Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

“My Taskbar disappeared” and other simple tweaks (updated)

Some of the support calls I deal with remind me that some of the simplest of  ‘glitches’ (the easiest to fix) can be quite frustrating to a computer user when you do not understand what is going on — like the call I get every so often, “my Start button is gone and I can’t shut down my PC!” I mean, that sounds pretty troubling, doesn’t it? Start button: gone. Yikes. What happened? Somehow, the “Auto-hide the taskbar” feature has been turned on. Move your cursor to the bottom edge of your screen and the familiar Start button and clock will reappear (if it doesn’t, hit Ctrl+Esc, or try moving your cursor to the top, and each side, your taskbar may have “jumped” to one of those edges).

Tip of the day: Set your Taskbar to the way you like it, and then lock it down. To get started, we need to get into the Start Menu and Taskbar Properties options menu. To do so, right-click on any open part (darker blue) of the Taskbar and select Properties.
taskbar.jpg

Now you will see the options we can ‘tweak’. Please note that I have the top one, “Lock the taskbar”, selected. You want to uncheck this while you make your changes, and then when you have everything set to your liking, lock it again. While we’re here, make sure “Auto-hide” is deselected, and the taskbar is unlocked.

By selecting and deselecting the checkboxes you tell Windows how you want the taskbar to behave.
Auto-hide will, well, “hide” the bar after you move to another task – the idea being to give you more screen “real estate” for what you’re currently doing. Hovering your cursor over where it should be will cause it to un-hide. Personally, I don’t like this feature, and would rather keep my eye on the clock than gain a half-inch or so of screen. (This feature has been the source of many inter-office practical jokes, which we tech support types don’t find funny at all.)
Keep the taskar on top of other windows is very similar, but its purpose is the opposite. Selecting this will prevent (or try to prevent) programs that launch in “Full-screen mode” from covering up the taskbar. If you’re a clockwatcher, select this one.
Group similar taskbar buttons changes the default behavior of opening a tab/button for each program you have running in the middle area of the bar. Say for instance you have several (let’s say three) Excel spreadsheets open; with this feature activated, instead of having three buttons labeled “Excel” — which can cause you to run short of taskbar real estate — you will see one, labeled “3 Excel”. Clicking on the tab/button will open a menu naming the three documents.
Show Quick Launch will activate the Quick Launch area of the taskbar. That’s on the left side, just to the immediate right of the Start button. These are ‘single-click’ shortcuts for launching your favorite programs. To remove icons for programs you never actually use; right-click on them and select Delete (you are removing a shortcut, not the program itself). To add a program to this area, right-click on its icon and drag it into the Quick Launch area (taskbar must be unlocked), let go, and select “Create shortcut here”. Quick Launch — especially if Auto-hide is deactivated, and Keep on top is activated — keeps you from having to minimize all your open windows just so you can see your desktop.
Show the clock allows you to turn on or off the digital clock on the far right side. Though, I cannot imagine why you’d want to do that…(I kid.)
Hide inactive icons refers to those icons next to the clock, an area known as the “System Tray”. The system tray shows you (some of) the programs running “in the background” on your PC. Activating this option makes the icons for programs that have ‘gone idle’ disappear, giving you more taskbar real estate. To see them again, just click on the little “<” button.

But wait! We’re not done! Did you know that the taskbar doesn’t have to be on the bottom? You can move it to the top, to simulate the “Mac experience” if you prefer. Or you can move it to either side. To do so, unlock it and place your cursor on a blank space (on the taskbar) and click-and-drag it to the top and let go. If you like it there, and some people do, lock it again. If you don’t, simply drag it back to the bottom.

If you still don’t see the taskbar, you may have ‘squashed’ it to zero height. Move your cursor to the very bottom edge of your screen (you may have to try all the edges) until it changes to up-and-down pointing arrows — click and “drag” upwards until the bar reappears.
Also, you can give yourself more taskbar real estate by expanding it to a bigger size. By default the taskbar is one “row” high, but you can make it two rows, or three rows high. One of the advantages of doing so is the clock changes from time-only to time+date+day-of-the-week…which some people (like yours truly) find convenient.
tskbr1.jpg

To finish up the job, click “Apply” and then “OK”, and please remember to “Lock the taskbar” when you’ve got things ‘tweaked’ to your liking.

