How to Change or Customize Start Menu Look-n-Feel in Windows XP?

This tutorial will assist you in customizing Windows XP Start Menu appearance. After following this tutorial, you'll get the Start Menu look like following screenshot:


Following are the required steps to change Start Menu UI in Windows XP:

STEP 1: You can change the text of various Start Menu entries like Control Panel, Connect To, Help & Support, Run, Search, etc. To change them, you'll need to edit %windir%\Explorer.exe file in Resource Hacker and then edit String Table section. Following are a few locations, where you can find such interesting strings:

String Table -> 439 -> 1033
String Table -> 440 -> 1033
String Table -> 515 -> 1033

STEP 2: Other strings like My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, My Computer, etc. can be changed in String Table section of %windir%\System32\Shell32.dll file. Just search for them in the file. Most of them will be present in:

String Table -> 577 -> 1033
String Table -> 794 -> 1033
String Table -> 1900 -> 1033
String Table -> 1906 -> 1033

STEP 3: Sometimes you'll not be able to see the changes in Start Menu. It happens because Windows registry maintains a cache for these entries. So you'll have to clear this cache to make the changes visible. Just type regedit in RUN dialog box and press Enter. Now go to:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ ShellNoRoam\MUICache

In right-side pane, delete all existing values except Default & LangID.

STEP 4: If you want to add your own entry, like an application shortcut or a folder, you can follow this tutorial:

Add Your Favorite Application or Shortcut Under RUN in Windows XP Start Menu

STEP 5: This one is our favorite. You can use this trick to remove "All Programs" menu from Start Menu and then change "Favorites" entry to point to the "Programs" folder. In this way, you can access all program using Favorites menu.

Simply follow these steps:

A. First disable "All Programs" menu from Start Menu. Open regedit and go to:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Policies\Explorer

In right-side pane, create a DWORD value NoStartMenuMorePrograms and set its value to 1

B. Now change "Favorites" path to "Programs" folder. In regedit, go to:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\Shell Folders
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\User Shell Folders

and change value of Favorites to:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs

NOTE: Change C: to your system drive letter where Windows is installed in your system.

WARNING: Above trick will replace "Favorites" menu with All Programs list in Internet Explorer as well. If you use Favorites in IE, you should not apply the above trick. Also note down the default values of above mentioned 2 registry keys before changing them, so that you can restore them if you don't like the change.

C. You can also change the text of "Favorites" to "Programs" or "All Programs" by editing %windir%\Explorer.exe file in Resource Hacker. Just go to:

String Table -> 515 -> 1033

and in right-side pane, change string in 8235 line with your desired one.

D. You can also drag-n-drop important program shortcuts into left-side pane of Start Menu for easier access. Don't forget to disable "Internet" & "E-mail" shortcuts and "Recent Items" list from "Start Menu & Taskbar Properties".

STEP 6: To change the color & style of Start Menu, you can use "VistaVG Ultimate" theme. You can get it here:

Themes and Wallpapers

NOTE 1: If you are facing problems while saving a file after editing in resource hacker, then make sure you have disabled WFP (Windows File Protection) service using WFP Patcher or use Replacer to replace the file.

NOTE 2: If you get "Cannot create file" error message while saving the file, please check following tutorial:

How to Fix "Cannot Create File" Error Message While Saving Files in Resource Hacker?

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Posted in: Windows XP

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  • super

  • Dear Vishal Gupta,
    First of all its an excellant website for Windows UI Tweaking.Ive been visiting this site for a long time now and i've used almost all packs for modifying without any customization pack...My favourite is the Win XP to Win 7 conversion without using customization pack..its simply awesome and looks as good as the original Win7 while providing the lightweight experience of good old XP..
    Now to my small problem..Ive applied and it was awesome later i removed it and and applied everything works great but the start menu has one tiny problem...It is exactly similar to original except the fact that at the right part where things like My docs,My Pics,Run,Control Panel,Connect to is written ,,there the icons of these labels are only partially visible....Could u tell a method to either hide those icons for the aforesaid labels or to make them fully visible,,,,,P.S. I think it has to do with something in Desktop->Properties->Appearence->Advanced----some sizes were modified in Win8 theme so maybe there might be a problem...Thanks in advance.Good luck for all future works and keep up the good work.Cheers.

  • VG

    ^^ Please check following:

  • Thanks for start menu fix...Im using and i have to admit it is the most detailed laid out Win xp theme ive used manually and each feature works like a charm...I trolled several of my friends to believe its actually Win8.Thanks man.Cheers.

  • hi vishal

    is there a way to get the start search box at the bottom of the start menu in XP??

    Is there a way to make programs do what Windows 7 does (In the Left column and scroll with a bar)

  • VG

    ^^ No. Only ViStart can do the job:

  • thanks for ViStart VG that is awesome

  • How to change the start menu background image in XP using resource hacker?
    I wanna create a more stylish one other than the old rectangular menus.

  • VG

    ^^ You'll need to edit .msstyles file of Windows theme using Resource Hacker. Check out C:\Windows\Resources\Themes\ folder.

  • Can adding alpha channel to the .bmp resources help in transparency?

  • VG

    ^^ No but you can try magic pink color to get transparency in XP.

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