What to do when your Windows 10 Start Menu isn't working

So, your Windows 10 Start Menu stopped working?

One of the biggest problems people seem to be running into with Windows 10 is the Windows 10 Start Menu stops working. This often goes hand in hand with their task bar items disappearing. Common behavior includes clicking on the Start Button and nothing happens, or clicking on the Start Button and getting a "Critical Error" message. Sometimes right clicking on the Start Button will bring up a quick access menu, but it doesn't happen in every case.

A quick Google search of "Windows 10 Start Menu not working" or Windows 10 Start Menu critical error" brings up millions of results. This problem has been around since the developer previews from over a year ago. Microsoft still doesn't have a concrete answer on how or why this is happening. I believe the answer is tied into Cortana being so closely integrated with the Start Menu. I've seen many websites offer the same generic advice from running powershell to creating new user profiles. Some have said the only way to fix this is to reinstall Windows 10. 

After seeing this problem first hand on a customer's computer, I tried all of the suggested fixes. Keep in mind that none of those fixes are guaranteed to work and it's been my experience that they simply don't work most of the time. In my situation with that customer's computer, nothing worked. After wasting a few hours, I decided to try my go-to Windows 8 Start Menu program from Classic Shell. It worked! The computer had a functioning Start Menu. I wondered if uninstalling Classic Shell would leave behind a functioning Windows 10 Start Menu, by perhaps forcing Windows 10 to reinstall or reengage whatever code was missing or broken (Note - this is an uneducated guess. I'm not a developer). The answer was yes! A few reboots confirmed that the Windows 10 Start Menu was working once more. I think the answer is simple - spend hours trying fixes that might not work, or download Classic Shell and be back up and running in under 10 minutes.

Here's what I suggest:

  1. Download Classic Shell from www.classicshell.net or from www.ninite.com.
  2. Install Classic Shell. Classic Shell will do its thing and a few moments later it will be ready to go.
  3. Verify that Classic Shell is working. It's working when you click on the Start Button and you see a Start Menu.
  4. Reboot your PC.
  5. At this point, you can leave Classic Shell installed or you can uninstall it.
  6. If you uninstall it, reboot your PC. 
  7. After rebooting your PC, click on the Start Button. You should see the familiar Windows 10 Start Menu.
  8. In the event that uninstalling Classic Shell doesn't leave you with a functioning Windows 10 Start Menu / Start Button, just reinstall Classic Shell. Wait a day or two and remove Classic Shell again. Reboot. Your Windows 10 Start Menu should be back.
  9. Classic Shell has fixed EVERY computer I've seen that had Start Menu problems.

Classic Shell is a free program, but they do accept donations. If Classic Shell has saved the day for you, send a buck or two their way -- their donation link is on their homepage.