Today’s free link: You may have looked at my icons and wondered what some of the programs shown are. I am not going to go through and list them all, but I will tell you about the orange ball: it’s Novatix’s Cyberhawk, a free hueristic anti-malware program I run on all my machines
[update 09/08/07
: Cyberhawk was purchased by PC Tools and is now called "Threatfire".] From their website: “…Traditional antivirus solutions cannot protect you until after they’ve discovered a new threat and produced a signature to counter it. Cyberhawk ThreatFire is different. It does not rely on signatures, but instead constantly analyzes your computer’s behavior to detect and block any malicious activity.”

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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July 16, 2007 - Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, System Tray, Taskbar, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , ,

73 Comments

  1. My vista home premium taskbar jumped to 2 rows on its own. How do I get it back to 1 row? Double arrow-head will not do it and stops at 2 rows. Got a solution? Would appreciate an e-mail with guidance. Many thanks.

    Comment by Richard Sincoff | August 8, 2007

  2. For those of you who are curious, I did indeed contact Richard. I gave him a few things to check, and asked asked him to provide more details.
    I did not hear back. I can only hope he successfully resolved his issue.
    I am not a live “call in show”, but I AM in the business of assisting folks.

    Comment by techpaul | August 9, 2007

  3. I am right clicking my taskbar and it’s not bringing up anything. What happened?

    Comment by AJ | August 27, 2007

  4. Folks–
    I have replied privately to AJ.
    I believe it unlikely that his situation would be relevant to my general readership.

    Comment by techpaul | August 27, 2007

  5. I had the problem with the task bar, now I got it back but have 2 lines and do not know how to get it back to one line as it was.
    Also…I have a problem with my welcome screen and my emails and every other page I bring up…they all move down from thenavigation bar all the time…I pull my welcome screen back up and it comes down constantly..how can i fix this…it never happened before I can take my mouse without clicking on it and move it back up..only to have it come down again…appreciate any help you can give me…Iam constantly having to pull it back up

    Comment by Audrey | October 27, 2007

  6. Audrey, the last paragraph in the article tells you how to adjust the thickness (heighth) of the Taskbar.
    As for the automatic minimizing of windows (if I understand your question, and I’m not sure I do), there really is no such behavior that I’m aware of. I would have to see what you’re describing. You can contact me for help at http://aplusca.com, and click on the link for the free diagnosis.

    Comment by techpaul | October 27, 2007

  7. Very interesting… as always! Cheers from -Switzerland-.

    Comment by Anon | November 25, 2007

  8. While working on my mother-in-laws computer, I moved her taskbar back down to the bottom for her. I was working in three different programs at the time and all of a sudden the open tabs in the taskbar disappeared. If I pressed Atl +Tab I can go between the open documents, programs and websites, but I cannot get the “tabs” back into view. I have tried resizing the takbar, but they seem to have disappeared. Where did they go and how do I get them back?

    Comment by Dana | December 20, 2007

  9. Dana, this unusual behavior requires you provide me with some more information (such as, is this a Vista machine?) for me to truly diagnose, but I would be surprised if merely doing what you described would have this effect.. this is more typically (in my experience anyway) caused by removing a program and clicking “Yes” to the “remove shared DLLs?” question. It can also be caused by malware, so run antivirus and and anti-spyware scans, and visit an online scanner such as Housecall.
    However, the typical first step is to see if rebooting the computer will restore the function.
    If not, (and, this is a fairly recent occurence) use System Restore to revert to an earlier date (when it was working).
    I have also “unstuck” this function by merely un-checking “Lock the Taskbar” and “Show Quick Launch, clicking “Apply”, and then checking them again and hitting “Apply” again.

