6 Ways to Totally Avoid Metro and Use Only Desktop Mode in Windows 8

As installed, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview forces users to navigate through two attractive, but disparate UIs: the tile-based Metro Start Screen and the traditional desktop, which now comes without a start menu. Even though 99.9% of Windows programs run in desktop mode, the new OS effectively forces you to return to Metro when you want to browse through your applications and launch one.  Fortunately, with a few tweaks, you can live 100% of your Windows 8 life in desktop mode, without even setting foot in Metro.

Editor's Note: It almost goes without saying, but if you want to run a dedicated Metro app like Bing Weather, you'll have to launch and run it in Metro.

Boot to The Desktop in Windows 8

The first and most unavoidable time you'll see Metro in a given Windows 8 session is upon start-up. There's no way to disable Metro, but you can force the desktop mode application to load as soon as you log in, effectively covering over Metro, before it even has a chance to draw. Here's how.

  1. Create an Explorer script file that launches the desktop. Open Notepad and paste or type in the following text:[Shell] Command=2 IconFile=explorer.exe,3 [Taskbar] Command=ToggleDesktop Save the file as showmydeskop.scf and put it in a location you'll easily remember.
  2. Launch Windows Task Scheduler. You can find Task Scheduler by using Windows 8's built-in search or by navigating to the Administrative Tools section of Control Panel. 
  3. Select Task Scheduler Library  in the left window pane.
  4. Right click in the task area and select Create New Task.
  5. Enter a name (ex: ShowDesktop)  on the General tab.
  6. Set the task to trigger at log on by clicking new on the trigger tab, and selecting  "At log on" from the Begin Task list.
  7. Make your script an action by clicking New on the Action tab, selecting  "Start a program" from the Action menu, and entering the full path of showmydesktop.scf (ex: C:myscriptsshowmydesktop.scf) in the Program/script field.
  8. Toggle off "Stop if the computer switches to battery power" on the conditions tab. You want to log in to the desktop whether your notebook is plugged in or not.
  9.  Click Ok and close the Task Manager.

The next time you log in, whether at boot up or after signing out, the desktop will launch before you can even see Metro.

Prevent Your Media Files From Launching in Metro

By default, Windows 8 launches your images, music files and videos in its Metro photo viewer and media player. So, even if you are just minding your own business browsing your picture library in Windows Explorer,  you'll be shoved head-first into the Metro UI as soon as you double click to view a file.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to prevent your media files from opening into Metro. All you have to do is associate the appropriate file types with Microsoft's desktop media player and photo viewer.

  1. Open the Control Panel. You can get to it by hitting Win + R, typing control panel into the dialog box and hitting Enter.
  2. Select Default programs 
  3. Click "Set your default programs" A two-pane window appears.
  4. Select Windows Photo Viewer in the left menu and Click "Choose defaults for this program." A list of file extensions appears. 
  5. Toggle on the Select all button and click Save. Now all photos should be associated with the desktop photo viewer.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for Windows Media Player to associate music and video files with the desktop player.

Install Third-Party Start Menu Utilities in Windows 8

Though there's no way to enable Microsoft's own old-school Start Menu in Windows 8, a number of third-party utilities provide alternatives that are almost as good. Here are three of our favorites: