What is the difference between "Unpin from Start menu" and "Remove from this list"?


The list of programs on the left hand side of the Start menu is really two lists. (You can see the separator line between them.) The top list is the so-called “pin list”. This is the list of programs you picked to be “locked” to the top of the Start menu. You can “pin” a program by right-clicking it and selecting “Pin to Start menu”, or you can just drag it directly into the pin area.

The bottom list on the left hand side of the Start menu is the “most frequently used” section of the Start menu, which selects the programs you have used the most in the past month or so.

If you right-click an item that happens to be in the Start menu’s pin list (either by right-clicking it from the pin list itself, or by right-clicking the original), one of the options is “Unpin from Start menu”. If you select this option, then the item is removed from the Pin list.

If you right-click an item on the “most frequently used” section of the Start menu, one of the options is “Remove from this list”. If you select this option, then the item is removed from the “most frequently used” section of the Start menu. As far as the Start menu is concerned, you never ran that program. Of course, as you start running the program subsequently, it works its way up the popularity chain and might break into your “most frequently used” list based on your usage after you removed it originally.

The difference, then, between the two, is that each removes the item you clicked from a different list. One removes it from the pin list, and the other removes it from the “most frequently used programs” list. There is a line separating the two lists, but most people don’t realize that the line is there for a reason. It’s not just a pretty face.

To make things less (or perhaps more) confusing, if you select “Remove from this list” for an item from the pin list, it also removes it from the pin list as well as removing it from the “most frequently used programs” list.

Comments (34)
  1. Ben Hutchings says:

    Also the web browser or mail client can’t be unpinned; they can only be removed. Yet another reason for me to stick with the "classic" Start menu.

  2. EAW says:

    I don’t understand, Ben. Unpinning is the same as removing for the pin list, while the frequently used list is auto generated – what make the Classic menu superior?

  3. indiv says:

    How do programs get above the line without being on the pin list? I have 3 programs above the line: Internet Explorer, Lotus Notes, and Outlook. When I right click on each of them, there’s no unpin option. However, when I pin something, it moves above the line with these programs.

    I remember the blog entry on why there’s no programmatic access to the list, so how did these programs get there? I can see how IE could get there, but did Outlook and Notes go through undocumented structures?

  4. steven says:

    What makes the classic start menu superior for me is that it makes keyboard navigation through the menus (using the item initials rather than the arrow keys) much easier and more predictable.

    I’m used to doing stuff like WinKey,P,I,W to start WinSCP etc. I could assign a hotkey to it, but there’s many more programs than sensible hotkeys.

  5. tester says:

    Re: your last paragraph.

    If you pin a shortcut that is in the frequently used list then it is removed from the frequently used list and put into the pin list. If you then unpin it, it is put back into the frequently used list.

    I’ve never seen a shortcut in the pin list and the frequently used list at the same time. It appears that as long as a shortcut is in the pin menu then it never enters the frequently used list.

    Am I correct?

  6. Hank K. says:

    With regard to OE and Lotus Notes, there is an option in the Start Menu preferences to pin your current default web browser, and email client. I have no idea how both of those programs are sharing the email slot, though.

  7. Anders says:

    I have a shortcut that i never use (wordpad that opens the hosts file), but about once a month it shows up on the "most frequently used" list, so I have to remove it. (The shortcut is in AccessoriesCommunications but that shouldnt matter since the other shortcuts in that folder dont have this problem)

  8. Grolou says:

    uh when i have a prog un pin list it never shows in frequent list….

  9. (this ms-bashing moment sponsored by, uh, oracle!) says:

    David: That’s what happens when an OS has so little incentive to upgrade that it requies a new UI from the marketing team to make it look "fresh" and "cool." It’s change for the sake of change, and not much else.

    I’m not sure if this quote is incorrectly attributed, but I’ve heard that Bill Gates was once quoted (with regard to the Win3.1 file manager) as saying, "If you can’t make it better, at least make it LOOK better." For too many MS products, it’s true.

  10. JeffB says:

    David, you may think that it was perfect to have Win2K hide the inactive icons, but I absolutely despise the feature. I want to see all my programs at once. At least we have the option.

