There are a number of applications that bring the old START button functionality back to Windows 8, my favourite by far is the free to use Classic Shell which is funded via donationware.
To download Classic Shell go direct to the programmer’s site at www.classicshell.net and click on the Download Now button.
If you find the tool useful then you can optionally visit the site again later and click to donate a small fee for the programmer.
After downloading, click run to install and Classic Shell will load.
Configuring Classic Shell
When you first access Classic Shell you will be prompted to configure your settings.
You can select XP style Classic, or 2 column or opt for the more recent Windows 7 style.
Similarly you can choose whether to show a Start Button (recommended) and what icon to use, one of the two inbuilt or a custom icon of your own choice.
In Basic Settings you can choose other options related to mouse and keyboard control.
One setting that I always make is to set the Windows Key to open the Windows 8 Metro Start screen.
There are also two settings that are set automatically but worth checking. These are the last two on the settings lost. The first is to automatically load Classic Shell for the current user and the second is to force the system to skip the Windows 8 Metro screen and jump straight to the Desktop on boot.
This means that you can easily drop back to the new Windows 8 Metro app interface at any point with a single key press. After all, the Windows 8 Metro screen is awkward for mouse/keyboard users but it does have many positives too.
Finally, by clicking on Skin you can select the visual aspects of Classic Shell and the Windows 8 desktop
If you are not prompted to make these settings on first use, or if you want to change them, you can do so by right clicking on the Classic Shell icon and clicking on Settings.
Once installed Classic Shell will remove a lot of the frustration of learning the new Windows 8 interface. It is so effective and reliable that I now load it on every Windows 8 that I sell and/or configure for my clients.
As you can see from the image below, the Start button will now have a familiar look and feel (example shown is the Classic 2 column view).
The Start Button is provides allows users to quickly come to terms with their new system and to be able to learn the intricacies of Windows 8 at their own pace should they so wish.
I hope this helps alleviate the frustrations of using Windows 8 for you or your friends.