While many are trying to get used to the new Start screen, others immediately want to get the classic Start menu back.
The list of alternatives for the Start screen can be found here and is maintained by forum member hoak.
Windows Server 2012 to Workstation Manual
After installing the Desktop Experience feature, Windows Server 2012 will automatically boot to the Start screen. Thanks to Igal Tabachnik with his post at the hmemcpy Blog, it is possible to automatically boot to the classic desktop although the Desktop Experience feature is installed. The installation can be done either automatically or manually.
3. At the Permissions window, click the Advanced button, next on top click the Change link behind the Owner: TrustedInstaller line, enter Administrators in the objects text area and click OK twice to get back to the Permissions window.
5. Double click ClientExperienceEnabled to open its value editor, change the value to 0 and click OK to save the change. Close the Registry Editor and reboot, and voila, your Windows Server 2012 with Desktop Experience enabled will automatically boot to the classic desktop!
Continue to install the Windows 8 Aero cursors…
Even after installing the Desktop Experience feature, the Internet Explorer tile in the Start screen still runs Internet Explorer on the classic desktop. This registry hack will make Internet Explorer run as Windows 8 UI application when started from the Start screen.
Download MetroIE.reg and import it into the registry. Next time you click the Internet Explorer tile in the Start screen, it will start with the Windows 8 interface. Make sure you also followed the Windows 8 Apps and IE Enhanced Security Configuration steps. The classic Internet Explorer can still be accessed by starting Internet Explorer from the classic desktop.
Continue to install dll’s required for some games and applications…
By default Windows Server is not really configured for visual glamor. The Start screen and menus aren’t animated and in Windows Explorer no thumbnails of images are shown. This page will guide you through the steps of enabling thumbnails and having visual effects in Windows Server 2012.
2. In the Performance Options screen, check the checkboxes of the improvements of the graphical user interface (GUI) you want to have. Most have to do with smooth animations and graphical improvements, however the Show thumbnails instead of icons will generate small previews of images in Windows Explorer. The default configuration of visual effects in Windows 8 is shown below.
Continue to get the ‘Performance Information and Tools’ page in the Control Panel…
To fully get the Windows 8 experience to Windows Server 2012, Microsoft added the possibility to install this as a feature. This will install additional desktop applications and add several GUI improvements.
Installing this feature will have the following effects:
1. Start the Server Manager and click the Add roles and features link in the Welcome Tile. If you already closed the Welcome Tile, make it visible again via the View menu or in the left panel navigate to Local Server, then in the right panel scroll all the way down to ROLES AND FEATURES, click the TASKS dropdown and choose Add Roles and Features.
6. At the Select Features page, expand User Interfaces and Infrastructure and check the Desktop Experience checkbox. Probably it will now ask you whether you also want to install the features required by Desktop Experience. Click the Add Features button to proceed. Now, click the Next button to proceed.
7. At the confirmation page, optionally check the Restart the destination server automatically if required checkbox as the Desktop Experience feature will need a restart to complete. You can also manually restart the server after the wizard completed.
9. After the installation has completed, your system will automatically restart if you checked the checkbox at step 7. Otherwise you can close the wizard and restart the server manually. In case you don’t know yet what possibilities there are to restart Windows 8 / Windows Server 2012, read the essentials page.
12. If you now click the Desktop tile, right click somewhere at a blank spot and choose Personalize, the Windows 8 Theme can be selected. Everything will however still remain gray because the color schema is by default determined by the overall color of the desktop background, which by default is the gray Windows Server 2012 background. This behavior can be changed by clicking the Color option in the Personalization screen.
Continue to configure Windows Server 2012 to automatically boot to the Classic Desktop…