    If these attempts still do not restore normal Taskbar operation, and your malware scans have come up clean, you might want to go to http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/taskbarplus!.htm and download this program. In “Taskbar Problems” select “Minimized Programs Missing” and “Repair” (Be sure to set a System Restore Point before running this script) … or contact a friendly Tech Support person (such as myself) for a little hands-on assistance.
    Note: for some reason, WordPress does not like the hyperlink to Kelly’s Taskbar repair tool, but that is the correct URL. So Copy>Paste it into your browser, or Google “taskbarplus” to get this great tool.

    Comment by techpaul | December 20, 2007

  10. please tell how can i set my taskbar vertically.please suggest me.

    Comment by izas | February 18, 2008

  11. Izas–
    Right-click on the Taskbar and unlock it (there will be a check next to “Lock the Taskbar” when it’s locked, and not when it’s not). Then place your cursor on a blank area of the Taskbar (and hold down the left mouse button) and “drag” the cursor to the edge of the screen where you want the bar to be. To be vertical, drag it to the left edge of your screen.. or the right edge. Then let go of the mouse button.
    Now right-click and re-”lock” the bar so that it will stay where you put it.

    Comment by techpaul | February 18, 2008

    • hello my task bar still isn’t shrinking to the size I want.what do I do

      Comment by Rosa | February 12, 2010

      • Rosa,
        * What version of Windows are you using? (Windows 7 changed the bar a bit…)
        * What steps did you try already? (did you follow the steps in the article? Should have worked… unless you skipped the “unlock” step..)
        * What happened that changed the Taskbar’s size in the first place? (ie, did you install a program? download a ‘theme’? change some settings?)
        But perhaps most importantly…
        * What do you mean “the size I want“?

        The Windows Taskbar is adjustable, but it is adjustable by rows (as in rows in a table or spreadsheet).. not by pixels or millimeters. By default, it is a single row, but you can ‘expand’ it to two or three rows, essentially making it ‘taller’…

        If you have tried the steps in the article, and read the answers to other questions posted above, and tried those too (such as Kelly’s Repair tool) and you are an Advanced user, you might try a “tweaking tool”. TweakUI is for Widows XP, and for Vista/Win7 you might try the Ultimate Windows Tweaker v 2.0.

        Comment by techpaul | February 12, 2010

  12. The safety remove drive is not showing in task bar although in the customize setting, it was set to always show. Why is that?

    Comment by bertz | February 24, 2008

  13. Bertz–
    More info from you would be helpful, but if you are talking about an external hard-drive connected via USB…
    If you are using Vista, that is normal.
    If you have set your BIOS to enable booting from USB, again, it is normal (your machine will look at the USB devices as “fixed”..and therefore bootable).

    The “workaround” is — when you need to remove the device — open Computer (or, My Computer), right-click on the drive, and select “Safely remove”.
    Also, you can type “rundll32 shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll” (no quotes) into “Run” to open the SRH Manager.
    If that is something you want to do frequently, you can create a new shortcut on your desktop, with the following Properties:
    Target: %windir%\system32\rundll32.exe shell32.dll Control_RunDLL HotPlug.dll
    Start in: %windir%

    I hope that helps, but I am only guessing at your circumstance: I don’t know what operating system you are using, nor what your device is.

    Comment by techpaul | February 24, 2008

  14. My taskbar disappears even though the auto-hide box is unchecked. When I place the cursor at the bottom of the screen, where it was, the taskbar does not come up at all. Nor does it show up when i place the cursor on the other edges of the screen it does nothing. After a restart it is there for a little while. What could cause this problem?

    Comment by cooler | March 5, 2008

  15. Cooler–
    There are a few potential ’causes’, which range in severity.

    The most common cause for this is that you have application(s) set to open their window in “Full Screen” mode (the middle button in the uppermost-right-most corner). This will ‘cover up’ your Taskbar until you minimize the window. (I never use Full Screen mode, prefering “Windowed mode” [left button] and dragging a corner of the window to the size and shape of my liking..this allows me to put two windows side-by-side.)
    The solution is to make sure there’s a check in the “Keep the Taskbar on top of other windows” option. Now Full Screen mode will not grab Taskbar real-estate.

