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Microsoft removed gadgets, the desktop widget feature introduced in Windows Vista, from Windows 8. Microsoft would prefer you use live tiles on the new Start screen to get information – but what if you want to see this information on your desktop? Whether you don’t like the new Start screen and are trying to avoid using it by installing a third-party Start menu or you just miss the gadgets, you can get them back with a third-party program.
Both of these programs just install the gadget files Microsoft removed from Windows 8, so you’ll get the same gadget features you had on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. These aren’t third-party knock-offs.
There are two applications you can use to install desktop gadgets – we prefer 8GadgetPack. It has an easier installation process and includes more gadgets. Just download 8GadgetPack and run the installer. After running the installer, you’ll see the familiar Windows Sidebar containing gadgets. You can drag and drop the gadgets onto your desktop if you prefer them there.
You can also right-click the sidebar and select Close Sidebar if you want to get rid of that sidebar and only use gadgets on your desktop.
You’ll also see the familiar Gadgets and Show desktop gadgets options when you right-click on your desktop, so you can close the gadgets and then get them back easily. It works just like it did on previous versions of Windows that included support for gadgets.
8GadgetPack includes a variety of gadgets, including clock, weather, calendar, sticky notes, and slideshow widgets. There are gadgets for monitoring your computer’s battery power, CPU usage, GPU usage, hard drive info, and processes. There are widgets that watch Gmail, keep an eye on any POP3 email account, read RSS feeds, and watch eBay auctions.
There are shortcuts for safely removing drives, accessing your recycle bin, and launching apps. 8GadgetPack currently comes with 45 gadgets in all.
We also tried Gadgetarian, just to make sure we were recommending you the best Windows 8 gadget solution. Gadgetarian works, too – like 8GadgetPack, it’s just installing the same gadget files that Microsoft removed from Windows 8.
However, Gadgetarian has no advantages over 8GadgetPack, only disadvantages. Instead of providing an easy graphical installer, you have to copy files to your C:\Windows\System32 folder and run an install script as administrator. Once it’s installed, you’ll only have 14 gadgets to play with – a far cry from the 45 included with 8GadgetPack.
If you were curious about alternatives, consider your curiosity sated – 8GadgetPack is the best.
Gadgets vs. Live Tiles
Microsoft now considers gadgets a security risk. Gadgets are actually just programs that run on your computer and, like other desktop programs, have access to your entire system. This is why they can monitor your CPU and running processes – things that live tiles just can’t do. People could end up downloading malicious gadgets while looking for more gadgets for their computer.
Windows 8’s solution is live tiles, which are linked with modern apps – they can only be installed from the Windows Store. Like modern apps themselves, live tiles can’t access your entire system and can’t do bad things outside of the application, just display information on your Start screen.
Unfortunately, live tiles can’t appear on the desktop – you’ll have to switch to the Start screen to view live tile information, as the Start screen can’t appear in “Snap mode.” They’re also just less powerful, so you certainly can’t monitor your computer’s resource usage with a live tile. There are still good reasons why you might want to use desktop gadgets in Windows 8, and we can all be happy that we have choice – no matter how much Microsoft tries to remove it from us.
Getting More Gadgets
Note that you can no longer download gadgets from Microsoft’s website, so you’ll have to use the the ones that come with the gadget program, download gadgets from third-party websites, or install gadgets you have backed up. Be aware that gadgets are just like other programs, so you should only download and run gadgets from trusted sources or your computer could be infected with malware.
If you are seeking out gadgets, be sure to exercise the same caution you would when downloading and installing any other program. They can be a bit hard to find now that Microsoft has shut down what was previously the official place to get them.
Do you still use gadgets, have you embraced live tiles, or do you prefer a third-party desktop widget solution? Leave a comment and share your favorite solution!