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Add the Vista Style Sidebar Back to Windows 7

If you are moving from Vista to Windows 7, you might miss the Sidebar which was introduced in Vista. Today we take a look at a couple options for getting a Sidebar back in Windows 7.

Copy Files from Vista

Note: In this example we are using 32-bit versions of Vista and Windows 7. Make sure you are logged in with Administrator credentials.

If you have a Vista machine running, we can copy the Windows Sidebar files over to the Windows 7 machine. On the Vista machine navigate to C:\Program Files and copy the Windows Sidebar folder and all of its contents over to a flash drive or network location.

3copy contents

On the Windows 7 machine go to C:\Program Files and rename the Windows Sidebar folder to something like Windows Sidebar_old.

4rename

Now copy the Vista Windows Sidebar folder into C:\Program Files…

5addvista

Now you will have both folders…Windows Sidebar and Windows Sidebar_old in your C:\Program Files folder.

6both files

Right-click on the desktop and select Gadgets.

7gadgets

There you are…the Original Vista Sidebar is back and will act as it did in Vista.

8sidebar

Move Sidebar Gadgets

Another work around if you don’t have a copy of Vista, you can simply move the Desktop Gadgets you want over to the right side of the screen and they will stay there…no dock needed.

Type gadgets into the Search box in the Windows Start Menu and click on Desktop Gadgets.

sshot-2010-05-25-[19-42-02]

Then drag the included Gadgets you want over to the right side of the screen. Or click on the link to Get more gadgets online to find more.

sshot-2010-05-25-[19-45-47]

Once you have them where you want, each time you reboot they will still be in the same location. This holds true no matter where you place them on your desktop as well.

sshot-2010-05-25-[19-29-00]

Install Desktop Sidebar

If you want an enhanced sidebar that includes a lot of different features, and don’t have a copy of Vista, you might want to check out Desktop Sidebar Beta (link below). This is a freeware application that works with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

9desktop Sidebar

After installation you can access it from the Start Menu…

10desktop

Here is how it will look after you launch it…

11desktop

It includes several pre-installed panels including a clock, Media Player, Search Bar, Slideshow, Messenger, Outlook inbox, Tasks, Quick Launch, Performance…and a lot more.

12desktopside 13desktopside

It is highly customizable and allows you to change skins, add various levels of transparency, and a lot more.

15desktop

One caveat with going with Desktop Sidebar is we didn’t find a way to add Windows Gadgets to it (though there might be a plugin for it that we’re not aware of). But there are so many options, you may not mind. However, you can still use the desktop gadgets as you normally would in Windows 7.

14desktopgadgets

Believe it or not, some people actually prefer the Vista style Sidebar and would like it back in Windows 7. With these options you can get the Vista Sidebar back if you have a copy of Vista, place the Gadgets on the desktop, or go the freeware route.

Download Desktop Sidebar (freeware)

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 05/26/10

Comments (7)

  1. Migration Expert Zone

    Thanks for the tips! I actually really miss the Vista sidebar and can’t understand why Microsoft insisted on removing it from Windows 7. Would it have killed them to at least keep it as an option?

  2. SDreamer

    There’s quite a few things in Vista that I’d like to have back honestly, but just enhanced, this is one of them. I’d love to have the snap feature of 7, but the infinite pages of Vista. Some other things like it’s visuals, like the green glass user folders, the Favorites pane, the visual style (7 is just too bright for me, where Vista seemed darker and a bit classier), but Aero Snap and peek are just things that Windows should have from the beginning, and I really need in 7.

  3. herbie

    Thanks for the tip. I had forgotten about the Sidebar completely.

    I upgraded from Vista without saving any of the Vista files, except for the Themes, which didn’t work on 7.
    I went to Windows optional features and Windows Sidebar was there and I checked it.
    Tada, Sidebar.
    I especially liked the Launchpad gadget. Really handy.
    Thanks again.

  4. Lockmaster

    Copying the Vista Sidebar onto Win 7 did not work for me! I am running 32 bit version Ultimate, brand new . First off, the system would not allow me to change the name to Windows Sidebar_old without first disabling the service. Next the system required a reboot to reconfigure Windows. After that I copied the Vista version from my flash drive to the Programs folder and restored the service to run. Of course the system required a reboot once again to reconfigure. After reboot, I had new gadgets from Vista but no no Sidebar. Windows simply restored to defaults for Win 7.

  5. Lockmaster

    Bada Boom, same as it started

  6. glowflu

    google desktop is i tinck better!!!!! :)

  7. SonOfBaldr

    I am surprised there was no mention of the option of downloading the Google Sidebar..
    It is very similar to the Vista sidebar and is free… and better than the free sidebar gadget
    mentioned in the article.
    Perry in Florida

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