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The taskbar is a staple feature of Microsoft’s operating system and it’s no different with Windows 10. It’s been given a lick of paint and new features like Cortana have been added to it, but it’s still the taskbar we all know and love.

While it’s great out of the box, you can make tweaks to get it looking and handling exactly how you want it. Want to add some icons or ditch the default ones? Maybe you want a splash of color? We’ve outlined these tips and more.

If you’ve got your own taskbar customization tip to add to ours, please do drop a comment after the article to share it with us all.

Pin Programs

You can pin programs directly to your taskbar to make for quicker access to the things you constantly use. Search for the program through the new Start menu A Guide to the Windows 10 Start Menu A Guide to the Windows 10 Start Menu Windows 10 fixes the Start Menu dilemma! Getting to grips with the new Start Menu will supercharge your Windows 10 experience. With this handy guide, you'll be an expert in no time. Read More , right-click it and then select Pin to taskbar. You can left-click the icon to launch the program, or click and drag to change its position on the taskbar.

taskbar unpin

To access the context-sensitive menu for that program, like frequent pages on your browser or pinned files on your system, simply right-click. You can also select Unpin this program from taskbar if you want to remove the icon.

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Taskbar Properties

Right-click an empty space on the taskbar and select Properties. This will bring up a window that will let you customize the taskbar in miscellaneous ways. It’s nothing new if you’ve used Windows in the last decade or so, allowing you to lock the taskbar, auto-hide it, use small icons, set its screen location, and adjust the behavior of merging windows.

Search Directly

A sizeable search box will sit in your taskbar by default. You can use this to search the web, your apps, files and settings, and access Cortana, the new personal assistant How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 Cortana is Microsoft's greatest productivity tool since Office. We'll show you how to get started with Windows 10's digital assistant or how to turn Cortana off for improved privacy. Read More (if enabled). The box is pretty wide though, so you might want to reduce it to an icon or get rid of it completely.

taskbar search

Right-click the taskbar, hover on Search and then you can select from three options: Hidden, which will remove the search function from the taskbar; Show search icon, which will place a clickable magnifying glass icon; Show search box, which is the default.

Bear in mind that if you’ve got your taskbar set to use small icons, you won’t have the option to use the search box unless you opt for the larger look.

Edit the Notification Area

The icons that appear on the far right of the taskbar sit within the notification area 5 Distracting Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off [Windows] 5 Distracting Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off [Windows] When you are working on a computer, it takes a fair bit of will power to resist the attempt to multitask. But even if you manage to restrain yourself, many programs manage to throw in... Read More . You can adjust which icons appear here, along with their behavior. To do so, right-click an empty space on the taskbar, select Properties and then Customize….

taskbar icons

This will open a window that will give you access to a host of options. Of particular note are the two links at the top. First, click Select which icons appear on the taskbar. Here you can turn specific program icons on or off. Turning them off will relegate them to the icon area that opens when you click the upwards arrow on the notification area.

Now go back and select Turn system icons on or off. This time, turning the icons off will remove them completely. Of course, the functions themselves do still exist on the system and are accessible through other routes, they just won’t be on the taskbar.

Make it Colorful

The default taskbar is black, but you can easily change the color if you’re after something a bit more exciting. To do so, press Win Key + I to launch the Settings appw. From here, click Personalization and then select Colors from the left-hand navigation.

First, make sure that the slider for Show color on Start, taskbar and action center is set to On. Now you’ve got a choice. If you want the taskbar color to be determined from your wallpaper, slide Automatically pick an accent color from my background to On.

taskbar colour change

If you leave that option off then you’ll be shown a list of colored squares, which you can click to manually set the color. Not a fan of the choices available? No problem. First, select the last colored square and we can now go into the registry to get greater control.

Caution: You’re editing the registry What Is The Windows Registry Editor & How Do I Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is The Windows Registry Editor & How Do I Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] The Windows registry can be scary at first glance. It’s a place where power users can change a wide variety of settings that aren’t exposed elsewhere. If you’re searching for how to change something in... Read More at your own risk! While the following steps bear no risk, we are not responsible for any damage caused by registry edits.

To begin, press Win + R to open Run, then type regedit and press OK. Then navigate to the following path:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Themes\Personalize

Double click the SpecialColor entry. Here you can specify a RGBA color – use an online color picker or a desktop alternative 3 Desktop Color Picker Applications To Help You Pick The Perfect Shade 3 Desktop Color Picker Applications To Help You Pick The Perfect Shade "Creative" is a word I'll never use to describe myself! Not visually, at least. I'm proud of much of what I can do on the Internet, but when it comes to graphics and image editing,... Read More if you need assistance. When done, click OK and log out and back in to see your changes. You can always revert your choice by going back to the Settings screen.

Task View

By default, an icon will be placed on your taskbar which, when clicked, will send you to the Task View. This is a side-by-side of all the windows you have open, along with the ability to switch desktops and create new ones. It’s a handy feature, but you might not need it on your taskbar.

task view

That’s because pressing Win Key + Tab achieves the same effect. Maybe you find it easier or quicker to click the icon, but if you want your taskbar minimal then you won’t be losing functionality by removing it. Remember, Alt + Tab is an alternative way to switch windows, but you’ll need to use the former for desktop changes.

Restore the Old User Interface

Windows 10 has made some visual changes to previously existing taskbar notification elements, like the Action Center and volume adjuster. We can use the registry 3 Tools To Monitor & Examine The Windows Registry 3 Tools To Monitor & Examine The Windows Registry The Windows registry is one of the most poorly understood parts of the Windows operating system. We show you tools that can simplify the registry and help you identify issues. Read More to change the look of these back to Windows 7/8.1.