    Make sure your machine is virus and spyware free.

    Another possibility is that some of your files (or Registry settings) have changed/become corrupted, which can be quite serious (especially if you don’t have an Install disk).
    I suggest, if checking “Keep on top…” doesn’t resolve the issue, you next try the tool I refer to in my answer to Dana’s comment.

    If neither of these options work, visit my business website http://aplusca.com and contact me for further troubleshooting.

    Comment by techpaul | March 5, 2008

    • Techpaul… I had the same problem that Cooler had (taskbar hidden no matter what!) Your answer for him solved mine, and I wanted to thank you for not only helping him, but myself as well in the process. I was thinking about going to the Geek Squad in the morning to have them fix it (most likely at a cost to me!) But, no longer have to. My only ? is, what button might I have pushed to make the taskbar unreachable?

      Comment by Shelly Rose | August 11, 2010

      • Shelly Rose,
        As I mentioned to Cooler, the cause of this can vary, and it may not have been “a button I pushed” at all.

        I have seen this happen for numerous reasons, including gremlins (aka “no logical reason”). But the two most common ‘weird’ reasons are: installing/uninstalling some (unrelated) program (which could range from Windows Updates (good), to a ‘virus’(bad)), and the second is the person ran a “system tuneup” and/or Registry cleaner/optimizer.
        (See, Top Tech Tip #2: Leave Registry Cleaners Alone)

        Comment by techpaul | August 11, 2010

  16. I have too many things running on my taskbar – Vinyl Deck, Spybot, Micro Innovations Internet Access Keyboard, Mouse, launch Keyboard properties, and Quicktime. HOw do it get these off. I believe they are slowing down my computer.

    Comment by E Roller | March 9, 2008

  17. Sounds like you need to manage which programs launch at startup (boot), and stop the unnecessary (non-essential) ones from loading.
    My advice for doing that is here: http://techpaul.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/manage-startup-programs-in-vista/
    (It contains links to How To’s for older versions of Windows as well.)

    But, I must also add that, if those mentioned are the sum total of your “too many” list, I doubt they’d noticibly slow down your machine, and I’d look for other causes as well… such as spyware.

    Comment by techpaul | March 9, 2008

  18. When I connect a new drive (ie. external hard drive or usb memory stick), my taskbar no longer shows this connection (it used to). I am not sure what I may have changed to stop this, and it is now fairly painful to eject these drives and I am often uable to do it properly. Do you know how I can get these drives/devices to show up in my taskbar again?

    Comment by Nicole | March 17, 2008

  19. Nicole–
    The first step is to right-click on your Taskbar and select Properties. On the Notification Area tab, click on the Customize button. Then click on the Default Settings button.

    If that fails to restore the Safely Remove icon, the easiest solution is to create a shortcut on your Desktop, which I describe in my answer to Bertz (above).

    Comment by techpaul | March 17, 2008

  20. hi, i have had two new vista lap top and i have been experiencing a problem. when i am on the internet for around 3 hours or more, my task bar starts to twinkle, and my minimized windows dissappers. part of the task bar also dissapears. after this happens i usually have to restart the pc to get it running again. this only happens when i am on the internet for a period of time. my first lap top crashed and i had it replaced, but i am experiencing the same problem. can you please offer a suggestion

    Comment by darnel | March 19, 2008

  21. Darnel–
    I am going to be honest with you… my initial reaction was that you could not be serious, and you were playing with me.
    Considering your description, I have many questions for you before I would begin to suggest a fix (or.. several).
    For instance, are you running on battery? It may be you are running it too long and it has drained the charge too low (or the battery is defective).
    Does any other part of your screen “twinkle”?
    Are you protecting yourself from malware?

    Most important: is your ‘new’ machine still under warranty? (also very curious to make/model..)
    If I had a new machine do this to me, I’d be on the phone to the builder immediately (part of your purchase price is a warranty on Parts and Labor, and usually, Tech Support). Usually, the manufacturer’s tech support telephone number is toll-free.. or you can contact them via “live chat”.

    I am available, professionally, at http://aplusca.com.