    As for simply updating the UI, remember that for the average home user, XP was a major leap forward. It offered the better stability of Windows 2000 with an updated UI. I would call that just making something look pretty. I get (thankfully) fewer calls from family asking me to troubleshoot their PC from 1500 miles away because Win98SE or WinME crashed…

  11. Jerry Pisk says:

    The whole idea of hiding inactive entries is completely against Microsoft’s discoverable UI trend. Dynamic menus make the UI just that, dynamic, changing over time. It’s both user unfriendly (imagine if your car’s shifter decided to remove reverse, because you have a half-circle driveway and almost never backup) and a support nightmare (wink wink), since the default entries are not going to be present.

  12. Dominic Self says:

    I must be one of the few people who actually loves the new XP Start Menu then… although it does look ugly if you don’t use Luna (which I also happen to like – yay!)

    For me it’s ultra-convenient to have it arranged like that – with My Documents, My Music etc opening out is very handy as well. All your ‘sytem’ type links in one place. Seriously, it works really well :D

  13. BradC says:

    I have a shortcut that i never use (wordpad

    > that opens the hosts file), but about once a

    > month it shows up on the "most frequently

    > used" list, so I have to remove it.

    I have this problem, too. My "ghost" is a link to "AOL Instant Messenger License" with a notepad icon.

    Not only do I NEVER use AOL, I am fairly certain I have NEVER opened this document.

    This is a valid shortcut buried deep inside my programs folder though, underneath Netscape Communicator. (which I never use either).

    Weird.

  14. Chris Altmann says:

    I like the "new" XP style menu and use both of the discussed features all the time.

    One thing I do not like is that pinning programs to the start menu actually pins a shortcut to the shortcut selected, not to the actual program that it represents(though looking at the properties of the resulting pinned item makes it seem otherwise). When you pin a shortcut from the desktop and then delete the original shortcut (you’ve just pinned it to the start menu. Why do you need it on the desktop?), it breaks the pinned shortcut.

    I’ve since trained myself to only pin shortcuts from the MRU area or the "All Programs" menu as those are less likely to be deleted afterwords, but it would be nice if Windows were a more intuitive about this.

  15. sriram says:

    Ahhh… the start menu. One of my pet peeves is the default organization that many programs use, ie Start MenuPrograms<Company Name><Product Name>links. This makes absolutely no sense, and pretty soon the start menu is littered with these entries as you install programs.

    I periodically go through, arrange all the programs into logical groupings, ie Internet Tools, Programming Tools, Multimedia, etc, etc. I only keep the main exe shortcut, and put it directly in the subfolder, deleting the assorted links to READMEs, Help files, Ads, and the Uninstall.

    Beats me why programs add a shortcut to the uninstall in the start menu, when we have a "Remove Programs" applet… are they that keen for users to remove their programs? Readmes and help files need only be accessible one you start the program and really don’t need to clutter the start menu.

    Most peoples are start menu are a complete mess, and barely usable, which is why I suppose there is the newer start menu in xp, and need for the pin list and mru list.

  16. binaryc says:

    I’ve always wondered why it was:

    start->programs->winamp->winamp

    rather than

    start->multimedia->winamp

    That’s how I have my start menu arranged, but it’s really a pain to have to move stuff around anytime anything gets installed, uninstalled, or updated.

  17. Norman Diamond says:
    1. Although I use the "classic" start menu on every machine where I’m the primary user, it seems to be just as bad in the pinning department as the psychedelic start menu is. For example when Microsoft Office is installed for the first time it adds two shortcuts above the dividing line. When Word 2000 is installed as an upgrade over Office 97 it adds two more giving a total of four shortcuts above the dividing line. I’ve found those shortcuts useful 0 times.

      2. Thursday, June 16, 2005 3:28 PM by David Wilson

      > from Windows 98 people have had the ability

      > to ‘personalise’ their start menus through

      > drag and drop, but other than myself, I have

      > never met another computer user, let alone

      > professional, who actually used this feature.

