The Windows 11 era is upon us. Microsoft has confirmed that its new desktop OS will be available from 5 October, with most Windows 10 devices eligible for a free upgrade.

This process is expected to take several months, but you can sign up to the Windows Insider Program to download a near-final version right now. Being in the Release Preview Channel, it should be stable enough to run on your main laptop or PC.

But whether you’ve made the move already or are planning to soon, some of Windows 11’s big visual changes might not appeal to you. Whether it’s the new centralised taskbar icons, redesigned Start menu or new File Explorer layout, you might not see these changes as upgrades.

Of course, the easiest option is not to upgrade to Windows 11 at all. Microsoft will continue supporting Windows 10 until October 2025, even if this is expected to be limited to security updates.

However, there is another way. Making the following five changes means you can still run Windows 11, but have it look and feel much more like Windows 10.

Move the taskbar icons to the left

Centralised taskbar icons are one of Windows 11’s most controversial new features, but also one of the easiest to change:

  1. Open Settings and select ‘Personalisation’ from the left pane
  2. Scroll down until you find ‘Taskbar’ and click on it
    Windows 11 more like Windows 10
  3. Click ‘Taskbar behaviours’, then choose ‘Left’ from the ‘Taskbar alignment’ drop-down menu
    Windows 11 more like Windows 10

Get the old Start menu back

It’s worth saying, there’s no way to get the Windows 11 Start menu to look exactly like it does in Windows 10. But there are three third-party apps that do a pretty good job.

OpenShell is a free option and doesn’t require changes to the registry, but looks more like legacy versions of Windows than specifically Windows 10. There are still plenty of customisation options though, including a choice between three classic Start menu styles. To avoid any bugs, make sure you move the taskbar to the left first.

For something slightly more advanced, try StartIsBack++. This adds back all the functionality you might be missing in Windows 11, although it looks much more like Windows 7 than Windows 10. You’ll need to change the taskbar using the registry (method below) first, and it costs US$3.99 after a 30-day trial.

Start11 is still in beta at the time of writing and requires the same registry changes. It’s the polished option available, offering several themes that look very similar to Windows 10. The one big caveat is price – it costs £4.99/US$4.99 for every 30 days of access.

Get the old taskbar back

This trick involves making changes to the registry, so only go ahead if you’re comfortable doing that. It’s surprising to see that it still works, but expect Microsoft to block it at some point soon. There are also several icons that don’t work, including Cortana, and a non-functional taskbar. But for pure aesthetics, this does the job.

Do note, you’ll need to have your desired Start menu installed before proceeding.

  1. Hit the Windows key + R to bring up the ‘Run’ window
  2. In the box, type ‘regedit’ and click ‘OK’
    Windows 11 more like Windows 10
  3. Click ‘Yes’ to confirm you allow changes to be made
  4. In the address bar above ‘Computer’, paste ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell\Update\Packages’ and hit enter
  5. Right-click anywhere in the white space and choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value
    Windows 11 more like Windows 10
  6. Give it the name ‘UndockingDisabled’, then double-click to bring up an options window
  7. Enter ‘1’ as the ‘Value data’ and click ‘OK’
    Windows 11 more like Windows 10
  8. Close the Registry Editor and restart your device

You should now have a taskbar and Start menu that’s much more in keeping with previous versions of Windows. However, it’s missing several system icons – here's how to get them back:

  1. Hit the Windows key + R again to bring up the ‘Run’ window
  2. Paste ‘shell:::{05d7b0f4-2121-4eff-bf6b-ed3f69b894d9}’ and click ‘OK’
  3. Click ‘Turn system icons on or off’
    Windows 11 more like Windows 10
  4. Next to Clock, Volume, Network or anything else you’d like to see on the taskbar, select ‘On’ from the relevant drop-down
  5. Click ‘OK’ to confirm

You can also turn off Cortana by right-clicking on the taskbar and unchecking the ‘Show Cortana'.

Get the old File Explorer and context menu back

The File Explorer has been given a big redesign in Windows 11, but it’s not always easy to navigate. If you’ve already followed the steps above to change the taskbar, both it and the context menus are reverted back to Windows 10-style.

However, if you’d rather use the old File Explorer and context menus without changing the taskbar, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Hit the Windows key + R once more to bring up the ‘Run’ window
  2. In the box, type ‘regedit’ and click ‘OK’
  3. Click ‘Yes’ to confirm you allow changes to be made
  4. In the address bar above ‘Computer’, paste ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions’ and hit enter
  5. From the left pane, right-click ‘Shell Extensions’ and choose New > Key
    Windows 11 more like Windows 10
  6. Name it ‘Blocked’ and hit enter
  7. Within the new ‘Blocked’ key, right-click any white space and choose ‘String Value’
  8. In its name field, paste ‘{e2bf9676-5f8f-435c-97eb-11607a5bedf7}’ and hit enter
    Windows 11 more like Windows 10
  9. Restart your device to apply the changes

Change to a stock Windows 10 wallpaper

It’s surprising how much difference the desktop background can make. Fortunately, the default Windows 10 wallpaper is available to download from WallpaperCave.

Within Settings > Personalisation > Background, it’s then easy to ‘Browse photos’ and choose a custom background.

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