Pin a FILE to the Windows 8 Start Screen

By | November 9, 2012

One of the things I find incredibly frustrating about the removal of the Start Menu on Windows 8 is there’s not “Recent Files” menu anymore. For me, this was incredibly useful as multiple times a week I’d be opening the same OneNote notebook, Excel spreadsheet, etc.

So, how are we supposed to get around this? One of my UX buddies suggested Microsoft should create, by default, a “recent items” group on your Start Screen, that you could rearrange, remove, and add back as you see fit. This would be sweet. Hell, I’d settle for app jump list availability from the Start Screen (ie: right click Excel, have “recent items” in the app bar, pop up a context menu of recent files to open w/ Excel). But alas, none of these options are available.

The alternative, I guess, is to pin the actual document to your start screen:


Uh… how??? If you right click a file, you’re met with the above context menu. If you right click a folder however, you get the option to Pin to Start:


But I don’t want to pin the whole damn folder!

For the solution, we have to harken back to how the “old” Start Menu was stored in the file system. If you recall, we had a directory:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

And guess what, we still do!


So, what we can do, then, is take the file and create a shortcut in to this folder on the hard drive:


But don’t try to do it via drag & drop – you need Administrator permissions. You’ll quickly be met with this:


I click ‘Yes’ here, then Cut & Copy the shortcut in to the Programs folder. Upon doing that, you’re met with the alert that you need to provide Administrator permission and to Continue, Skip, or Cancel. Click Continue of course.

Now great, we’ve got it in the Programs folder. It still won’t show up in the Start Screen. To do that there’s one more piece. First, go to “All Apps” on the Start Screen:


Then on THAT list, you should see your new shortcut show up, most likely on the far left. Now you can right-click that and Pin to Start!


And voila, you now have quick access to a file you always use.


[UPDATE] The main annoyance I’ve had w/ this approach is that, if you have more than one user on your PC you’ll see that the file you dropped in doing the above steps now shows up for all users – ugh, annoying. Of course there’s a way to fix this. Instead of using the C:\ProgramData location, use this one:

C:\Users\Brandon\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

where ‘Brandon’ is your username. Enjoy!

  • thanks for the article. And what a co-incidence i was also creating shortcut for “Finances.xlsx – Shortcut” … :)

    • Brandon

      glad you found it useful, great minds think alike!

  • Observer

    Thank you very much. It’ll surely make my life easier!

  • Vrolijke Vutter

    Bedankt, werkt grandioos en makkelijk te doen.

  • Hyunseung from South Korea

    Thanks a lot. I’ve been looking for this for days!

  • Yes this was incredibly useful as multiple times a week I’d be opening the same OneNote notebook, Excel spreadsheet, etc.

    • Brandon

      Glad to hear it, pass it on to your friends via the share links at the bottom of the post! :)

  • Losercore

    This is a great trick. Only problem is I do not want to keep my files in that directory as I do not keep that directory backed up. Thanks for the info though it gave me some ideas.

    • Brandon

      Keep in mind what you are creating here is a SHORTCUT, not the actual file :)

  • Kieron

    Thanks for the info. Just got Windows 8. and I’ve got a love / hate attitude towards it so far.

    I’ve done this method but when I click it opens the directory where the main file is stored, not the actual file. Should it do that?


    Edit: Take that back the shortcut doesn’t do anything :( The reason I was seeing the file location folder is because it was already open doh!

    • Brandon

      Good to hear you figured it out, I was going to say it sounded like you missed the part of my post right before the 2nd screenshot. But it sounds like you’re on your way now!

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  • wow, hope microsft makes some changes about this

  • Danny

    Here’s a tip. I just stumpled upon this. Go to this website and download the reg file.. after “installing” the reg file you can directly PIN TO START all files :)

    works great and it’s a much faster solution

    • JohnTheYounger

      Wow. Done. Thank you!!

  • Kathy

    Thank you so much! c:

    • Brandon

      No problem, glad you found it useful!

  • JohnTheYounger

    This is so cool. But… I don’t have any such “All Apps” – so I’m dead in the water right there. (I have upgraded to 8.1 – so maybe Microsoft removed that to stop us from pinning key documents to our Start page….?)

    • guest181014

      It is just called All now rather than All Apps!

  • Gillian Taylor

    I’ve got 8.1, which doesn’t have All Apps and doesn’t allow the Pin to 8 download. So how can I pin a file?

    • Brandon

      It does have All Apps. Click the down arrow in the bottom left corner of your Start Screen, or swipe the screen upward

  • Thushara Fernando

    Thanks a lot… that’s what I looking for… you are very clever… keep posting more TIPS & TRICKS… thanks again

    • Brandon

      No problem, share with your friends! :)

  • tanistheman

    just type %APPDATA%MicrosoftWindows , or %APPDATA%MicrosoftWindowsStart MenuPrograms

  • Thomas Wallace

    Awesome dude well done!