      Actually I do. Despite my wish for an option to turn off the functionality of drag and drop (i.e. to make it a no-op, because most of the time the drags were not intended), this is the one exact place where I want it enabled, as it happens to be. I move the shortcuts for Windows Explorer and Command Prompt to the bottom of the list so I can find them easily. Also when installing another set of Visual Studio stuff or sometimes other applications, I move their menu entries to be near each other.

      3. Thursday, June 16, 2005 6:56 PM by sriram

      > One of my pet peeves is the default

      > organization that many programs use, ie

      > Start MenuPrograms<Company Name><Product Name>links.

      99% of the installers I’ve used let you change that during install time. You can change it to almost anything you want, once during install time, and never have to worry about it again. What a thing to complain about. I’d rather complain about some apps that still misbehave and put stuff on the C partition and damage some other operating system that was installed there instead of putting stuff on your current boot partition or wherever else you told it.

      Meanwhile, defaulting to including the company name isn’t such a bad idea. It helps reduce collisions among products made by different companies.

  18. David Wilson says:

    The new start menu is one of the few things I don’t get about Windows XP – I mean, from Windows 98 people have had the ability to ‘personalise’ their start menus through drag and drop, but other than myself, I have never met another computer user, let alone professional, who actually used this feature.

    Most users I know would only ever venture into the murky depths of the Start Menu to ‘pull’ an icon off it and on to their desktop. It was simply too busy to understand just by looking at it.

    Along came Windows 2000, and hiding inactive icons was introduced. This was a *nice* feature for the Start Menu. The average preloaded computer would be cram-packed full of junk the user would never need, and all the typical Help, Uninstall, README.txt, Safe Mode icons on the Start Menu to go along with it. Given a week or two, that stuff would simply disappear.

    Now, from 1998 to 2001/2002 represents 3 or 4 years of UI road testing for the start menu. Did Microsoft fail to notice the clean Windows 2000 start menu was a huge improvement in terms of user-friendlyness?

    The first time I saw Windows XP I nearly lost bowel control. The huge unfriendly atrocity that is the XP Start Menu now occupied the bottom left. Everyone I know switches to classic mode straight after their first login. Even my mother prefers the Windows 2000 version.

    Anyway, just my thoughts. Why did MS kill the 2000 version? It was perfect. :)

    David.

  19. TheMuuj says:

    What is even worse is when you go to all the trouble to rearrange your start menu, and then all of a sudden Windows Installer decides to "repair" an application (which I did not know was "broken," and is generally triggered when I run an *unrelated* VB6 application), and YAY! The icons are back in their orignal location, and probably even on the desktop!

    Even worse, these shortcuts are magical non-standard ones that 1) don’t let you change their icon, 2) don’t let you choose "Run As", and 3) don’t let you "Find Target" in case you need to find where the program is located.

    What was so wrong with the original .LNK format?

    I guess I should find a blog of a Windows Installer programmer and complain there. :-) Maybe I can also gripe about Installer packages that are in self-extracting ZIPs (often redundant, since MSI allows compression), so when you go to uninstall or repair, the MSI package is no longer in the Temporary folder.

    *sigh*

    Now I’m tense.

    I’m very touchy about my Start Menu organization. Perhaps a tool that can help keep them organized and copied to all users, not just the one who installed it (Administrator), which is not generally the one using it on my machine.

  20. "I’m very touchy about my Start Menu organization. Perhaps a tool that can help keep them organized and copied to all users, not just the one who installed it (Administrator), which is not generally the one using it on my machine. "

    Use e.g. Windows Explorer to move the start menu items from Admin’s %HOME%Start-menu to %ALLUSERSPROFILE%Start-menu. (Like, move c:documents and settingsAdministratorStart-menuProgramsSuperProgram.lnk to c:documents and settingsall usersstart-menuPrograms).

    You should also watch, using regmon from sysinternals, if the program installed registry entries to HKLM instead of HKCU where it is supposed to put most of them.

    The install program is the ill behaving here. But many let you choose to install for either the current user or to all users.

    Guess they(installers) can’t get worse, just better :)

    Btw. check out http://blogs.msdn.com/robmen for a blog about setup. He started WiX which you might have heard of…

  21. Brent Dax says:

    >> I have a shortcut that i never use (wordpad

    >> that opens the hosts file), but about once a

    >> month it shows up on the "most frequently

    >> used" list, so I have to remove it.

