Remember desktop gadgets? Of course you do – you probably miss them, even now. They were the small desktop tools that displayed your current CPU speed, or the time in another country, little widgets that you could drag around and place where you wanted.
Introduced in Window Vista and discarded in Windows 8, Microsoft decided that these tools were not required in the era of live tiles, and so gadgets were dropped. Unfortunately, gadgets also introduced an attack vector for hackers, which Microsoft had to issue a patch for. These days, however, that vulnerability is fixed.
Hold On, what Are these “Gadgets”?
Whether you’ve forgotten about gadgets, or were simply unaware, here’s a brief explanation. With the arrival of Windows Vista, there was a move towards desktop-based mini apps, along with browser-based mini apps. The latter could be seen in the much-missed iGoogle and on Mac OS X in the shape of “widgets”.
Users of Windows Vista and Windows 7 were able to add their desktop gadgets to the sidebar, a panel down the right-hand side of the desktop (invisible in Windows 7) where the gadgets could be placed.
Various information could be displayed on your desktop with these tools, from the time and current weather, to your CPU speed (you can fix this if it’s too high) and any RSS feeds you were subscribed to. All in all these were very useful options that supported a particular desktop-focused way of working, and it was quite a surprise when they were dropped completely (rather than redesigned and made more secure).
Windows 10 has already proved successful as a combination of Windows 8 and Windows 7, merging the live tiles with the Start menu (which has been restored) and making the desktop productive once again. Fans of the desktop gadgets will be pleased to know that we now have ways to restore the gadgets. Here we look at a trio of options.
Probably my favorite solution, if only because it is so straightforward and light on resources, is Windows Desktop Gadgets. Compatible with Windows 8.x and Windows 10, this solution is designed to work with multiple languages, which can be added in the installation wizard.
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 for more information on personalization settings), and you can add them to the desktop by clicking-and-dragging them into place.
This is essentially a replacement for the original gadgets, and just like those you can click the tool icon in the corner to open settings, enabling you to resize and alter settings in the gadgets. Like 8GadgetPack, this is essentially the original Windows Desktop Gadgets, repackaged to run with Windows 10, with the same options for adjusting, dragging, and discarding the gadgets.
Another lightweight option, 8GadgetPack is free and enables users to run gadgets in Windows 8.x and Windows 10.
To use 8GadgetPack, visit the link and download the MSI file via the link on the right-side of the page, and install it. Various options are available with this tool, which you can reach by pressing Windows key + Q and typing “8GadgetPack” to search for and launch the tools box.
Here you can add gadgets, alter the gadget size and even Uninstall if you’re not happy with this solution.
Adding Your Gadgets
Both apps use the old Vista/Windows 7 method of adding gadgets.
Begin by right-clicking the desktop and selecting Gadgets to view the list of available desktop gadgets. All you need to do is double-click your preferred gadget(s) (or drag them from the window to the desktop) to add them to your Windows desktop, where you can drag to position them as desired via the small panel with 12 dots on the right-hand side.
Above this, you’ll find the Tools button, which you use to customize the gadget. In the case of a weather gadget, for instance, you would use this to set your location and preferred temperature measurement.
To discard a gadget, mouse over the display and click the X in the top right corner.
Get Contemporary Desktop Gadgets with Rainmeter
Among its various features is the ability to introduce information to the desktop, such as a clock, current hardware statistics, current and forecast weather, and more. Basically, 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 up 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. Getting sucked up into this weird and wonderful world of themed, customized desktops that display the information that you want, where and when you want it, is going to make your digital life a little bit untidy while you sort out just where and when you want things.
Our guide to installing and using Rainmeter will start you off here.
Will You Use These New Desktop Gadget Apps?
So, desktop gadgets can still be added to Windows 10. Who knew? This is great for anyone wishing to relive the halcyon days of Windows 7 (which they might also do by reverting to Aero Glass) and maximize their 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.
Each of these solutions is worth trying, although for simplicity and ease of installation, I prefer Windows Desktop Gadgets. Which is your favorite? Perhaps you know of a solution we haven’t included? Tell us in the comments!