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Make the Taskbar Buttons Switch to the Last Active Window in Windows 7

The new Windows 7 taskbar’s Aero Peek feature, with the live thumbnails of every window, is awesome… but sometimes you just want to be able to click the taskbar button and have the last open window show up instead. Here’s a quick hack to make it work better.

To better understand the problem, imagine having nine windows of the same type open on your screen, but you are primarily working in just one of the windows at a time. So every time you want to switch back, you have to click the taskbar button, and then choose the one you are using from the list, which can be pretty annoying…

image

Now if you know your Windows 7 shortcuts, you’d know that you can simply hold down the Ctrl key while clicking on the taskbar button, and the last window will show up. In fact, you can keep holding down the Ctrl key and keep clicking, and Windows will cycle through the open windows. It’s a useful shortcut, but hardly something you want to do every single time.

Instead, we’ll use a quick registry hack to make the normal click switch to the last open window—if you still want to see the thumbnail list, just hover your mouse over the button for half a second to see the full list.

Manual Registry Hack for Last Active Window

Open up regedit.exe through the start menu search or run box, and then head down to the following registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

Once you’re there, create a new 32-bit DWORD value on the right hand side, give it the name LastActiveClick, and set the value to 1. Once you are done, it should look something like this:

image

Once you are done, you’ll have to log off and back on, or you can kill Explorer.exe through Task Manager and re-open it.

Download the Registry Hack Instead

Since you probably don’t feel like registry hacking, we’ve provided you an easy downloadable version. You can simply download the file, extract it, and then double-click on the LastActiveClick.reg file. Once you are done, you’ll have to log off and back on, just like with the manual registry hack.

Download LastActiveClick Registry Hack from howtogeek.com

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/3/10

Comments (9)

  1. Peter

    … or you could use ALT-TAB, which, if used once, switches back to the most recently used window.

  2. Gildawie

    Great Tip!
    I didn’t know how much I needed this until I tried it.
    Thanks How-to Geek, keep these tips coming!

  3. Steve

    Wow! Thanks.
    That was one of those low level annoyances that I appreciate you clearing up. Are you listening Microsoft? I’m a PC and…. ;)

  4. Poet-Geek

    Thanks for the ALT+ TAB tip Peter.
    For me needs is more than perfect so cheers mate!

  5. Jose

    Another example of our geekie preference to make things more complicated then they have to be — just because we can. I agree with Peter, simply use alt+tab to go to the last active window. Simple, quick, one-handed method that doesn’t require use of the mouse or any registry hacks.

  6. Poet-Geek

    Hey guys i have a Good tip for you.

    try this out

    Window button + tab *press tab again and you will see the windows changing*

    and to till your windows screen without tilting your pc lol tr this.

    ctrl + alt followed by up, down, left or right key to till as you like *to put things back to order press up arrow key*

    Hope this was helpful to who didn’t know about them.

    Cheers Geek’s!

  7. AC

    Since we’re talking Windows 7, you don’t have to kill Explorer any more, just hold Shift + Ctrl and then right click an empty area on the start menu (or just to the left of the search box if you have no empty space). In addition to the usual “Properties” option, you’ll also get a new option: “Exit Explorer.”

  8. eric

    And how do you restart Explorer once you kill or exit it? I found out here:
    http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/hidden-trick-to-close-windows-explorer-in-vista/
    Unfortunately, the registry change didn’t seem to have an effect….

  9. Jan

    Thanks! I found it verry annoying to click twice this has solved the “problem” :)

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