    >

    > I have this problem, too. My "ghost" is a link

    > to "AOL Instant Messenger License" with a

    > notepad icon.

    My ghost is the Visual Studio command line (instead of the normal command line). It happens because the frequently used list doesn’t distinguish between a shortcut that opens a program and a shortcut that opens a file *in* a particular program.

  22. Georg Rottensteiner says:

    sriram:

    >Beats me why programs add a shortcut to the >uninstall in the start menu, when we have >a "Remove Programs" applet… are they that keen for users to remove their programs? >Readmes and help files need only be >accessible one you start the program and >really don’t need to clutter the start menu.

    If you do both it’s convinience for the user. I myself hate the new Add/Remove Programs with a passion. Since 2000 the thing is mind-numbingly slow, it can’t just display the list, it scans for the size(?) and whatever on my harddrive and it takes 10 to 20 second before it shows the list. If i want to uninstall an app the size is among the last things i’m interested in.

    The list of programs is another pet peeve of mine: Why oh why did they decide to make the item height change, when you click on it. This is plain annoying.

    Phew, feeling better now :)

    For the start menu, i prefer the classic style, no icons and i only have Windows Explorer on the pin list. It’s already annoying enough that on every media player or office update i have to remove the newly created shortcuts from the pin list and the root of the start menu (and sometimes the quicklaunch bar as well).

  23. alanjmcf says:

    steven wrote:

    > What makes the classic start menu superior

    > for me is that it makes keyboard navigation

    > through the menus (using the item initials

    > rather than the arrow keys) much easier and > more predictable.

    >

    I too use this method and swore at XP when auto-added links in the "most frequently used" area broke this.

    The solution is however simple; in the "Customize Start Menu" dialog (from the "Taskbar and Start Menu Properties" dialog), set "Number of programs on Start menu" to zero. No links are then added to the "most frequently used" area. Hurrah!

    Alan

  24. Rob Shearman says:

    Andreas:

    The original poster said that he generally didn’t use the Administrator user on his machine and you can’t use Run As to launch explorer (maybe a strange security feature?). Therefore, his only option would be either to have to log out and log back in as Administrator or to do "runas /user:Administrator cmd.exe" and move the files from the command line.

    Phew. That’s a lot of work for working around broken installers.

  25. Boris Zakharin says:

    Regarding HKLM, for machines where users run as non-admin and have programs installed by the Admin, it is recommended that any registry settings go into HKLM. Any HKCU settings should only be written once the program is first used (I’ll be the first to admit I’ve broken this rule as I was not as non-admin aware at the time I designed my installer)

  26. PatriotB says:

    "Beats me why programs add a shortcut to the uninstall in the start menu, when we have a "Remove Programs" applet… are they that keen for users to remove their programs? Readmes and help files need only be accessible one you start the program and really don’t need to clutter the start menu."

    Unfortunately, some online software libraries (cough-tucows-cough) have rating systems that require this–if you don’t do it you lose points. As a former shareware developer, I put those links in for my programs, to appease those who expect them. :(

    "Microsoft Office is installed for the first time it adds two shortcuts above the dividing line. When Word 2000 is installed as an upgrade over Office 97 it adds two more giving a total of four shortcuts above the dividing line. I’ve found those shortcuts useful 0 times."

    Agreed. Looks like Office got the hint, they don’t do it anymore (in 2003 at least).

    "I have a shortcut that i never use (wordpad that opens the hosts file), but about once a month it shows up on the "most frequently used" list, so I have to remove it."

    Let’s all play "my ghost is." My ghost is one of the .conf files for Apache.

  27. TheMuuj says:

    "Use e.g. Windows Explorer to move the start menu items from Admin’s %HOME%Start-menu to %ALLUSERSPROFILE%Start-menu."

    Unfortunately, you have to copy the links first, and then delete the originals. Otherwise, the shortcuts have the original permissions for Administrator only, and you cannot use them as a non-Admin user. Either that, or you have to move them and go back and re-apply the security settings manually.