    Comment by techpaul | March 19, 2008

  22. THANK YOU!!! It was frustrating having the bar moved to the side and not knowing how to get it back.

    Comment by Julie | March 30, 2008

  23. Yay! Thank you computer geek for sharing your wisdom with us… I moved the taskbar to the side and could not get it to go back to the bottom of the screen… I’m like how did I get it up there in the first place… Ugh it was so frustrating… I was going to delete this account and use the guest account just so I could have it the way I wanted it… But that would mean deleting all my pictures and other files I had saved… Now I locked my taskbar… It’s not going anywhere!!!!!!! buawhaha

    Comment by SadCareBear | April 2, 2008

  24. i’m haveing a problem, i have set the properties of my bottem task bar to cover other windows, to show quick launch and to group simulareities. the auto hide box is unclicked and the lock taskbar box is clicked but when i ckick apply and then ok the task bar still is hideing. i can only get it when i go to the bottom of my screen and click on it.i don’t know what caused this but i think it happened when i pressed some reandom buttons all at once. this is very frustrateing please help.

    Comment by fullmetal | June 9, 2008

  25. fullmetal–
    Please read my replies to Cooler and Dana (above).

    Comment by techpaul | June 10, 2008

  26. my question/problem is most like aj’s and darnel’s. i noticed that none of my minimized screens are showing on my taskbar. the start button is still on the left and the clock and volume (antivirus, updates, etc.) are still on the right but there are none of the pages or programs i have open minimized on the taskbar.
    i also have a completely separate problem that no one has been able to help me with so far…randomly my screen will go from being completely normal and open to suddenly minimizing to maybe 5% of the size. it will shrink so small that you can’t even tell it’s a page. when i try to open it to 100% size (back to the normal page) the second i let go of my mouse it shrinks back down. it has also done this but instead of shrinking, it enlarges to 1000% the size of the screen so that all i can see is one huge letter or character. the only way to correct this is to do a system restore. i’m just tired of it happening.
    the first problem is probably more immediate but the second one is more frustrating and a bigger issue.
    oh-i am running xp pro on a dell optiplex 210 (someone gave me-lol). thanks for any help.

    Comment by brandon | July 11, 2008

  27. i forgot to say that when i right click on the taskbar nothing happens.

    Comment by brandon | July 11, 2008

  28. Brandon–
    Assuming you have installed the latest device drivers (in particular, the drivers for the Intel 900 graphics chipset, mainboard, and your monitor) and ensured that your machine is malware free…
    I would need to actually look at your machine, and ask you several questions. Your problem could be hardware-related or software related. I’m available at http://aplusca.com

    * To resolve the tabs-in-Taskbar issue, look to my reply to Dana (above) read about Kelly’s Taskbar repair tool.
    * To get the correct drivers and find the user forums specific to your make/model, and/or (maybe) chat with a Dell tech support agent, visit Dell’s OptiPlex 210 Support page here: http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/product_support/product_support_central?c=us&cs=22&l=en&s=dfh&~ck=mn&SystemID=PLX_PNT_P4_CEL_210L

    Comment by techpaul | July 11, 2008

  29. My start menu, task bar and desktop icons have disappeared!
    I’ve restarted the computer a few time to see if this helps but it doesn’t. When the computer comes back on I get a black screen with my ‘documents’ folder open – that’s all.
    I’ve gone into Control Panel to try to change/fix this through start menu & task bar but I can’t even get into that.
    How do I get everything back to normal?

    Comment by Claire | July 13, 2008

  30. Claire–
    It sounds to me like you need to have your computer serviced by a tech.

    Comment by techpaul | July 13, 2008

  31. Hi,
    Firstly my problem is really big, in control panel i have tried to open the taskbar and start menu but it doesn’t work. The menu doesn’t open so now what should i do?

    Comment by Preetigirl | August 15, 2008

  32. Preetigirl–
    I’m not following. Control Panel has nothing to do with the Taskbar.
    Are you saying, there is no Taskbar showing (which includes the Start button)? Or, are you saying that when you right-click on a blank area of the Taskbar, you are not getting the Context menu?
    (If you’re at work.. the Administrator may have turned off that feature.)

