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The Windows Task Bar is a very flexible piece of screen realestate. There are many things about it you can change, or fix if they change unexpectedly.

My TaskBar is too small to be useful, what can I do?

Your machine is getting more and more powerful which means you can have lots of things running at the same time. That means that there'll be lots of applications listed in your task bar at the bottom of your screen.

Lots of them.

Windows XP has a nice feature on by default that will collapse all the instances of the same program into one button on the task bar, but what if that's not enough? What if each button has become so small that you can't even read what it says anymore?

There's hope. The taskbar is a surprisingly flexible little application all unto itself.

Normally, the default taskbar has three areas: the start button on the left, the task bar itself, showing all the running applications in the center, and the "notification area" with all the small icons and probably the date and time on the right.

The configuration of the taskbar is locked by default to prevent unintentional changes that can render it confusing at best, and useless at worst. The changes we talk about here will definitely be intentional. Unlock the taskbar by right clicking on an empty space within it and deselecting Lock the Taskbar. Now we can make changes.

One of the first things I do on any new Windows XP install is make the taskbar bigger. Yep, bigger. Now that you've unlocked it, click on the very top of the taskbar, hold, and drag it up. Double height works well for me, but you can do more if you like.

You'll notice also that some components of the taskbar now have what look to be bars of divots (for lack of a better term) to their left. Those are handles that you can click and drag on to resize the component. If you click and hold just to the right of these handles you can also move the component around, including placing it on the upper or lower half of a double height taskbar.

Now that you have room to explore, have a look at some of the other toolbars you can place on the task bar by right clicking an empty area on the task bar and selecting Toolbars. You may find some useful and others not. I'm partial to the Quick Launch toolbar. Once you've decided on a set of toolbars to keep you can rearrange them and lay them out in any way you find convenient.

The final customization I'll mention here is the position of the taskbar itself. If you like, click and hold on that empty space and you can drag the entire taskbar to either side of your desktop, the top, or the bottom as well.

I do recommend re-locking the taskbar when you've completed playing with it. It's actually not that difficult to make unintentional changes, and getting rid of the resizing handles will free up just a little bit more space also.

One last suggestion: check what programs run automatically when you start or log into windows. Many will add icons to the notification area, reducing the available space and increasing clutter. Make sure you actually want them.

Video Tip: Customizing the Taskbar. View the video to watch as I make several of the changes I've discussed above.

Article C1945 - May 21, 2004 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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49 Comments
alan
June 26, 2004 1:32 PM

Can't fix the taskbar, which has migrated to the left side of the monitor, because it won't unlock. When the screen comes up which would give the "unlock" choice, it is faded out and can't be clicked on.

Leo
June 26, 2004 1:39 PM

Does the account you're logged in as have administrative priveleges? Might need to give it temporarily at least. I also found thus utility that might help: http://ask-leo.com/d-tbplus - caveat is that I have NOT tried it myself. I'd be interested in hearing if it works, though.

BuLoK
July 12, 2004 6:32 AM

My taskbar icons are HUGE!!! They suddenly became big the last time I booted and I'm going crazy! Does anyone know how to resize taskbar icons? Help.

gold
September 22, 2004 10:04 AM

my operating system is XP and I have somehow changed my taskbar/toolbar to larger than I like. (no I didnt do it by unlocking taskbar and dragging it larger)It looks twice as large as it used to. I mean the icons are big and the date/clock is stack on each other. Any idea how I might have done this, and how to fix??

Logan Kriete
September 22, 2004 1:55 PM

I don't know what I did, but I'm running WinXP Tablet (based off of Pro). Somehow, my taskbar "programs" have dissapeared. I have quicklaunch and the tablet pc input panel on my bar (the tablet pc input panel is always on) and I always had them shrunk. Now, it or thw quick launch take up the ENTIRE bar, leaving no room for the programs. I can't even see them if I extend the bar upwards. There are no drag handles other than the ones on the left, which doesn't help w/ resizing. Can anyone help?

Trek
December 13, 2004 3:02 AM

You can retrieve you original look for your icons by reapplying the default windows style under appearance in 'Display Properties'. Worked a treat for me - bye bye chunky icons... :)

Kari Henrie
May 27, 2005 10:21 PM

I have the same problem Logan has. I'm running tablet XP professional and when I miniumize programs they disappear like under the task bar.I've spent hours in all setting menus and help trying to find info on how to fix this.