    "The original poster said that he generally didn’t use the Administrator user on his machine and you can’t use Run As to launch explorer (maybe a strange security feature?)."

    You can run explorer as Admin, but it certainly isn’t easy or intuitive (Longhorn could go a long way to make stuff like this easier). You have to set Explorer to run in a separate process under folder options.

    There’s still a problem with it not monitoring file changes properly. You can’t even create a new folder without refreshing, renaming, and refreshing again, because Explorer doesn’t pick up on changes when running for another user.

    I created an AutoHotKey script, bound to Ctrl+Window+E, that propmts me for Admin password, and then runs explorer as a different user. This is a major time-saver.

    It’s a shame that it’s against the stupid EULA to install the patched libraries that would let you Remote Desktop into your own machine over localhost, because that’s the perfect solution, and it works really well.

    PLEASE rethink this licensing decision (I know it was considered for SP2). I’m not talking about two *people* logged in at once using the machine simultaneously. I’m talking about connecting to localhost as a different user to have an admin session for installing applications. The Windows+L to switch users is too disruptive because it’s hard to read your email or news while waiting for a lengthy install process.

  28. Nektar says:

    I think there is a bug in the way that the Start menu pins programs. This bug happens only I guess with these special shortcuts like the one used by Office Word 2003.

    When eg. Word is on the frequent list menu and then you add it to the pin list as well it does not go away from the frequent list. It stays on both lists. Even if you remove it from the frequent list but you leave it on the pin list, after a while, and some usage, it re-appears on the frequent list. So I always have Word twice on my Start menu. This is a bug. Shortcuts should be removed from the frequent list when added to the pin list and should never appear in the frequent list as long as they are present in the pin list.

  29. David.Wang says:

    using the machine simultaneously. I’m talking

    >about connecting to localhost as a different

    >user to have an admin session for installing

    >applications. The Windows+L to switch users

    >is too disruptive because it’s hard to read

    >your email or news while waiting for a

    >lengthy install process.

    >

    Here is my long-winded solution to your problem.

    I only run as non-admin (i.e. just the normal User group, default privileges and everything), and my solution to all this is just a simple little shortcut that contains the following commandline:

    %windir%system32runas.exe /u:%COMPUTERNAME%root "cmd /T:3E /k @title root && start /min taskmgr"

    I further customize my shortcut to be a console that is 50 characters wide and 2 characters high. Net effect is that I have a shortcut that by clicking it, it asks me to silently enter the admin password, and on success, it pops up an admin command console with a different color (I rig mine to also auto-launch Task Manager, so that my non-admin user can correctly police misbehaving processes).

    And yes, I rename my admin account to root. Old habits just live on.

    I then copy this shortcut and place it in "%ALLUSERSPROFILE%Desktop" using the admin account when I first install Windows, create my limited user account, and then I log out and log back in as that user. I never run as admin after this.

    I use different colors and title for the admin console so that when looking at the desktop or at the taskbar, I know which one is my admin console to do special admin tasks.

    As for installing programs — I just run:

    appwiz.cpl

    Inside of the admin console, and I can add/remove programs. Or I directly launch the setup program EXE from within that console window. So, all those annoying auto-launch installers when you insert the CD — foiled! Nothing gets installed on my machine unless I personally do it.

    The installer still shows up on my non-admin user desktop, so I can simultaneously monitor the lengthy installation and still email/browse as my non-admin self.

    I do Windows Update patches this way as well. Just launch

    "%ProgramFiles%Internet ExplorerIEXPLORE.EXE" from the admin console, navigate to windowsupdate.microsoft.com, and update as necessary. Then, I quickly close that browser window after updates are done since it is a security risk to have an admin browser window.

    Conclusion:

    In general, I have found this approach very useful to run as non-admin. I basically log in as non-admin, double click on my admin shortcut to open that one and only admin console, then I go about my business as if that admin console window does not exist — until I need to do an admin action like install programs for All Users, start/stop services, put a debugger onto a process my non-admin user does not own… hmm, that’s about it. And I never log nor fast switch out.

