Tech – for Everyone

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

IE’s Menu bar, Taskbar icons, and bad Updates*

Reader questions this week bring me back to IE 7 and the Taskbar, and a new topic: what to do when an Update causes crashes and other troubles. So today I will not post my usual Tip of the day, but the (hopefully) now familiar “Q’s and their A’s” format.

IE 7 Questions:   (you may want to review my post on IE7 Security zones, and Questions answered, as well.)

Q: My Explorer menu bar disappeared, how do I get it back?
A: In IE version 7, the old familiar menu bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) was removed from the default configuration to ‘streamline’ IE’s look, and quite possibly because Microsoft was aware that people were installing their own toolbars (see “toolbar madness“). To get it back, use a method similar to the one used for Windows’ Taskbar. Click on the down arrow next to the gray “gear” icon marked “Tools” and click on the Menu bar option. Now a checkmark will appear next to it, and your menu bar is back. To keep it there, hover your mouse over the option below Menu bar, “Toolbars”, and click on (select) the “Lock the toolbars” option.
While you’re there, you may want to play around with the “Customize” option and tweak which buttons appear on your bars.

Q: I can’t add a site to my Trusted zone:
A: I answered this in the previous answers post, but this detail is worth repeating: The person was on their personal machine and was running as an administrator, so there’s no problem there. The trouble was they hadn’t cleared the checkbox next to “Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone”.https.jpgThe difference is the “s” at the end of “http”, which indicates a special, secured Internet protocol. You will know if you’re on such a Website by the gold lock icon that appears in the URL window (and/or elsewhere on the page). It is an encrypted connection generally only used for electronic payment sites. A check here prevents you from adding regular websites.

Q: Can I make IE block sites when my child is browsing, but allow them for me?
A: This is a great question! And the answers are: yes, sort of, and … how many sites are we talking about? There are a couple of ways to go about this, but I want to spend more time on this topic than there’s room for here today. Protecting your children from the dangers of the Internet is a huge subject. Please see my page on this topic. 

Taskbar question:

Q: What happened to the icons in my Taskbar?
A: These “my icons disappeared” questions depend on if we’re talking about the Notification area (on the right, by the clock), or the Quick Launch area (on the left, by the Start button).
In the Notification area, an icon’s disappearance usually indicates that the “process” has gone idle and is not “running” at the moment.That means it isn’t needed, and hasn’t been needed for quite some time. It will run when it’s needed so, in this case don’t worry about it. In some instances, such as the speaker icon or the the two PC’s network icon,
a checkbox has become unchecked and you simply need to check it again. Click on Start >Control Panel >Speakers and Audio devices, and select (check) the “Place an icon in the Taskbar”.

If the Quick Launch icons have disappeared, right-click on a blank area in the Taskbar and select Properties. Click on the Taskbar tab, and place a check in the checkbox labeled “Show Quick Launch”. As I have mentioned before, these Quick Launch icons are simply shortcuts. You can add more shortcuts here by simple drag-and-drop, or remove the ones you never use.

NOTE: If your icons have always been there and then, suddenly, some (or all) of them are gone — you may have picked up some malware. I recommend that you run “deep” antivirus and an anti-spyware scans immediately.

Windows Update:

Q: An Update is causing BSOD’s, what do I do?
A: From time to time a Microsoft security Update will not be compatible with the software and/or device drivers on your machine and the instability will trigger the Blue Screen Of Death (for more on BSOD’s and what to do, see “When good computers go bad“). Usually, Microsoft will repair this and issue a new Update … eventually. In the meantime, remove the Update (If you’re not sure which Update is the perp, remove the most recent ones) by going to Add/Remove Programs in your Control Panel. (Start >Settings >Control Panel >Add/Remove Programs) Now look to the top area and place a check (select) in the “Show updates” checkbox. Now you will be able to see the list of installed Updates.

Click on the Update you want to remove, and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: I do NOT recommend uninstalling security updates unless they cause your machine to become inoperable. I am a big fan of security updates and want all my vulnerabilities patched. If you’re like me in that aspect, Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector is for you. While this software is still in beta, it is very good at scanning all your programs and reporting any missing updates and open vulnerabilities. (Thanks Ryan!)

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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May 20, 2008 Posted by | advice, BSOD, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, removing Updates, tech, troubleshooting, tweaks, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“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.

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.

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