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I have found an old AT-era keyboard that lacks the Windows 95 “start” and “app” keys. It has a great click mechanism and that is the reason I would like to use it. The problem is to operate Windows 8 with only a keyboard several start-key shortcuts (such as WinC, Win. or WinB) are seemingly required. Are there any alternatives to these? (Windows Vista and earlier could be fully operated without the start key.)

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Someone has discovered buckling-spring mechanical keyboards :) You could always just get one with the meta key. – Darth Android May 17 '13 at 18:45
    
@DarthAndroid They’re expensive as hell, that’s why I would rather use the one I just found in my basement. – kinokijuf May 17 '13 at 20:52
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The best way to remap a key using Autohotkey. – avirk May 19 '13 at 16:42

CTRL + ESC is an alternative for Windows key, but it does not work for shortcuts such as WIN + M (make all windows collapsed). You can also remap windows key to any other key on keyboard (right CTRL for example) with the utility Sharpkeys

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