    The only thing that I have not been able to run in this fashion is:

    ncpa.cpl

    So, I cannot quickly change network configuration with my setup. However, no problems. This has just made me closer friends with NETSH.EXE on the commandline so that I do not need ncpa.cpl anymore. To boot, NETSH.EXE tells me more than ncpa.cpl ever did. I still do not know what is special about ncpa.cpl that breaks this, but eh.

    I am actually looking at LUA in Longhorn right now, and I still cannot figure out how it makes my current configuration any simpler or more secure. I am already running as non-privileged user by default for everything, and I very deliberately elevate privileges to perform privileged tasks. The technical design of LUA, on the other hand, boggles my mind.

    //David

  30. David.Wang says:

    When you refer to misplaced icons and not installing properly under RUNAS, it usually means the applications are installing for "Current User" instead of "All Users", so being able to local-RDP as the admin user probably does not help your non-admin user. If it is an MSI install, you may want to try passing in ALLUSERS=2 to the MSI to tweak the installer (you can always use Orca from the MSI Platform SDK to do more tweaking…)

    Otherwise, I think my single cmd console is functionally equivalent to your local-RDP, other than the fact that local-RDP is not a supported configuration and takes up more resources that a cheap cmd console.

    But with LUA in Longhorn, it seems to me that neither of our ideas are "it" going forward.

    I agree with you that unless us users get hard-core about not accepting applications that do not follow the rules to run as non-admin, the application authors have zero incentive to improve.

    //David

  31. TheMuuj says:

    I’ve had problems with certain programs not installing properly if I simply use a RunAs, otherwise I’d use it all the time.

    Plus, after installing an application, I often need to fix the Start Menu because of the misplaced icons (they need to be in All Users).

    That’s why I like the idea of a Remote Desktop into my own machine. I can have a different Visual Style and desktop on my Admin side, so it’s very easy to tell where an application is running.

    There are a few nasty applications where I have to RunAs just to use them. I put up with *very* few of these types of applications. Even modifying permissions on one INI file in Program Files goes against my principals. Developers need to learn how to program correctly, and I consider it a CRITICAL bug if an application requires any sort of hacks to run as non-administrator.

    Even Microsoft Age of Mythology is broken in this matter. Luckily, the Titans expansion pack fixes it, and it’s so fun I never play the original anymore.

  32. I’m confused as to how the most frequently used algorithm works. It seems to take some kind of weird mix between how often the program is used recently and how many times the program is run total. Plus, it seems to skip over some obviously most-frequently used programs.

    For example, to curb my addiction for minesweeper, I often remove that shortcut from the list (out of site, out of mind). I run it once, and it’s immediately back as third or fourth. I’d’ve assumed that it was because it doesn’t actually delete old usage history, but I’ve seen new programs jump up the list after only using them once.

    I *always* run iTunes (if I’m on, it’s on until I recently crashed my hard drive and haven’t pulled the music back on), but it’s nowhere to be seen on the list.

    Is there anywhere I can look for an algorithm of what’s worthy of being on the list and what order it goes in?

  33. Lee says:

    **

    There is a line separating the two lists, but most people don’t realize that the line is there for a reason. It’s not just a pretty face.

    **

    Wow. Most people are retarded. What’s the point in designing visual cues like this if users are morons and don’t clue in on them?

  34. PatriotB says:

    David: "I do Windows Update patches this way as well. Just launch

    "%ProgramFiles%Internet ExplorerIEXPLORE.EXE" from the admin console, navigate to windowsupdate.microsoft.com, and update as necessary."

    Does that actually work for you? My updates always download correctly but then fail. Technically, I run wupdmgr.exe at my admin console, which goes directly to WindowsUpdate, so maybe there’s a slight difference. (I actually use wupdmgr anytime I need an Explorer/IE admin window–when I use iexplore.exe it always ran as my nonadmin user.)

    "I still do not know what is special about ncpa.cpl that breaks this, but eh."

    The Network Connections control panel is a small stub that opens an Explorer window and navigates it to the Network Connections shell folder. Thus, like other Explorer windows, it runs under the logged-in account. What I do is run wupdmgr to get an IE window, then type "Control Panel", then go into Network Connections.

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