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. 




Microsoft Store Updates

As detailed in my last blog post, the way you check for Windows Updates has radically changed in Windows 10. You can see that post here. In addition to checking for Windows Updates, Windows 10 brings something new to the table - Microsoft Store updates. That's right, there are now two different places to check for updates. This blog post will show you how to check for Microsoft Store Updates.

The easiest way, in my opinion, is to look at the taskbar on the Desktop. On the task bar, look for the icon that looks like a shopping bag with the Microsoft Logo on it. You can also click the start button and look for the Microsoft Store tile. In addition to that, you can click on the start button, go to "All apps" and scroll down to the "S" section where you will find that same shopping bag icon with the Microsoft Logo on it. Regardless of how you get there, click the icon or tile.

The Windows Store icon circled in red on the taskbar.

The Windows Store icon circled in red on the taskbar.

The Windows Store tile icon.

The Windows Store tile icon.

The Windows Store icon on the Start Menu

The Windows Store icon on the Start Menu

After clicking the icon or tile, the Windows Store will open up. Near the top and to the right of the screen you will see either your account icon or a generic icon depending on if you added a picture to your user account. This icon is located directly to the left of the Search Box. 

Click the user account picture or generic icon and you will see a list of options pertaining to your Microsoft Account. Click on "Downloads and updates" (circled below).

After clicking on "Downloads and updates", you'll see the blue button "Check for updates" (circled below).

Click the "Check for updates" button and if there are any updates available, they will show up on the screen in a list. The updates will automatically begin to download and install. Note that when you click the "Check for Updates" button, the button becomes grayed out and you should see a spinning progress wheel over the button. If there are any updates available, a number will appear next to your user account icon. That number corresponds to the number of updates available. See the screen shot below for an example.

Here's an example of an update that's queued up for updating:

When you are done, all of your Windows 10 apps will be up to date. Any questions? If so, leave a comment below.