John-Eric Bigbie
June 21, 2005 3:26 AM

I appear to have "lost" the section of my "task bar" section of my task bar. I have (from the left of my screen) the start button, the quick launch, and the notification area on the right. What is missing is the section that actually shows what files and applications are actually running. Windows seems to think that these are in an area BELOW the bottom of my screen, but i cannot seem to change this, no matter how hard i try. A large Latte to the person who tells me how to fix this in simple english!

John-Eric Bigbie
June 21, 2005 7:42 AM

to clarify the previous question (sorrry),
- i can't seem to find an answer in the article
- it is only the "taskbar" i.e. the section of the bottom of my screen that shows open folders and applications that is missing. the start button, the quick launch section and the notification area are all there. I can't move the other sections to make way for this part of the taskbar. I have of course unlocked the taskbar. This happened when i was trying to resize the Google Desktop deskbar in the notification area.

Leo
June 21, 2005 8:45 PM

This article may help: http://ask-leo.com/why_dont_running_programs_show_in_my_taskbar.html

John-Eric Bigbie
June 22, 2005 4:59 AM

worked like a charm. Many thanks!

John-Eric Bigbie
June 22, 2005 5:04 AM

the pay pal links on the "buy leo a latte" section seem to be down... tell me when they're up, you saved me a bunch of time. :-)

Leo
June 22, 2005 12:49 PM

Wow. Not sure what happened there. Should be working again. Thanks for letting me know.

Michael Sovich
June 28, 2005 12:01 PM

My task bar has my desk top names in them. Between the start and icons to the time. (right side.) How do I get them out?
Thank you

Leo
June 30, 2005 9:45 AM

I don't really know what you mean by "desktop names". Guessing: Try right clicking on the taskbar (in an unused area, clicking on "toolbars" and if "desktop" is checked, uncheck it.

A B Hester
October 1, 2005 10:42 AM

My problem is the missing taskbar that appears just above the start button at the bottom of the screen. It shows when MSN has finished downloading etc. I don't know how it stopped appearing. Thanks.

Zarmog
November 5, 2005 1:29 AM

a usefull utility that i use is XNeat .. it allows me to minimize any window to the system tray giving me more space .. plus the option to re-arrange the taskbar items .. you can get it from http://www.xneat.com/

Andrea
November 18, 2005 3:36 PM

HELP!My taskbar suddenly went up to the left side of the screen.I can move it to the right and make it bigger but I cant make it go down.Please help its driving me crazy!!!!!

Elsie
December 12, 2005 8:10 PM

My taskbar is too big, how do I make it smaller. It is unlocked and I cannot drag it downward

jb
April 27, 2006 6:34 AM

Andrea, i have the same problem, it happens when you accidently drag the top of your bar to either side of the creen - its liike a 1 in 100 case =)

in the meantime i have had luck in dragging it back down to the horizontal position.

dont let it drive you nuts, because i know it will lol =)

jb

Tony
May 15, 2006 4:27 PM

My taskbar is on the right hand side of my screen and it wont stay in the position I want ti to. Every time I load windows its shifts it back to a narrower size even though it is locked. Any ideas. Thanks

Dave
May 17, 2006 5:29 AM

What if the buttons on my taskbar have disappeared altogether, however the taskbar remains intact and the quick launch buttons also remain intact? How can I bring the buttons back?
They disappeared shortly after my son moved the taskbar to another part of the screen and I brought it back to the bottom.
Thanks!

Bill L
May 23, 2006 1:03 PM

Use a Win XP Pro O/S. The task bar was accidently maximized and now you can not minimize it to it's original setting. The arrows appear that allow you to maximize or minimize the task bar but you can not make it small than two inches. I have right clicked and gone to properties thinking it was locked and it not not locked so what do I do?

Anthony R
June 6, 2006 5:53 AM

If your taskbar icons become too big and fuzzy for whatever reason this is how you can restore them back to normal size:
Goto "Display Properties" click on "Appearance" and under "windows and buttons" drop down menu, choose "Windows Classic Style"
This will reset all icons back to default and you can customise accordingly if you wish.
Good luck!

Dusty
June 15, 2006 5:24 PM

My task bar doesn't stay in the settings that I set it to. I make it two wide and when I boot up it goes back the normal size. what can I do to get it to stay?

Joyce
June 28, 2006 5:33 AM

Why can't I kep my running applications on my task bar? And when they disappear how do I get them back to my taskbar? Thanks.

