will beta test for them, although we already know that any of the actual, insightful feedback they are given will likely not be what makes it into the final pie.

    There are a few reasons why one might want to follow some or all of the steps in the article. First, you might want to stay in the insider track to test out other new features that aren't part of the UI such as the upcoming Android feature or the new Microsoft Store or DirectStorage. So, even if these features aren't present right now, you won't get them unless you are an insider so perhaps you're rolling with the changes to see how Windows 11 evolves. Second, if you were already in the Insider program and your PC got upgraded to Windows 11 and you then decided "I really wish I had my old File Explorer or Start Menu or taskbar," after 10 days you can't roll back without doing a clean install so maybe you just want to make the best of Windows 11. Third , maybe you like some but not all of the new UI. Maybe you love the new snap and virtual desktop features, but hate the Start menu for example. Fourth, maybe you just like to hack things and see what's possible.
    Reply