Firstly, to open the registry, press Win + R to open Run, then type regedit and press OK. A word of warning: don’t mess around in areas of the registry not mentioned and don’t use these tips if you aren’t confident in following them.

With thanks to AskVG for these tweaks.

Volume Control

The volume control in Windows 10 is now horizontal and doesn’t offer quick access to your mixer. If you want the old vertical slider back, navigate to the following registry path:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\

Go to Edit > New > Key and name it MTCUVC. Then go to Edit > New > DWORD (32-bit) Value and name it EnableMtcUvc. Double-click the DWORD you just created, set the Value Data to 0 and click OK.

Either delete the DWORD or set the value to 1 if you want to restore the newer style volume control.

Date & Time

Clicking the time and date on your taskbar will give you a purely digital clock and a large monthly calendar view. If you want the analogue clock and smaller presentation back, navigate to the following registry path:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ImmersiveShell

taskbar clock

Go to Edit > New > DWORD (32-bit) Value and name it UseWin32TrayClockExperience. Then double-click the DWORD and set the Value Data to 1, then click OK.

Either delete the DWORD or set the value to 0 if you want to restore the newer style date and time.

Notification Center

If you’re not a fan of the Notification Center sliding in from the right of your screen, you can change it back to a simpler approach that was used in an earlier version of Windows 10. To do so, navigate to the following registry path:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ImmersiveShell

Double-click the UseActionCenterExperience DWORD and set its value to 1 to restore the older style notification center. Restart to see the changes. You can change the value back to 0 if you want to bring back the newer style.

Take it to Task

Many people may never tweak their taskbar, but since it’s on your screen all the time (unless you’ve set it to auto-hide), customization is worth your time. And if everything you need is a click away, it’ll help with productivity too.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the taskbar to see what works best for you. Any change you make can easily be reverted, so dive in: pin programs, adjust your icons, and get to know the search.

Have you used any of these tips to customize your taskbar? Do you have any of your own to add?

  1. Doug Bernstein
    October 6, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks for all these tips. What I find frustrating about the taskbar is that when I click on certain icons, the applications associated with them open behind the window currently on the screen instead of in front of it. This requires that I minimize the currently displayed window in order to see the one I want. I am sure there must be a way to make whatever application I click on show up in front of everything else, but I have not been able to find it. Any advice?
    Thanks.

  2. Riona
    July 13, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    You can try Long Path Tool, it will definitely works.

  3. Daniel Acevedo
    May 2, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Hello, in win10 the taskbar highlights only the current program, for instance right now it highlights chrome but in win7 it also highlighted other programs which had instances opened, so I could be here in chrome and I new that I had at least an instance of excel opened (since I always have excel pinned to the taskbar) Right now in win10 It does not show me I have to alt+winkey, hover above the icon or winkey+2 (in my case)......

  4. Sandra
    February 1, 2016 at 12:28 am

    Suddenly my top toolbars have decreased in size. I don't want this, I didn't ask for this, and why the H did you change it????

  5. Jim
    January 26, 2016 at 9:16 am

    My windows task bar has increased in size and I cannot get it back to the small strip it was previously. Anyone have an idea how to chage it back?

  6. Gary
    January 4, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    In windows 10 my notification icon has a little circle with a dash in it. What does that mean

    • Joe Keeley
      January 4, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      It sounds like Quiet Mode might be enabled or the icon may be stuck from having the mode enabled previously. Try clicking the icon, then enabling and disabling (or just the latter, as applicable) Quiet Mode.

  7. tinker911
    December 31, 2015 at 1:41 am

    I liked a bar in my explorer with File, Favorites etc; how do I get that bar back????

  8. Mario Liedtke
    December 8, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    I am totally annoyed by the Win10 Taskbar Behavior.
    I loved it when I could have Win7 Style two rows and in the upper one I had my Apps,
    and the opened ones appeared in the lower row.
    Win10 combines this, and every opened App pushes the others to new locations. That drives me crazy.

    Is here anybody who can help me with a tip how to get this back to the old style?

    Here a pic that shows what I mean in the case that my german english didn't described it well.

    http://www.mapan/foto/w10taskbar.png

  9. Richard Bogert
    September 18, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    All I want to know is how to increase the size of the notification area icons in Windows 10. After much searching the does not appear to be a way.

  10. Sue Roesner
    September 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I was getting irritated with Win 10 because I couldn't figure out how to get my taskbar icons where I wanted them. They were spread across two pages, and I couldn't move icons between pages. I had to click the up and down arrows to access my handy shortcuts. With your tips, and a few minutes spent reading your tips, I have removed the (useless to me) wide search box, decreased the size of the icons on the taskbar, and now can move things around the way I want them -- all on the same taskbar age. Thank you!!

  11. kr
    August 27, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    For the volumn control tweak the Dword was already there but with a value of 1, just had to change it to 0. Easy

    • Joe Keeley
      August 29, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      Excellent! Glad you managed to do that tweak so easily. :)

  12. Keith Sauer
    August 19, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Hi, I'm looking for a way to default the search bar to just the icon, not only for the current user, but for any user that logs in. Either a Group Policy setting, or a registry tweak I could import via a login script or alter the .Default user profile.

    I understand Windows 10 is so new yet, but hopefully there will be a way to customize this. The search bar takes up too much screen real estate, especially when users are already pinning lots of apps.

  13. likefun butnot
    August 15, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    I turned off Cortana and removed its search bar. Cortana isn't just terrible at search, it's a waste of pixels and the electricity it takes to use them.

    • Joe Keeley
      August 15, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      I agree that the search box is too wide. It'd be good to have a way to edit the width of it - if anyone knows a hack to do so, please let me know!

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