How to Bring Desktop Gadgets Back to Windows 10
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Desktop gadgets were useful widgets that could be added to the Windows Vista and Windows 7 desktop to improve productivity. They’re long gone, but don’t worry—you can add desktop widgets to Windows 10 using these third-party tools.

Hold On, What Are Windows Gadgets?

It might seem difficult to appreciate ten years later, but desktop gadgets were popular at the time. Capable of displaying the time, weather, sticky notes, and even CPU speed, these widgets were essentially mini apps that could be positioned around the desktop (mostly down the right-hand side, however). They would also hide behind your main apps, acting as if part of the desktop background.

Pretty useful, right?

Unfortunately, with the arrival of Windows 8, these widgets were abandoned. Suddenly, you couldn’t instantly see what time it was in your Hong Kong office, or get RSS feeds on the desktop. Instead, this sort of information was combined into live tiles on Windows 8, and to a lesser extent, Windows 10.

Fortunately, with the return to a dominant desktop on Windows 10 (as opposed to the Start Screen-first approach of Windows 8), gadgets and similar tools can be restored.

Security Vulnerabilities Killed Windows Gadgets

A key reason why Microsoft opted to drop Gadgets from later versions of Windows was security related.

In 2012, Microsoft announced that vulnerabilities in its Gadgets could allow the running of Remote Code Execution, in which a remote attacker can gain access to your PC. They noted that:

  • “Some legitimate Gadgets… could contain vulnerabilities”
  • You could be tricked into installing a “malicious Gadget.”

Using both of these attacks, the hacker could run code under your account profile (potentially opening backdoors for other malware) or even hijack your entire PC. A fix was released to disable the Windows Sidebar and the Gadgets in Windows Vista and Windows 7. A few weeks later, Windows 8 was released, and the Gadgets were no more.

There’s no reason to let hackers limit your productivity, however. It’s time to bring some new widgets onto your Windows 10 desktop.

Get New Gadgets in Windows 10 With Widgets HD

Available from the Microsoft Store, Widgets HD lets you put widgets on the Windows 10 desktop. Simply install the app, run it, and click the widget that you want to see. Once loaded, widgets can be repositioned on the Windows 10 desktop, and the main app “closed” (although it remains in your system tray).

As with the Windows Vista widgets, hovering your mouse over the widgets reveals an X button to close it. You may even see a Settings cog, for making customizations. For instance, the weather and clock widgets let you select your location; the weather widget also lets you choose Fahrenheit or Celcius.

While free, the app offers in-app purchases of additional widget types. These include a news feed, picture gallery, internet speed test, and more.

(Note that earlier versions of the app didn’t allow individual widgets to be placed on the desktop, accounting for some poor review scores.)

Download: Widgets HD (Free, with in-app purchases)

Windows Desktop Gadgets

Probably my favorite solution, if only because it is so straightforward and light on resources, is Windows Desktop Gadgets. This solution is designed to work with multiple languages, which can be added in the installation wizard.

Add desktop widgets to Windows 10

The DesktopgadgetsRevived-2.0.exe must be extracted from the downloaded ZIP file before running, and once installed, traditional Windows Vista/7 style gadgets can be accessed by right-clicking your desktop and selecting Gadgets.

You’ll see that gadgets have been added to Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization (see our guide to Windows 10 settings How to Control Windows 10: The Settings Guide How to Control Windows 10: The Settings Guide The Windows control panel is on its way out. Its replacement, the Settings app, has received a significant upgrade in Windows 10. We'll reveal all its secrets for you. Read More for more information on personalization settings), and you can add them to the desktop by clicking-and-dragging them into place.

Once installed, you’ll see that this is essentially a replacement for the original gadgets. As you’d expect, clicking the cog icon in the corner accesses settings, enabling you to resize and configure each gadget. It’s essentially the original Windows Desktop Gadgets, repackaged to run with Windows 10 (and Windows 8).

Download: Windows Desktop Gadgets (Free)

8GadgetPack

Another lightweight option, 8GadgetPack is free and enables users to run gadgets in Windows 8.x and Windows 10.

Get desktop gadgets in Window 10 with 8GadgetPack

To use 8GadgetPack, visit the link and download the MSI file via the link on the right-side of the page, and install it. Once open, simply click the + button to open the list of gadgets and drag these to your desktop. Although a Windows Vista-style sidebar is included, the gadgets are not limited to this location.

Again, each gadget features an options screen. Here, you can set colors, location, and other data to configure the gadget to your purposes. Once you’re done, you should end up with a selection of useful gadgets to boost your productivity!

Download: 8GadgetPack (Free)

Get Contemporary Desktop Gadgets With Rainmeter

If those screenshots of the old-style desktop gadgets aren’t exactly floating your boat, you have another option. Rainmeter is a tool for customizing the Windows desktop How to Customize Windows 10: The Complete Guide How to Customize Windows 10: The Complete Guide You decorate your office – why not your computer? Find out how to make Windows look just the way you want. Make your computer your own, with free tools. Read More .

Get desktop widgets with Rainmeter

Among its features is the ability to introduce information to the desktop, such as a clock, live hardware statistics, current and forecast weather, and more. You can basically use Rainmeter to display everything that gadgets do, but with considerable style.

Now, if you’re happy with the gadgets options above, then by all means stick with them. Rainmeter opens a whole new world of stuff to install and tweak, and if you’re purely looking for gadgets to improve productivity you need to be aware. Configuring Rainmeter can be a massive time sink, so keep things as simple as possible.

