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How to Change Windows Taskbar

The Windows Taskbar is that strip of desktop real estate that (usually) claims the bottom row of your PC screen. But it doesn’t have to stay there. It can be moved, resized, or even hidden. And sometimes it gets hidden by mistake and you have to fix it. This will tell you how.

Lock/Unlock the taskbar

In several older versions of Windows, the taskbar was highly mobile. It was too easy to move the taskbar to any side of the display. Starting with Windows XP, Microsoft began to ship Windows with the taskbar locked. The taskbar doesn’t move unless you first unlock it.

To unlock the taskbar, right-click a blank part of the taskbar and choose the command Lock the Taskbar. The command has a tiny check mark by it whenever the taskbar is locked. When the taskbar is unlocked, it changes appearance. Toolbars grow visible “handles,” and in Windows XP the taskbar grows a fat upper lip.

Move the taskbar

The taskbar can be moved only when it’s unlocked. After it’s unlocked, you can drag it to any edge of the screen: top, left, right, or bottom. Note, however, that most documentation assumes that the taskbar is on the bottom of the screen. This position implies that the Start button is in the lower-left corner and that the notification area is in the lower-right corner.

Some people cannot get the hang of moving the taskbar. If that’s you, watch Video 213 to see it demonstrated.

Resize the taskbar

The taskbar can be taller or shorter, but you cannot resize it unless you unlock it first. After the taskbar is unlocked, you can resize it by pointing the mouse at the taskbar’s top edge. Drag the mouse in toward the center of the screen to make the taskbar fatter; drag the mouse outward to make it thinner.

Review Video 214 to see a taskbar resizing demonstration.

Lock the taskbar when you’re done setting its size.

In Windows Vista and Windows XP, the taskbar size is also affected by the size of the icons on the Quick Launch bar. To set the icon sizes, follow these steps:

  1. Unlock the taskbar.

  2. Right-click the Quick Launch bar handle.

    The handle is the graphical gizmo that appears on the left end of the Quick Launch toolbar.

  3. Choose View→Large Icons to set the icons to a larger size, or choose View→Small Icons to set the icons to a smaller size.

  4. Relock the taskbar when you’re done.

Hide the taskbar

If your taskbar disappears, it can create a sense of panic! Rest assured: It’s there.

In Windows XP, the taskbar can be resized to be very, very thin — nearly invisible. To find such a taskbar, move the mouse to each edge of the screen. The taskbar’s presence is noted by the mouse pointer changing to a tiny arrow head. That’s your clue: Drag the mouse in toward the center of the screen to resize the taskbar.

The taskbar also has Autohide mode. To enable or disable this mode, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click a blank part of the taskbar.

  2. Choose Properties.

    The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box appears.

  3. Add or remove the check mark by Auto-Hide the Taskbar.

  4. Click OK.

In Autohide mode, the taskbar appears only when you move the mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen (or whichever screen edge the taskbar is docked to) or when you press the Win key on the keyboard. The taskbar autohides whether you locked the taskbar or not.

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