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Most programs will add themselves to the Start Menu on installation. For those that do not, it's a simple task to add to the Start Menu manually.

I have quite a few programs that are not listed in my programs menu. How do I get them on to my programs menu list?

The "Programs" or "All Programs" list on your Start menu is a convenient place to find most of the software that takes the trouble to place itself there on installation. Fortunately, it's very easy to add (and remove) things from your start menu.

And it starts (so to speak) by realizing that the Start Menu is really just a folder on your hard disk.

OK, maybe two folders.

The Start Menu is really just a special way of looking at the contents of these two folders, merged together:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu
C:\Documents and Settings\[your user name]\Start Menu

Or, in Windows Vista:

c:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
C:\Users\[your user name]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

If you actually take a look at those two folders in Windows Explorer you'll find that they contain two things: shortcuts, and sub-folders.

  • Shortcuts are the menu items that show up in the start menu and in its sub-menus. When you see an item to click on in the Start menu, what you're really clicking on is the shortcut to start the indicated program or open the indicated document.

  • Sub-folders are the sub-menus that you see in your Start Menu. So "Programs" would be a sub-folder within the Start menu folder, meaning that it's displayed as a sub-menu of the Start menu. Similarly, "Accessories" is typically a folder within "Programs", meaning that "Accessories" is displayed as a sub-menu within "Programs".

    And, of course, sub-folders can contain shortcuts and more sub-folders.

"... Windows is a multi-user operating system."

OK, now you're probably asking yourself "why is it merging the contents of two different folders together when it displays the Start Menu?"

Because Windows is a multi-user operating system.

The two folders that it merges represent Start Menu items for:

  • All Users - Start menu items that are placed in this folder tree are displayed on the Start Menus of every user account that logs into the machine.

  • [your user name] (replaced by your actual username in Windows) - Start menu items that are placed in this folder tree are displayed on the Start Menu only when this specific user is logged in. Other users do not see these start menu items.

If you've ever had an installation program ask you whether you wanted the program installed for all users or just the current user, among other things that's telling it into which Start Menu tree it should place the shortcuts for the software it's installing.

Finally, we can add our own Start Menu items. We do so by creating a shortcut in the folder that corresponds to the Start Menu sub-menu we want the item to appear in.

Let's say that I want to create a menu item to run the System File Checker. I want it to be available to all users, and I want it to appear in the "Programs" menu.

I start by opening "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs" in Windows Explorer.

All Programs folder

You can see that I already have many programs listed there, as my Programs menu is quite full.

Right click anywhere therein, and then click on New, and then Shortcut:

Create Shortcut

Here I've typed in the location of the program that I want to appear on the menu. Then clicking Next we get:

Name Shortcut

Enter a name for the shortcut; this will appear as the text on the menu item. Click Finish and we're done.

Well, not really.

In this case, the program I'm creating a shortcut to requires a command-line argument. We need to go back and add that.

Back in the Windows Explorer view of the Programs menu you'll find the new item you just created. (Often at the bottom, but occasionally in position according to the displayed sorting order.)

SFC Menu Item in the All Programs folder

Right click on that shortcut and click on Properties. We'll type in the additional parameter at the end of the Target of the shortcut:

Properties for newly created SFC shortcut

Here I've added " /scannow" (note that there's a space between "sfc.exe" and "/scannow"). Click on OK and we're done. Really.

Click on your Start Menu, Programs sub-menu and you should find "System File Checker" - or whatever shortcut you created - ready for use:

System File Checker on the Programs Menu

Article C3534 - October 16, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
J G
October 18, 2008 2:15 PM

If you right click on the start button then click on Open, Windows Explorer will open with the Start Menu folder for your user name selected. You can then drag and drop any short cuts you want onto the Programs folder or, if you desire, create all kinds of sub folders. You can rearrange the start menu any way you want just like you arrange your folders and subfolders. Just drag and drop them where you want them. You can do the same with the All Users Start Menu folder. They are just like any other folders and you can do with anything you can do with a regular folder and file (shortcut).

Glenn P.
October 21, 2008 7:31 PM

Forgetting about adding things to the Start Menu for the moment -- I'm just curious: has anyone ever tried DELETING the whole Start Menu (either "Username" or "All Users" version, or both)? Frankly I doubt Windows would be stupid enough to let you, but I myself am too "cluck-cluck-cluck" (or rather, not foolhardy enough) to try it. If it "worked", though, wouldn't that ever be the ultimate kick in the head!?

Richard Grieves
October 27, 2008 2:41 PM

ON a part of your solutions solver you said you can remove items from this as well. I have got quite a few headings of programms that I do not want on my start menu .Is there any way I can get rid of them please?

Sure. Instead of adding a new shortcut per the instructions above, just locate the shortcut you want to remove and delete it. (Right click on it and select "Delete".)
- Leo
28-Oct-2008

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