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Use Ninite to give Windows 8 a classic Start menu

This handy batch software installer now supports Classic Shell, a Start button/menu combo for Windows 8.

Are you taking the plunge on a new Windows 8 system? Although Microsoft has positioned the new OS to be all about apps, most users will want to run some "legacy" programs (quotations minehow is something like iTunes suddenly a legacy program?).

Rather than downloading all your favorites manually, or, worse, fishing out a bunch of installer CDs, check out Ninite. This insanely handy tool automatically downloads and installs software, saving you considerable time setting up a new machine.

Even better, Ninite just added Classic Start, which is the open-source Classic Shell program Lincoln Spector wrote about last month. It's a Start button/menu for Windows 8's Desktop mode, which, irritatingly, doesn't have one.

Never heard of Ninite? It works like this: You scroll through Ninite's categorized list of programs, check-marking the ones you want. The service offers the most current versions of nearly every popular mainstream program, including Firefox, Skype, OpenOffice, iTunes, Picasa, Steam, and personal favorite IrfanView.

Once you've made your picks, you simply click Get Installer to download a small executable file. When you're ready, run that file and sit back while Ninite goes to work.

How long it takes depends on how many programs you've selected, but in my experience, it's surprisingly quick.

Best of all, it circumvents any toolbars that might normally get installed with a particular program, and it automatically chooses the 32- or 64-bit versions, whichever's best for your system.

The addition of Classic Start is icing on the cake, as it instantly makes all the other legacy programs you're installing more easily accessible. Ninite is all kinds of awesome, an essential tool for anyone setting up a new PC (regardless of operating system).

Looking for another Start option? Check out Pokki, which I wrote about earlier this week.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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