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That Pesky Windows Taskbar

In my many years of working in PC technical support, the question of ‘What happened to my taskbar?’ has been pretty common. In nearly every case, the state of their taskbar came about because of something the user did, whether or not they were aware of it. In this article, I will go through the various ways in which the taskbar is moved or disappears, and then I will tell you how to bring it back and keep it there for good.

Where is My Taskbar?

If you cannot find your taskbar, the easiest way to locate it is to press the Windows key on your keyboard, provided you have one. The Windows key is the key with the little flying Windows logo on it, and can be found on most keyboards made in the past several years. Pressing that key is the same as clicking the Start button, and it will make your taskbar and Start menu appear. By doing this, you will at least know upon which side of the screen your taskbar is located, which is necessary for you to be able to move or resize it.

If your taskbar immediately goes away after you press the Windows key, then it may be set to Auto-Hide. To turn this feature off, go into the Control Panel and open Taskbar and Start Menu. Under the Taskbar tab, make sure the box next to ‘Auto-hide the taskbar’ is not checked. You may also want to check the box next to ‘Keep the taskbar on top of other windows’ so that it always remains visible, even if any program windows are maximized.

Move the Taskbar

By default, Windows places the taskbar at the bottom of your screen so that the Start button will appear in the lower left hand corner. Some people prefer to have the taskbar at the top or sides of the screen, instead. Sometimes your taskbar ends up on the top or sides whether you want it to be there or not because it is easy to move it accidentally, especially when using a touchpad on a laptop computer. Luckily, it is easy to move it back and forth to whatever side of the screen you choose.

To move the taskbar, click an empty space on the taskbar. Hold down the mouse button and drag the bar to either side of the screen. When you click, make sure you do not click the Start button or any open program windows on your taskbar, otherwise this will not work. Once you have moved the taskbar where you want it, you will see the taskbar as it will appear in its new location. Let go of the mouse button to drop the taskbar in place. If you can’t get it to move, be sure to read the ‘Locking Down the Taskbar’ section below, as your taskbar may be locked in place.

Resize the Taskbar

Sometimes the narrow Windows taskbar just doesn’t give you enough space to see all the windows you have open, so you may want to resize it to fit everything. To resize the taskbar, all you have to do is move the mouse over the outer edge of the bar until the cursor changes to one with arrows pointing up and down. Then just click and drag out to the desired height or width, depending on which side of the screen you have placed the taskbar. Just know that this will take away screen space for all the programs you are running.

You can also resize your taskbar to make it smaller, resulting in a small sliver of a bar going across part of the screen. The same rules apply of just moving your mouse over the edge until you get the up/down arrow pointer, and then dragging it up.

Lock Down the Taskbar

Once you get the taskbar set the way you like, you can lock it down to keep yourself or others from accidentally moving or resizing it. All you have to do is right-click the Start button, then click on Properties in the menu that pops up. Under the Taskbar tab, just check the box next to ‘Lock the taskbar’ and you are done. Should you choose to later move or resize the taskbar, just go back into the same menu and uncheck that box. You can get into the same set of options by going to the Control Panel and clicking on Taskbar and Start Menu.

For more helpful (and fun) Windows taskbar tips, check out Introduction to the Windows 7 Taskbar: Why is it Different from Vista? and Stupid Pet Tricks with the Vista Taskbar, both part of the extensive Bright Hub Windows library.