    Comment by techpaul | August 15, 2008

  33. Hey THANKS! you helped me figure out one of those silly simple things that has been driving me nuts! Thanks,

    Comment by victor | August 16, 2008

  34. I was on google, and i clicked something by accident, i didn’t notice what is was but now my bottom tray-bar thingy has gone, so did the top command bar.. thing but i was able to get that back… not sure what to do put it is driving me nutty

    Comment by Chrissie | December 4, 2008

  35. This article tells you how to “unhide” your Taskbar, and it should have resolved your question, unless you clicked a link and infected your machine (visit Housecall from Trend Micro, and run an online scan).

    You might try using System Restore, and you will find more help here, http://techpaul.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/how-to-use-system-restore-to-fix-windows/

    Comment by techpaul | December 4, 2008

  36. How can I restore my computer back to normal picture,everything is to large for the screen.

    Comment by BUD | December 28, 2008

  37. What can I do to restore my pages in my computer,they are to large for the screen.Back to normal.

    Comment by BUD | December 28, 2008

    • I am curious as to what change you made, so that I can better understand “back to normal”..
      And when you post questions it’s good manners to say what operating system you’re using..

      But as a starting point, right-click on any blank area of your Desktop and select Properties (Personalize >Desktop settings in Vista).
      There should be a slider named “Resolution”. Move it to the right.

      Comment by techpaul | December 28, 2008

  38. in windows xp sp2

    my taskbar is not shwon

    Comment by umesh shelke | March 14, 2009

    • Uh.. did you read the article?

      Comment by techpaul | March 14, 2009

  39. Does anyone know what you have to type into Task manager to get the taskbar back up?

    Comment by Billy | August 2, 2009

    • Billy,
      I don’t want to seem rude, but did you read and try the steps in the article? That is the proper method.
      There are some more answers in the Comments section.

      And I don’t know where you would “type something into” Task Manager. If you meant Run, or the Command prompt, you might try “explorer.exe”, no quotes.

      Comment by techpaul | August 2, 2009

  40. Paul,
    I read the article and I know thats the proper way. When you go into Task manager on the bottom right it says “New task” thats the place where i meant. I knew there was a command but i just couldnt remember.
    Thank you.

    Comment by Billy | August 3, 2009

    • Billy,
      Okay. Good.

      I guess I was thrown off because Windows Explorer controls much more than just the Taskbar; and it usually attempts to re-launch itself.

      New task is quite obscure. I frankly didn’t expect anyone to know about it. Calling the Run dialogue by pressing the Windows key + R is the typically suggested path.

      Frequent crashes of explorer.exe is not a good sign. If that is happening, you may want to run chkdsk /f, and then sfc /scannow (from a Command prompt).

      Thank you for replying.

      Comment by techpaul | August 3, 2009

  41. Paul.
    I went through about 20 websites before I found this one where I could post without having to login, and with someone useful that actually helps (that’s you).

    So “explorer.exe” worked for me. I just couldn’t remember
    it.

    Thanks for the help.
    I know where to come when i need some expert advice.

    Comment by Billy | August 3, 2009

    • Billy,
      Thank you. I’m glad I was able to help.. even if in this case it was helping you remember.

      I hope you’ll visit often.

      Comment by techpaul | August 3, 2009

  42. Every time I insert my memory stick into my computer (Windows XP), my taskbar disappears. Any thoughts?

    Comment by 1websurfer | April 19, 2010

    • 1websurfer,
      That is the first time I have heard that particular plaint.
      Only the Taskbar? And, only when the thumb drive is first inserted?

      The first thing to do is double-check and make sure the Taskbar Properties has “autohide the Taskbar unchecked.

      Next, I would look at the files on the flash drive (aka “memory stick”, “thumb drive”). I suspect something is trying to install from the drive, and corrupting your explorer shell. (I don’t mean to scare you, but I suspect malware. Has that drive been inserted into someone else’s computer ever?)
      Delete any file named “autorun”, and any “setup.exe”s or any file ending in .msi, .ini, .bat, or .lnk.

