How to Fix: Classic Shell Start Menu Empty / Blank

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Steve J. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

Thanks so much for your website and all the wonderful tips you have provided us over the years. I recently upgraded my main PC to Windows 10 and with your advice I installed Classic Shell to replace the horrid Start menu that comes default with Windows 10. I proceeded to click the Start button after the installation finished, but for some reason my Classic Shell Start menu is blank and it's been like this for a few weeks now. I installed Classic Shell on my laptop as well and it has all its icons. What gives? "

My response:

Whenever I work on a client's machine using my remote desktop support, one of the first things I do is install the Classic Shell Start menu. From my experience, I have witnessed a blank Classic Shell Start menu on a handful of systems and it's usually because the user profile is corrupt.

How to Fix: Classic Shell Start Menu Empty / Blank

There are two ways to resolve the issue.

  1. You can change the settings in Classic Shell via the "Show Recent or Frequent Programs" to "Frequent programs". The default setting is "Recent programs" but for some reason or another, this can cause the Start menu to go blank. If you change it to "Frequent programs" it will begin populating the Start menu with each program you access.

    For example: once the setting has been changed to "Frequent programs" and then you clicked Start then loaded MS Word, the MS Word icon will now appear in the Start menu. If you launched Internet Explorer from the Start menu after that, both MS Word and Internet Explorer will now appear in the Start menu.

    To change the "Show Recent or Frequent Programs" setting do the following:

    a. Right click the Start menu and select "Settings".

    b. Next, check mark the "Show all settings" option near the top of the window, then click the "Main menu" tab.

    c. About four headings down you should see the "Show Recent or Frequent Programs" heading.

    d. If the current setting is for "Frequent programs", change it to "Recent programs" (or vice versa), then click OK to close the Window.

    e. Now test the Start menu. Click Start, then type in "notepad"; wait for notepad to appear then click it. After Notepad launches, go to the Classic Shell Start menu and you should see the Notepad icon as part of the list. If it is still blank then your user profile or Windows is corrupt - follow Step #2 below.
  2. Optionally, test if your user profile is corrupt. You can do this by enabling the hidden Administrator account, log off the existing user, sign back in as Administrator user, then access the Start menu (as Administrator user) to see if it's blank.

    To do so:

    a. Click Start, then type in "CMD" (no quotes); wait for "CMD.EXE" or "Command Prompt" to appear in the list, then right click it and select "Run as Administrator".

    b. Use your mouse to highlight the below text:

    net user administrator /active:yes
    echo this is a dummy line

    c. Right click over top of the highlighted text, then select "Copy" from the dialogue menu. Now, right click in the middle of the command prompt window and select "Paste". The text from the step above should be output to the command line and the Administrator user account should now be activated.

    d. Bookmark this page so you can come back to it as you will need to log off of your current user and sign in as Administrator user. To do so, press CTRL + D on the keyboard to bookmark the page, then click Start -> Shutdown -> Log off. On the login screen you should see an option for "Administrator" user - click it and then click the "Sign in" button to sign in as Administrator user (there isn't a password).

    e. Once you are signed in as Administrator user, test the Classic Shell Start menu to see if it works.

If the Start menu is not blank then this means your main user profile is corrupt - you can fix this by creating a new user then copy over your user data to the new profile (this is easier said than done). If the Administrator Start menu is blank even after changing the "Show Recent or Frequent Programs" setting, then most likely Windows is corrupt - that will require some technical troubleshooting and is beyond the scope of this article.

That said, you are welcome to contact me for additional support in either case, described next.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If your Classic Shell Start menu is blank and you still can't figure out how to fix it, I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me, briefly describing the issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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Navy vet's picture

The latest version is now called Classic Start Menu in stead of Classic Shell. Version 4.4.109.
Please note when installing the new version all previous settings are lost. All previous versions retained all settings.

Dennis Faas's picture

I am not sure if we are talking about the same thing. It's still called Classic Shell and the developer is no longer developing new releases (the last version was 4.31), but as of this moment the latest version still works with Windows 10. It may be developed later if someone picks up the project. There is a "Classic Start Menu" but this is not the same as Classic Shell by Ivo Beltshev.

Update: OK, I see there is a fork of Classic Shell posted on MajorGeeks and the "main" GitHub page (by "passionate coder") is here.

Navy vet's picture

Yes and that's the version that does not save previous settings like the earlier versions did when you updated it. Here's the link: