make Windows 10 work and look like Windows 7

Event: I am often asked by clients how do I make Windows 10 work and look like Windows 7?

Transition of Windows 10

Windows 10 is gradually maturing to be a great OS, however a reasonable number of people still prefer the traditional Windows 7 interface. If you computer was upgraded automatically to Windows 10, or you have recently bought a new computer with no choice but Windows 10, there are a ways to make it look and respond more like Windows 7.

Use a local account to sign in

When you install Windows 10 for the first time, the Windows Install / Setup program wants to convince you to sign in with a Microsoft account (read why later). Actually, an alternative (simpler) option to use a traditional local account, but it is easy enough to miss that option.

The reasons you may want to use a Microsoft account on your computer are for services like you use Microsoft cloud services like OneDrive or Microsoft Office 365 Home or Personal Office. Then there is the ability to sync settings between Windows 10 devices if you own more than one Windows 10 device.

Here's how to use a local account to sign in.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. It looks like a gear.
  3. Click Accounts.

    Click the Settings button. Click Accounts.

  4. Click Sign in with a local account instead.
  5. Type your Microsoft account password.

    Click Sign in with a local account instead. Type your Microsoft account password.

  6. Click Next.
  7. Type a username. You can also create a password here, but it is not necessary.

    Click Next. Type a username.

  8. Click Next.
  9. Click Sign out and finish.

    Click Next. Click Sign out and finish.

Disarm Cortana

Cortana is Microsoft's new version of a digital assistant (like Apple's Siri and Google Now), and it (she) exists to guide (a search prompt) you while you navigate within Windows 10. As good as Cortana is there is the issue of privacy as Cortana as inevitably it has to collect various pieces of information and personal data to learn to assist you accordingly. Note that data you’re providing to Cortana travels straight through Microsoft to Bing and also to Microsoft’s own machine learning process banks in the cloud.

Cortana has become increasingly restrictive since newer Windows 10’s releases. Cortana now always launches the Microsoft Edge browser and only uses Bing when you search.

I personally see that Cortana is a great tool that could get better with time, however we need to understand that many users will find Microsoft collecting certain pieces information as an 'invasion of privacy'. As such in this how-to guide, you'll learn the options Microsoft is offering to turn off Cortana and stop personal data gathering.

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Click Search.

    Right-click the Start button. Click Search.

  3. Click the Settings button. It looks like a gear.
  4. Click the switch beneath Settings options so that it turns off. Settings include:

    • Hey Cortana - Cortana responds when you say "Hey Cortana."
    • Lock screen - Cortana works when your device is locked.
    • Taskbar titbits - Cortana interjects once in awhile in the search field.
    • Send notifications between devices - Cortana will give you updates about any connected Windows devices.
    • History view - Shows your history in Cortana's home screen.
    • My device history - Collects your history from all devices.

      Click the Settings button. Click the switch beneath options.

Get rid of the Cortana field in the taskbar

Having a search field in your taskbar is admittedly handy, but it doesn't exactly resemble Windows 7. Here's how to get rid of it.

  1. Right-click a blank spot on your taskbar.
  2. Click Cortana.
  3. Click Hidden.

    Click Cortana. Click Hidden.

Get rid of the Task View button in the taskbar

The Task View button in your taskbar, when clicked, brings up a screen that shows all of your open windows. It's basically the same as the Alt + Tab keyboard shortcut, but designed with tablets in mind. If you don't want the button on your taskbar, you can remove it.

  1. Right-click a blank spot on your taskbar.
  2. Click Show Task View button so that the checkmark disappears.

    Right-click a blank spot on your taskbar. Click Show Task View button.

Get rid of the Action Center button in the taskbar

The Action Center is Windows 10's notifications and quick-settings spot, and it has an icon in the taskbar.

Action Center is intended for seeing all recent notifications you may have missed, as the events  just wait there in Action Center until you view them. Some people just find it unappealing, though. Fortunately, it’s easy to toggle on and off in your Settings. If you disable the Action Center, you will still see pop up notifications above your system tray. The notifications will not be collected for you to view later.

If you want the look of Windows 7, you probably want to remove the button. Here's how to do it.

  1. Right-click a blank spot on the taskbar.
  2. Click Settings.

    Right-click a blank spot on your taskbar. Click Settings.

  3. Click Turn system icons on or off — you might have to scroll down a bit to find it.
  4. Click the switch next to Action Center so that it turns Off.

    Click Turn system icons on or off. Click the switch next to Action Center.

Get back to the classic Start menu

The Start menu in Windows 10 is quite a bit different than in Windows 7, which probably really irks those of you who prefer the older OS. Here's how to change your Start menu back to the way it was using Classic Shell.

The Classic Shell program includes both an overhaul to the Start Menu system that allows you to switch out any Windows 8/Windows 10 system for the classic single column Start Menu that features both a Windows XP, a two-column arrangement, and the popular (traditional) Windows 7 style.

  1. Launch your favorite web browser from your Start menu, taskbar, or desktop.
  2. Navigate to

    Launch your favorite web browser. Navigate to the website.