      After that, start a anti-malware scanner or two on your machine. For pointers on that, type “antivirus” into my search box.

      Comment by techpaul | April 19, 2010

      • If the taskbar doesn’t disappear, the entire screen freezes. I can’t even click the start button to reboot. I’ve taken the memory stick to other computers, like in college or the library, and it works fine. Guess I’ll have to check the files for those extensions there.

        I tried your suggestion and couldn’t even get that far. The thing is, I just dished out $40 to have this computer reformatted three weeks ago! And I supposedly have an antivirus program from my internet provider.

        Geez…the joys of technology.

        Comment by 1websurfer | April 20, 2010

        • 1websurfer,
          A few things:
          1) when the Taskbar disappears, bring up the Run dialogue by pressing the Windows key + R. Type in explorer.exe and hit Enter.That should bring back your Taskbar.
          2) Your description reaffirms my suspicions that something is trying to install from the memory stick when you insert it, though it could be something else.
          3) Most “antivirus” programs are not designed to detect and block infected USB devices.. you might want to invest in one that is.
          4) While it is nice that your ISP is providing some anti-malware, I suggest you read Got A Computer? Top 10 Things You Should Do. You might want to look in my Blogroll, and click on Gizmo’s Security Advisor Wizard too.
          5) $40 for a reformat/reinstall? That does not sound like a professional, certified technician’s fee… Did this problem start happening right after the reformat?

          Comment by techpaul | April 20, 2010

          • Re question 5: About a week after the reformat.

            I tried the two memory sticks at my local library and they work fine. I thought it might be the ports but they’re okay because I can plug in my blackberry cable and it doesn’t freeze anything. So, tomorrow, I’ll go to the library and “delete any file named “autorun”, and any “setup.exe”s or any file ending in .msi, .ini, .bat, or .lnk.”

            I really appreciate all the tips.

            Comment by 1websurfer | April 25, 2010

            • 1websurfer,
              As I said earlier, I am unfamiliar with your specific issue, but my experience leads me to suspect that some.. thing is trying to install from the memory stick. Deleting those file types has a good shot at eliminating the offender – but if there is nothing invaluable on the stick, Formatting it (essentially wiping it clean) is a perhaps a better option.

              But it may not be that at all. It may be hardware-related. It may be how the memory stick is “optimized”. It may be that you need to go in to Device Manager and update the drivers for your USB Host controllers.
              And it may be gremlins. (Yes.. I am joking a little bit.)

              I hope you get it sorted out. Good luck.

              Comment by techpaul | April 25, 2010

  43. TASKBAR NOT SWITCHING BETWEEN PROGRAMS RUNNING?
    I was randomly clicking the ALT key and letters on the keyboard. After clicking only a few times my taskbar does not switch from programs running by clicking the taskbar buttons, there are no little windows in the taskbar of the sites I have visted. they used to be there before this ALT key thing. what i have now is the programs stack on one taskbar button and it only shows the current site I am on. If i click once again on that taskbar button it goes to my screensaver and then if i click again it goes to current page I was on. What i need to know is, how do i get my taskbar to have each place i have visited show across the taskbar like before

    Comment by Py | May 13, 2010

    • Py,
      It is common procedure – when asking for help – for you to provide basic information about your machine – whether you are using Windows 7, for example; make/model; etc..

      You could try System Restore.. to try to go back to before you did what you did.. Or you might simply change the Taskbar Properties so that “Group similar items” is not checked.

      Comment by techpaul | May 13, 2010

  44. RE:#43 comment I left about Taskbar not switching between running programs… I have windows vista and my pc is a toshiba satellite…and I am using internet explorer. My running programs do not switch from one to the other becuz they no longer show on the taskbar. I have never had properties checked for group similar items. i can only see the sites I have been to by using the arrow back key and once I have done that I have no way to see what I have vistied. I can use the history list BUT i would like to have my taskbar buttons back and separate for each program (site) i have visted. thanks

    Comment by Py | May 19, 2010

    • Py,
      The Taskbar (usually at the bottom of your screen) shows you your running programs (as “tabs”). Programs (also known as applications) are things like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Word, Excel, Spider Solitaire, etc..

