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Everything You Need to Know about Windows 7 Gadgets

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 5/24/2011

Windows 7 has the gadgets feature, which is a follow-up to the Sidebar which was found in Windows Vista. Gadgets offer the ability to add functionality to your desktop which could normally only be obtained by opening a program. This article rounds up critical information about gadgets.

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    Inspect Your Gadgets

    Gadgets are a way to keep track of things in Windows 7 without having a full application open. This includes functions like a calender, the current weather, and playing music. Gadgets in Windows 7 can greatly extend the ease with which you can perform basic tasks in the Windows 7 operating system, and they can be placed anywhere on your desktop.

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    Compared to Vista Sidebar

    Although Gadgets are new to Windows 7, Windows Vista also had a similar feature called the Windows Vista sidebar. The sidebar was meant to be Microsoft's answer to the Dock in OS X, which was a feature Apple made a lot of fuss over. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the Windows Vista sidebar didn't take off.

    Gadgets are Microsoft's new attempt at the same thing. Unfortuantly, the gadgets in Windows 7 do fall to the same problems that existed with Microsoft's Vista Sidebar. The biggest issue is the general lack of support by third parties. However, it does appear that the support has picked up at least somewhat.

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    Gadgets for Security and Privacy

    Windows 7 Gadgets Some of the best gadgets are those which enhance your security and privacy by keeping track of your computer in real time. These gadgets are able to show critical system information on your desktop so that you can keep track of your computer at a glance.

    For the most part, these gadgets won't normally show information worth worrying about. If everything is going smoothly, this is exactly what they should be doing. However, if a program is starting to use up your CPU cycles or your memory, these gadgets will let you know. Usually this isn't a security issue at all, but it can be, and keeping tabs on your computer in real time will help you head off any problems.

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    Looking for 10 Best Windows 7 Gadgets?

    Of course, gadgets aren't just supposed to be about boring things like security and privacy. They're supposed to spice up the operating system, giving you quick access to functionality which would usually require that you open a specific program.

    There are many gadgets which do just this. For example, the Mini TV gadget open a small video windows in your Windows 7 desktop. With this gadget you can choose to watch video from thousands of online stations. Alternatively, you can also use the gadget simply as an online radio.

    Another cool gadget is called Facebook Explorer. This gadget connects directly to Facebook and acts as sort of Facebook portal which keeps you updated without having to have a full browser window open. The gadget shows your events, messages, friend requests and etc. You can also update your Facebook status.

    To download these gadgets and more check out our article "Top 10 Gadgets for Windows 7."

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    Hard Drive Monitoring Gadgets

    Hard Drive Monitoring gadgets for Windows 7 can be used to keep up to date on the current status of your hard drives. These gadgets are not overly useful to the average computer user because most users don't put their hard drives under too much stress. However, if you do 3D rendering or you edit videos and files, these gadgets can be very helpful. They keep you update to date on how much space you have left on your drives so you know when you need to clean things up or attach another storage device.

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    Windows Live Hotmail Gadget

    Windows 7 Gadgets One of the best things about a gadget is that it lets you keep track of information on your desktop which you'd normally need a program for, even if the program is overkill. One of the best examples of this is email. Email programs are capable of many, many things. They can sort, categorize, filter, reply, read html, create html, and etc. However, most of the time all you really need to know is what messages are in your inbox.

    Thats where the Windows Live gadget comes in. This gadget makes it easy to access Hotmail simply by using a gadget which exists on your desktop. Once you have installed the gadget you will be able to access the basic functionality of your account through the gadget rather than through the web interface. This greatly streamlines your email.

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    How to Remove and Restore Gadgets

    Gadgets can be very helpful. However, not everyone will agree that this is the case. Some will also decide to use a different gadget-enabled platform, such as Google Desktop. In these cases, you may want to disable Windows 7 gadgets altogether. Doing so is possible, and will reduce desktop clutter.

    On the other hand, you may later decide that you want to enable them. Or you may have disabled them accidentally, something which is surprising easy to do if you've previously gone through your Windows 7 operating system and tried to streamline things by turning off features.

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    Where is the Windows 7 Sidebar?

    If you used Windows Vista and liked the sidebar feature you may be wondering where it is. Yes, you do have gadgets in Windows 7, but you have to sort of spread them across the desktop and arrange each on individually. The sidebar kept everything at one place to the side of the screen, which some people will find to be more organized.

    Unfortunately, there is simply no sidebar functionality by default in Windows 7. However, you can try and replicate the sidebar using third-party solutions. For more information read our article "Where is the Windows 7 Sidebar?"

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    References

    Author Experience

    Microsoft: Desktop and Sideshow Gadgets - http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/downloads/personalize/gadgets

    Images are from Ars Technica.