You can start with our guide on installing and using Rainmeter Geeking Out Your Windows Desktop The Non-Geeky Way With Rainmeter Geeking Out Your Windows Desktop The Non-Geeky Way With Rainmeter This "less geeky version of GeekTool" for Windows allows its users to add and display a variety of modules on the desktop such as a clock, the date, CPU load, RSS feeds, and more. Read More . If you’re looking for results as in the image above, however, you’re in luck. Rainmeter installs with a default theme, illustro, which gives you those widgets and a few more.

Download: Rainmeter for Windows 10 (Free)

Will You Use These New Desktop Gadget Apps?

Each of these solutions is worth trying and can help improve productivity. For instance, using a clock set to a foreign time zone can be invaluable when collaborating with people overseas, or just checking that your aunt in New Zealand is awake before you call.

So, desktop gadgets can still be added to Windows 10. Who knew? It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, though. Various “lost” features can be reinstated thanks to third-party apps. For example, the Aero Glass software brings restores the glass effect in Windows 10 How to Get the Aero Glass Theme on Windows 10 How to Get the Aero Glass Theme on Windows 10 It was one of the most requested features from Windows Insiders. Still, Microsoft decided not to add Aero Glass back to Windows 10, after removing it in Windows 8. Here's how you can get it... Read More . Want more customizations? Find out how to set animated backgrounds in Windows 10 How to Set Live Wallpapers & Animated Desktop Backgrounds in Windows 10 How to Set Live Wallpapers & Animated Desktop Backgrounds in Windows 10 Want to liven up your Windows 10 desktop with some animated backgrounds? Here's what you need to do. Read More .

Explore more about: Windows 10, Windows Customization, Windows Tricks.

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  1. June
    September 18, 2017 at 2:11 am

    This article is garbage. Took forever to find where the link is and there's no proper step by step instruction.

  2. John Draper
    May 14, 2017 at 1:17 am

    I used this approach for the last few years - with Windows 7 and Windows 10 and it worked well, but now with Windows 10 creator, the program simply will not run. After much research and fiddling around, I have found a program that replaces some of the functionality - Rainmaker. It includes weather, date/time, Network, CPU, memory and more.

  3. D
    January 23, 2017 at 6:11 am

    So, visit "The link" huh? Why not just link it? -__-

  4. Heather
    October 3, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    The new update that was forced through last night completely disabled them. Now how can I get them back??

  5. Soular
    September 13, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    IT shows 2 tabs of Desktop Gadgets in the control panel. Tested on multiple PCs. If you uninstall, one will still remain forever without an icon. Any solutions???

  6. Felicia
    July 25, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Could someone please tell me how get the windows Vista style gadgets for Windows 10?
    I installed the program (exported and installed the whole thing) but I can't seem to find it in settings..
    thank you in advance!! I really miss them...

  7. johnnified
    May 22, 2016 at 4:35 am

    WHERE TO DOWNLOAD?? NOT SHOWING ANYTHING

    • Christian Cawley
      May 22, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Click the two headings.

  8. GatorGirl
    May 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

    I really miss the Earthquake gadget. I still have it at work because they are not "upgrading" to Windows 10 for at least a year. The one Earthquake widget (or whatever) that I have found in Win10 does not even come close.

  9. Paul M
    April 12, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    With every Windows 10 update the clock gets disabled requiring a reinstall of the program. Only with the latest update, the clock will not work even with multiple reinstalls of the program.

    I'm really starting to hate Windows 10.

  10. Ilya
    March 29, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Where to find this "gallery" of widgets?? Thnx

  11. Moh
    January 5, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Only gadgets that is officially in windows 10 in the Note gadget.... why can't they do the same with weather and analog clock !!

  12. Anonymous
    September 19, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    One of the reasons that gadgets were dropped in Windows 8 was that there was no security - anything that can be done in Javascript and HTML5 can be done in a gadget (that's all they are, after all).
    While I've downloaded the DesktopGadgetsRevived and the 8GadgetsPack, I've yet to decide if I want to install them on my sole Windows 10 machine, until I can verify these are all "clean."
    I may just decide to install something trusted and continually being updated instead, like RainMeter.

    • ForbiddenUser
      March 21, 2016 at 11:23 pm

      Oh please.. Cry about "gadget" security while using a "windows" machine.. If you want "security" you may as well just drop windows all together... Because security is NOT what you are going to get. "Oh I can't have Gadgets... AND.. Security... Pft.. Failed Platform...

      • Anonymous
        March 22, 2016 at 12:41 pm

        Yeah, right. Linux is better: OpenSSL (HeartBleed, LogJam). OS X is better: DYLD, Thunderstrike, Thunderstrike 2. At least I have the biggest library of software in the world (most of which doesn't run on Linux or OS X), and monthly security patches. The other OS's rarely get looked at as far as security goes, and most users don't even bother to check for updates; they're happy that "nobody hacks my OS."
        Why are you even reading an article about Windows 10, when you hate the OS? That's pretty hypocritical...
        Oh yeah - "failed platform" = over 100 million devices? Yeah, right.

        • Christian Cawley
          March 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm

          Great response, Howard Blair :)

      • Pichel
        April 17, 2016 at 5:52 pm

        You're so wrong it hurts. This is 2016. Windows OS security is very good. Introducing gadgets that provide attack vectors via JavaScript and HTML5 isn't in Microsoft's best interest. It's sad that we can't have nice things, but that's the reality.