Windows 10 saw the welcome return of the Start menu and while this was great news for many, others were less impressed when said menu began to misbehave. If your PC or laptop's Start menu is locking up or becoming generally unresponsive, here's how to fix it.

New features are coming to Windows 10 in the form of the free Creators Update and updates often fix problems so it's well worth making sure Windows is up to date on your machine before trying the fixes here.

Back up your PC first

You should back up any files you can't afford to lose before you try some of the fixes listed below. Obviously, you should back up your files regularly anyway, not just when you come to fix a Windows problem. You already backed up? Great, then let's continue. If you didn't, here's how to backup Windows 10.

Turn it off and on again

There’s a reason that Roy in The IT Crowd is famous for his ‘have you tried turning it off and on again?’ catchphrase. In a large number of cases this is all you need to do in order to fix problems with your laptop or PC.

It’s also by far the easiest method. Try restarting your PC, maybe even a couple of times, and see if that cures the problem. Obviously you don’t want to do this regularly, but if it works, then you’ll be up and running within a few minutes.

Update Windows 10

It’s often the case that bugs like this are solved when the next Windows update is released. Microsoft is constantly improving and tweaking its progeny, so keeping your system up to date is a very good idea.

Your version of Windows 10 will most likely be set to automatically install newer versions, but if this isn’t case you can easily do the updates manually, even without the Start menu.

The simplest way to open Settings is to hold down the Windows key on your keyboard (the one to the right of Ctrl) and press i. If for any reason this doesn’t work (and you can't use the Start menu) you can hold the Windows key and pressing R which will launch the Run command.

how to fix windows 10 start menu

In the box that appears type in the following name;

ms-settings:

and click OK.

Once the Settings application is open you should click on Updates & Security. In the main pane on the right hand side you’ll see an option to Check for updates. Click on this and then install any updates that Windows offers.

how to fix windows 10 start menu

You’ll probably need to reboot your machine when this is over, but hopefully it will solve your Start menu problem. If that’s not the case then there are a few other solutions you can try.

Many thanks to reader Robert Garrett for posting the following fix in the comments below. It works, so we've included it here first (slightly edited).

Create new user profiles

  1. Create two new accounts with administrator privileges. They must have admin rights because of the tasks you need to perform. If you don't have admin rights already and/or can't create new accounts, then give up now and reinstall Windows and all your apps.
  2. Log off, and log on to one of the new admin accounts you just created. Test to make sure your start menu is working normally. If it doesn't then something else is wrong and you might try this whole thing again after trying the other fixes below.

    The point is, you have to get a new account working with a functional start menu before the rest of this procedure will help you any, so if you can't get to this point after that, it's time to reinstall Windows. Sorry.
  3. Good news... if you got this far, you will be able to fix the problem.  Now open File Explorer and make sure your folder options allow you to see system files, hidden files, and file extensions.
  4. Log off this account and then log on to the second new admin account you created, and again set your folder options accordingly so that you can see "everything".
  5. Navigate to your :\users\\Local\TileDataLayer\Database folder.  You should see about 8 files.  Select them all and copy them all to :\users\\Local\TileDataLayer\Database folder, replacing all the files that are there. 

    The reasons you have to create two new accounts to do this are (1) when you first log on to a new account Windows creates a fresh start menu for that account (which hopefully will be working) and (2) when you're logged on to an account all these files are "locked" by Windows (for the logged-on account) and you won't be able to copy them.
  6. Log off, log back on to the original account that had the damaged start menu, and it should be working now.  Note that any customisations you had previously made to the menu will be gone and you'll have to re-do them, but at least now you can.

To create a new Windows account you’ll need to press Win+R then type in control panel. Now select User Accounts>Change Account Type>Add New User in PC Settings. You’ll see a couple of options that that allow you to add users to either your Family or just General use. Set one of these up and see if that solves the problem.

Don’t delete your original user account though, as you’ll want that once the bug has been patched.

How to fix the Start Menu in Windows 10

Use the Command Line utilities

If the thought of tinkering with code doesn’t chill you to the bone, then there are a couple of utilities you can use to address the Start Menu problem. Before you begin though we strongly advise backing up any files that you can't afford to lose.

Scan File System:

System File Check is a built-in utility that will, as the name suggests, go through your system to see if anything is corrupted.

The first thing you’ll need to do is open up the Task Manager window, which is achieved by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ESC.

At the top of the new window you should see the option for File>Run new task. Click this and then in the Create new task box type CMD, but don’t press enter just yet. Under the area where you typed in CMD you’ll see a box entitled Create this task with administrative privileges which you need to have ticked. Now click OK.

how to fix windows 10 start menu

A new window will now appear with a cursor flashing next to c: \windows\system32>

Type in the following command;

sfc /scannow

and press enter.

how to fix windows 10 start menu

Windows will now run a scan on your file system and let you know whether it discovers any discrepancies.

If you see the message Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some (or all) of them then you’ll need to run another program to see if these issues can be resolved.

At the command line prompt type the following;

DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

making sure that you include the spaces after each word.

This might take a little while to run, so leave the PC to its business and go make yourself a cup of tea. You’ve earned it! When DISM is completed you should hopefully receive a message letting you know all is well. It’s a good idea to run the sfc /scannow utility again to check that there aren’t any other errors lurking in the system. 

If after all this you’re still experiencing the problem then more drastic measures will need to be attempted. 

Resinstalling the Windows apps:

Just like in the SFC section above you'll need to launch the Command Line interface in Admin mode. To do so press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC, select File>Run new task, then type CMD. Make sure that the Create this task with administrative privileges box is ticked, then click OK.

You’ll see the black terminal window appear with a cursor flashing next to the c: \windows\system32> prompt. Enter the word powershell, press enter and then copy and paste the following command (yes, you can paste into the command line in Windows 10!);

Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

How to fix the Start Menu in Windows 10

Press enter, the process will run. Don't be put off by the red error messages which might appear. 

How to fix the Start Menu in Windows 10

This is normal, if a little terrifying, but when the process has finished you’ll see the prompt appear at the bottom of the panel. Close the window and hopefully your Start menu will be fully operational once more.