      If I understand you, what I think you want to do is go back to the “old school” way of having each website you visit open in a different instance of Internet Explorer (thus having several Internet Explorer windows open.. and thus, several IE “tabs” in the Taskbar). I think what you want to do is read Learn How To Get More Out Of Your Browser*.
      There are reasons we don’t handle things in that manner any more, but if – after reading – you still do, set the bottom two options to “in a new window”.

      Comment by techpaul | May 20, 2010

  45. my taskbar as gone from blue to pink and the start button is the same the green button as gone how do i get it back,when i tick to enable it by the time i have got back to the taskbar the tick is ni longer there what can i do

    Comment by joe | August 9, 2010

    • joe,
      It sure does sound like your PC has issues, but I would have to ask you several questions (and maybe look at your machine) before I could begin to diagnose your trouble,

      My professional services can be found here, http://aplusca.com

      Comment by techpaul | August 9, 2010

  46. I have had to put a new harddrive in my laptop. The OS is Vista. I used to have a easy access task bar or whatever it is called at the top of my desktop that would appear when my mouse rolled over it. The icons would swing when touched. This is where I would get on the internet and go to pictures and mail. Can you help me get it back?

    Comment by Harley | August 13, 2010

    • Harley,
      What you describe sounds to me like a “feature” that HP puts on their systems.. and not a Vista feature. You might try looking in the HP folder (or folders)…

      If you would like my services, please visit Aplus Computer Aid.

      Comment by techpaul | August 13, 2010

  47. I was turning my tool bars on and off(windows vista)… i deleted my google toobar by unchecking it in the “view” pull down… but i accidently unchecked something else with took off the “file” “edit” “view” “tools” etc. now i can figure out to get that “toolbar” with those commands to show again…. plz help my wife is going to kill me for tinkering with the PC!!!…

    Comment by frankr | December 4, 2010

  48. commment 47 should read; i CANT figure out how to get that “toolbar” …

    Comment by frankr | December 4, 2010

    • frankr,
      I believe you are talking about Internet Explorer? That ‘toolbar’ is called (appropriately enough) the “menu bar”, and you won’t find it under “View”, but you will under “Tools”.
      The How To is the first Q+A in this article, http://techpaul.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/ies-menu-bar-taskbar-icons-and-bad-updates/.

      Also, if you want to remove the Google toolbar (and I would) instead of merely hiding it, go to your Control Panel, then Programs and Features, and choose “Uninstall a program”.

      Comment by techpaul | December 4, 2010

      • i just right clicked the yahoo toolbar on internet explorer a mini menu popped up …i rechecked the “menu bar” and it reappeared… easy enuf.. i just panicked

        Comment by frankr | December 4, 2010

        • frankr,
          Ha! Okay. Appreciate the honesty. (I myself try to keep my panic’s to the bare minimum.)

          I don’t think you need any “toolbars” (3rd Party), and certainly not Yahoo! and Google’s. (If you must have one.. pick one.)
          Their only (true) purpose is to spy on your “browsing habits”.
          (See, http://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/06/18/toolbar-madness/)

          Comment by techpaul | December 4, 2010

  49. Novatik skyhawk link goes nowhere

    Comment by wayneg | February 18, 2011

    • wayneg,
      Yes, this article is years old now, and since it was written CyberHawk was purchased by PC Tools, renamed ThreatFire, and absorbed into their top-rated Spyware Doctor anti-malware program. They still offer it as a free stand-alone download, and I have changed the article and link to reflect that.
      Thank you.

      Comment by techpaul | February 18, 2011

  50. my volume control has dissappeared off ,my taskbar,I went into “task bar and start menu properties” and I cannot tick the volume box-it doesn’t accept the tick! What can I do to get my volume control back on my taskbar?
    I’m usin windows vista

    Comment by michelle | April 21, 2011


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