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Originally published May 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM | Page modified May 3, 2013 at 4:05 PM

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Stardock’s Start8 app lets you customize Windows 8

Special to The Seattle Times

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Classic Shell is free, open source and is more customizable. It's better in every way... MORE

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Q. You have mentioned several times that Windows 8 allows users to get to an interface that is similar to the Windows 7 Desktop, but unfortunately not identical to it. I think you should also point out that that is very easy to fix and should not be a reason to avoid the benefits of Windows 8.

I’ve been using Windows 8 since it launched, mostly with that desktop, and I find the biggest missing feature is the Start button. Pretty much everything else I need can be easily configured to look and act like Windows 7.

To address that missing feature, I’ve been using the Start8 app from Stardock (www.stardock.com/products/start8/). It adds the Start button back where it belongs and lets you customize it in various ways, including making it look and perform exactly like the Start button in Windows 7. Its $4.99 cost is cheap enough for the return of this useful feature.

I see there are other similar apps out there, but I know this one works perfectly in my experience. With that addition, I am quite satisfied with Windows 8. I find it is generally faster than Windows 7, the new tabletlike interface is convenient for the many available apps it allows you to add, and the old familiar desktop is just one click away and now looks just like Windows 7. I am therefore very happy with my move to Windows 8.

Now having said that, I must add I am also a bit annoyed that Microsoft doesn’t include the Start button as a standard feature. I assume it is trying to push me to use the tablet interface as my standard, so that I’ll buy more apps from them. That strategy probably turns off as many prospective users as it attracts, so not too smart in my opinion. But whatever, it can be overcome for not too high a price.

— Tom Johnson

A. OK, this isn’t really a Q & A. I’m just going to agree.

Q. I recently reinstalled Windows Vista in my PC. When I turn it on the Microsoft bars roll across the screen as often as 40 times before the system comes fully on. They used to recur only a few times. Can you tell me why or what I can do to shorten the cycle. Defragging or cleaning the registers doesn’t help.

— Glenn Sharp

A. It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to tell what might be causing the problem you’re experiencing. Worse still, you can’t necessarily blame Microsoft for the issue.

When you install, update or reinstall an operating system, there are often glitches that result from installed drivers or applications that haven’t been written to the standards specified for the operating system. Often, a driver or an application written for an OS takes shortcuts that work just fine when tested with that OS.

But a later version of the OS may have a change that disables that shortcut from working. And that could cause the kind of symptom you’re experiencing. In such a case, tracking down the culprit could be next to impossible.

To be honest, if it were my computer I’d figure it was time to update, especially since Windows 7 offers better performance and better security.

Whether you choose to update or not, I’d recommend a fresh start. I’d reinstall from scratch, which means reformatting the drive during installation and reinstalling applications. That way you can check for any offending applications or drivers.

Unfortunately, that means you will have to reboot after installing each application or device to see if the problem recurs. I’m sorry there isn’t an easier answer for you.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

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