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Stupid Geek Tricks: Windows 7 Easter Egg Shows the XP Alt-Tab Prompt

This is one of those completely pointless tricks that has no useful application whatsoever, but it’s still fun to figure out how to do. It turns out that there’s a bug in Windows 7 that launches the old XP-style Alt-Tab switcher under certain conditions.

Here’s Windows 7, with the XP Alt-Tab!

image 

Just in case you aren’t using Windows 7 yet, the normal Alt-Tab window in Win7 is big, transparent, and really a big improvement on that ugly XP version.

image

To trigger the old XP style one, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Hold down the Left (or Right) Alt key.
  • Press and release the other Alt key.
  • Keep holding down that first Alt key, and then press Tab.

And Voila! The ugly old XP-style one will show up.

image

See, I told you it was completely and totally pointless!

We should note that this trick comes to us courtesy of Alexander from NTWind, who is the same guy that made the not-pointless-at-all VistaSwitcher Alt-Tab replacement application that we’re quite fond of.

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 10/20/09

Comments (26)

  1. Arvedui

    Quite interesting. Why didn’t they remove this? Might have saved a few kilobytes here or there, no?

    Though with 750 GB HDDs these days, I guess that kind of stuff doesn’t matter. :p

  2. SDreamer

    Thought I’d mention, this works on Vista as well.

  3. Mark

    Works on Vista too

  4. ph15h

    I think they left it in there for the times when Explorer or DWM crash. After they crash and restart, I am often stuck with the XP version without being able to revert to the W7 or Vista’s alt-tab function until a full restart. And yes, like those above me pointed out: It works for Vista.

  5. Matt

    I much preferred the XP style to be honest, I use it to quickly switch between programs, the emphasis being on quick. The new style’s too long winded, I reconfigured my w7 to the good old reliable, simple and effective XP style :)

  6. Andrew

    Lol, dont we all just love microsoft!

  7. ReVeLaTeD

    I don’t understand that.

    Why do people bother buying a new OS when all they do is revert it back to the XP style? If that’s what you really want – is a plain vanilla XP/2000 look and operation, why don’t you just stay on XP? What possible benefit was there in upgrading if you have no intention of using the new features??

  8. jimmyb

    ReVeLaTeD – kernel improvements, vhd support, speed among many other non-visual things.. oh, and a better calculator ;)

  9. ThorsonB

    OK So how do I KEEP it that way?….

    my left right hand is usually occupied (specially when dragging and dropping files from one folder to another)

  10. Jeff

    @ReVeLaTeD – So if a person decides to use one old feature, he must be using all of the other old features too, right?

  11. Howard

    Why change everything back to XP after upgrading? Because I LIKED XP. But I have a new 64-bit machine that came with Win 7. I don’t see any benefits to Win 7 other than that it runs in 64-bit mode on my 64-bit machine. Otherwise, I feel like I’ve taken a few steps back to a Mac. What I keep wondering is: why bother upgrading to Windows 7 when Macs work really well if that is the kind of thing you want.

  12. arfnotz

    This trick actually workinf in XP – you can get differnt alt tab boxes as well.

    Why get a new OS and make it look like and OLD one? Simple – I get OS upgrades at work, yet am old and cranky and HATE when my user interface changes. New interfaces always contain more clutter, more animationa, and worst of all, they hide or move functions. Office 2007 was particulaily bad – while it might be more “obvious” to a new user, experienced users must throw away all their expereinec and relearn basic tasks. I HATE that.

  13. Benjamin

    Is there any way to make the XP-Style the default style? I like Aero in general. But the Aero ALT+Tab Style makes it nearly useless. I find it quite easy to cycle throgh just the icons, because the icons don’t change, so you can easly find your windows explorer, browser, IDE or whatever. With previews (combined with a selection color of that kind) ALT+Tab becomes useless. 10Windows with white backgrounds and some text on them, WOW.. I know that there are tiny icons in the lower right edge, but they are transparent (showing the thumbnail in the background) and therefore don’t look like the icons in the start-menu, on the taskbar or the desktop..

  14. Benjamin

    Ahh, here it is:
    In HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer add a DWORD with name AltTabSettings and Value 1

  15. jeremy

    how do you switch back to the windows 7 version? mine is stuck with xp

  16. Graham

    Awesome, thanks Benjamin.

  17. XUPIN

    OK.. i did this stupe change by mistake. How the hell do i turn it back to the new and totaly usefull alt tab style??? that comes on Windows 7 ???

    ty

  18. Ryan

    How do I switch it back to the Win7 one??

  19. John

    Why revert back to XP?
    I use Windows to do *work*. I don’t need (or want) to be distracted by Aero windows or Aero Peek or fancy animations of windows coming and going into the background. I don’t mean to rant, but how many changes in Win7 are for real and how many are cosmetic look-pretty changes designed to dazzle home users?

  20. Frieder

    Thank you Benjamin! It’s a blessing to get rid of this bloated Aero-Preview-Thing in Windows 7.
    Some might think it is a big improvement, but I’d rather prefer speed, simplicity and clarity for things like Alt+Tab. I really don’t need fancy preview windows and distracting Aero Peeks. Love the XP Style Alt+Tab :)

  21. Jiheishou Daigakusha

    The trick you described doesn’t work on my copy of Windows 7.

  22. Justin

    Even more fun – use the [Windows Key]+[TAB]. Let the XP lovers have their old school, and we modern Win7 appreciators can have the awesome task switching that comes with WinKey+Tab.

  23. Adrian Combe

    I actually find the XP version easier to read, see and use. Is there a way to make this change permanent?

    (It is NOT useless).

  24. Vincent

    Justin – thanks, that one’s pretty awesome! Wasn’t expecting something so flashy and futuristic.

  25. Bonnie Bevan

    I’m not here because I want to go back to the old style for Alt + Tab. I’m here because of something more serious… I have a remote desktop (90 miles away) that has Windows XP. My physicial computer is now Windows 7. Big problem!!

    The alt + tab on the remote brings me back to this computer now. I’d say the heck with it but I can’t. Microsoft has a glitch. If you open a word merge document from my MS Access database it has a dialog box verifying this is okay. Problem is the dialog box is often hidden. Alt + Tab allows the user to find the word doc and answer the question. I can’t do that from here. And MS Office will not let me do anything until I answer the question!!

  26. Bill

    Good to know that you can manually switch from the Aero Peak version to the old XP version

    I just had a user have an interesting issue (Win7-64) with his Alt+Tab getting stuck on and it got switched on him from Aero to XP version without his doing the double Alt Tab sequence.

    Resolutions:
    – To remove the Alt Tab getting stuck in the on position, we found this key combo worked
    Alt+Shift+Tab

    –Aero Peak was disabled. Re-enabled it and his Alt+Tab worked once again with Aero Peak version

    Due to needs for running some 16bit programs here that are not compatible with Win7-64 we had to implement VMWare with an XP load and we believe that his process of hitting Ctrl+Alt+Insert to get to the logon screen for XP he might have accidentally hit at least the shift key and possibly something else that helped cause the initial issue.

    ~Bill~

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