Emil
July 19, 2006 1:15 PM

well my task bar from under the desktop, somehow switched to right side of the dekto and opens from the side, how do i make it go back to normal.

Josh
July 29, 2006 6:55 PM

I was messing around with some themes and my taskbar reverted to some older version. I'm trying to get it back to the origional XP version but can't. I tried Going to properties and changing the appearence, but that changes everything but the taskbar. I have a Grey, square old looking taskbar and i want it back to the silver, sleek taskbar we all know and love.

rob
August 31, 2006 6:05 PM

my task bar is twice as wide as a normal task bar. How can I change it back to the normal default width. ( my task bar is not locked and I still can not reduce the width) what do I do?

Nick
September 1, 2006 10:44 PM

Mine was the same as Rob's, it seems I accidentally dragged one of the two icons on the left of the task bar UNDER the other icon. In other words I was having two rows of icons on the left and Windows was simply accomodating them. I dragged one of the icons back to the same line as the other one and it went back to normal

linet
October 16, 2006 1:58 AM

i've tried all you listed on the task bar but all in vain. my problem is the task bar appears at the beginning when windows xp is loading once windows through with loading the task bar disappears plaese assist

Rachel
January 16, 2007 10:20 AM

My taskbar is on the side of my desktop and I need it back on the bottom. Please help me fix this problem

Faye
April 1, 2007 1:14 PM

My task bar disappeared. How do I program it back? I have tried your suggestion of Crt+ESC, but nothing happens. HEEELLLLP!!! Faye

DAMETRIA
October 11, 2007 3:04 PM

I DID EVERYTHING AND THE TASKBAR STILL WONT APPARE WHAT DO I DI I REALLY DID EVERY

Sally Lightfoot
October 31, 2007 3:35 AM

Leo..please help me. My taskbar suddenly has appeared on the left side of my screen. I want it at the bottom of my screen as always. How do I position it at the bottom again? I've read your article and see no way to move the taskbar to the bottom of my screen. Thank you

Leo A. Notenboom
October 31, 2007 12:25 PM

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That's this article:
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Leo


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JOHANN DOHMANN
December 23, 2007 6:47 PM

THE TOOLBAR ON THE BOTTOM IS SO SMALL I NEED A MAG.GLASS TO SEE IT ,HOW DO I MAKE THE PRINT BIGGER??

james boylan
February 5, 2008 2:46 PM

iwould like to make my task bar its original size, can you help please.also i lost my home page due to a virus how do i restore it please help, thanks james

Karl
April 30, 2008 8:18 AM

Answer was useless. I could not drag the bottom task bar up even with the bar unlocked.

I nedd a functional solution, please. My toolbars are way too samll and the text is micro, for aliens with super-vision. What idiots would design a computer with these specs and not have a simple fix. This is why IT people are NOT PROFESSIONALS, they are mercenaries, with few ethics/morals.

IanK
June 9, 2008 6:45 AM

Leo
When I right click on a button I no longer get a menu box with options. Instead the buttons just light up or flash ... I have no idea what the flashing means or how to navigate between buttons etc. Please help

Sorcha B
June 28, 2008 12:25 PM

Omg thank you so much Leo!my taskbar went to the left of my screen and i didnt now what to do!now its locked and looking cool after being customised!

Thanks again Leo!(no need to answer this one.)

caroline
October 30, 2008 4:33 PM

thanks for the help leo! managed to move my task bar back to correct place, and am not pc literate, and am most grateful xx

steve
November 6, 2008 10:45 AM

your a lifesaver---yes you are!

Jesse Alonzo
February 12, 2009 11:26 AM

Windows XP, taskbar TEXT too small, outlook just has an I for inbox, Explorer just has an E and so on, help please this is really bothering me. Thanks

Joel
February 28, 2009 1:21 AM

Hi,
How do I reduce the size of the icons in my quick launch and notification area?

alfred delgado
March 1, 2009 7:10 AM

how i can make smaller my icons from the taskbar please help

jelzie moore
July 20, 2010 6:33 AM

my taskbar is gone,and when i click the right click button the properties button or the toolbar button is gone too... how do i fix my taskbar?
please help me...
i dont know anything about this computer....

Pranav
June 10, 2011 10:42 PM

Windows XP, taskbar TEXT too small, outlook just has an I for inbox, Explorer just has an E and so on, help please this is really bothering me.

Mark J
June 11, 2011 12:30 AM

@Pranav
If you read the article and follow what it say,it will solve your problem.

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