  3. Click Download Now.
  4. Click Run when the file is finished downloading.

    Click Download Now. Click Run.

  5. Click Next.
  6. Click the checkbox next to I accept the terms...

    Click Next. Click the checkbox.

  7. Click Next.
  8. Click Next.

    Click Next. Click Next.

  9. Click Install.
  10. Click Finish.

    Click Install. Click Finish.

  11. Click Start to bring up the settings menu.
  12. Click Windows 7 style.

    Click Start. Click Windows 7 style.

  13. Click Select skin...
  14. Click the drop-down arrow next to Skin.

    Click Select skin. Click the dropdown arrow.

  15. Click a skin. Windows Aero is a good one for the classic Windows 7 look.
  16. Click OK. Your Start menu will now resemble one from Windows 7.

    Click a skin. Click OK.

Pin Internet Explorer to your Start menu or taskbar

Notes: You might not have been aware that Internet Explorer can still be used in Windows 10.

Microsoft Edge uses a new rendering engine to help you get the most out of modern webpages and also provides some blazing surfing speeds.

While the Edge browser is certainly better than Internet Explorer, it’s not as feature-complete as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome right now. Microsoft plans to add new features in future versions, but, for now, many features are missing from the browser.

However, for the time, there will be websites where some pages will not show correctly in Edge. In this case, you can use Internet Explorer.

Here's how to get it Internet Explorer out of (hidden) storage and display it prominently on your taskbar or Start menu.

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Click Search.

    Right-click the Start button. Click Search.

  3. Type Internet Explorer.
  4. Right-click Internet Explorer.
  5. Click Pin to Start or Pin to taskbar or both.

    Type Internet Explorer. Right-click Internet Explorer.

Unpin Microsoft Edge from the taskbar and Start menu

Dread seeing the Edge icon all the time? Here's how to remove it.

  1. Right-click the Edge button in your taskbar.
  2. Click Unpin from taskbar.
  3. Click the Start button.

    Click Unpin from taskbar. Click the Start button.

  4. Right-click the Edge tile.
  5. Click Unpin from Start.

    Right-click the Edge tile. Click Unpin from Start.

Make Internet Explorer your default web browser

If you wish, you can set it as your Internet Explorer default browser in Windows 10.

Here's how to do it.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. It looks like a gear.
  3. Click System.

    Click the Settings button. Click System.

  4. Click Default apps.
  5. Click Microsoft Edge or whatever you have set as your default browser.

    Click Default apps. Click Microsoft Edge.

  6. Click Internet Explorer.
  7. Click Switch anyway.

    Click Internet Explorer. Click Switch anyway.

Change the color of title bars

Windows 7 had blue title bars on open windows. Windows 10 has white as its default title-bar color.

Here's how to change the color to your preference.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button.

    Click the Start button. Click the Settings button.

  3. Click Personalisation.
  4. Click Colors.

    Click Personalisation. Click Colors.

  5. Click a color.
  6. Click the switch beneath Show color on the title bar so that it turns On.

    Click a color. Click the switch beneath Show color on the title bar.

Have File Explorer open to This PC

When you open File Explorer in Windows 10, it automatically takes you to a "Quick Access" section that holds frequent folder and files.

The Windows 10 File Explorer "Quick Access" area, which by default is the first section of the Navigation Pane in the left-hand column, is essentially a “Bookmarks” bar for File Explorer. It shows both your most recently-accessed folders and “pinned” folders, folders that you manually assign to this area to quickly get to from any folder in Windows.

Here's how to get File Explorer to open to This PC instead.

  1. Launch File Explorer from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Right-click Quick Access.
  3. Click Options.

    Right-click Quick Access. Click Options.

  4. Click the dropdown arrow next to Open File Explorer to.
  5. Click This PC.

    Click the dropdown arrow. Click This PC.

  6. Click Apply.
  7. Click OK.

    Click Apply. Click OK.

Introducing Start10:

In case you want your Windows 10 Start menu to look a little bit more like the one from Windows 7, there’s a excellent low cost application called Start10, from developer Stardock.

Check out this diagram to see the difference. On the left is the default Windows 10 Start menu, and on the right is the Start10 menu:

Windows 10 vs. start10

Windows 10 vs. Start10

The key features include Search menu is back in the Start menu, restores the quick links to core system functionality, maintains the "All Programs" folder metaphor and Texture can be applied to Start10 background and taskbar. After installing you will get a number of option as shown below.

As shown above you will configure your Windows 10 Start menu in three different varieties using Start10 : Windows 7 style, Modern style or Windows 10 style. Along with that you have an option to change your start button. After installing and selecting Windows 7 Style your Start Menu in Windows 10 will look like below.

Exactly like Windows 7 

Modern Style

If you do not want your Start menu to look exactly like Windows 7 then there are options to switch to a modern look and the ability to fully customize what the actual button looks like. Start10 comes with a price of $4.99 USD. You can start with a free trail for 30 days.