How-To Geek

Change the Windows 7 Taskbar to Work Like Vista

While many think the new taskbar feature in Windows 7 is a great improvement, others may not want to use it.  Today we take a look at how to get the Vista style taskbar back on Windows 7.

The new Windows 7 taskbar does take some getting used to for sure.  However, if you need to get things done on your new OS quickly, you don’t have time to learn how it works.


To get the Vista style taskbar back Right-click an open area on the Taskbar and select Properties.


The Taskbar and Start Menu Properties windows opens up where you will want to click the box next to “Use small icons” and select “Combine when taskbar is full” from the drop down next to Taskbar buttons.


Now the Taskbar look similar to how it did in Vista.  It doesn’t look exactly the same but has similar functionality.


Another tweak is to unpin all programs from the Windows 7 Taskbar.


Then follow The Geek’s tutorial on adding the Quick Launch Bar in Windows 7 to get a look and feel that is exactly like Vista with the Quick Launch Bar enabled.


This should help you out when you are too busy to sit and learn the new Windows 7 Taskbar or simply are not a fan of it.

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 09/2/09

Comments (29)

  1. GoodBytes

    Right, but Win+# doesn’t run the quick launch item. Small downside. :)

  2. JHubbard92

    Ah thats better, I never have got on with the Win 7 task bar. So great tip! :)

  3. Bob

    Thank you, thank you! Pinning items to the task bar was never an equivalent to the Quick Launch bar, for instance if you want to create a shortcut to open Explorer to a specific folder in a maximized window. And the automatic stacking of separate instances of the same program is just insane, just an attempt to mimic a bad OS X feature that I loathe.

  4. spirytus

    personally i think its the DUMBEST idea to customize taskbar this way in windows 7. imo windows 7 has awesome taskbar, way more usable than old windows way

  5. oomu

    “And the automatic stacking of separate instances of the same program is just insane, just an attempt to mimic a bad OS X feature that I loathe”

    in fact, os x mostly never launch “separate instance” of the same software. mac applications have to be document (or whatever) centric.

  6. calebstein

    I don’t get why you would change the taskbar back, I love the new taskbar.

  7. Donovan

    I think people should spend some time to get used to how things are in 7… If you switch back to the old interface now, you’ll possibly never get around learning to how much better the task bar in 7 is. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first either, but now I sing it’s praises as the single best thing about 7…

  8. D


  9. Allan

    Got in a little muddle here……….
    I have set up quick launch of left side by start, have three icons (mail, internet explorer and windows explorer) in there. If for example I wish to open another internet explorer page the e icon has changed to the web page I already have open eg Google. I then have to go to desktop and double click internet explorer, my home page then opens and shows another par in my Quick Launch area. In windows vista/xp it would show in the taskbar on the right of the quick launch section. The area of the quick launch would always be accessible easily as the e (internet explorer icon) would always remain there.
    IF I open another application, like ccleaner, word,mail or spybot they work correct and go to task bar on right of quicklaunch. So basically its an Internet explorer problem. Hope taht makes sense
    I have obviously done something wrong or I have misunderstood the instructions
    Can anyone assist please

  10. TREV

    er the window goes to the task bar and is locked in there

  11. mkoch820

    Thx, so much. I wanted to kill this annoying, unusable new taskbar. Thanks again, thanks, thanks, thanks….

  12. Suriel

    Bueno el tutorial man

  13. kari

    OMG Thankyou!
    When you are doing quick editing in lots of things at the same time this new taskbar is an absolute nightmare. It’s like three clicks to change windows back rathar than one.

    WHY they would ever want a taskbar so inefficient as this one is beyond me. It’s like in the old system when you would have too many windows open, so it would stack them all together, HATE that.

    I need to be able to see QUICKLY exactly what window is blinking at me.

  14. Ryan O'Hara

    Thanks for the great tip, I find it a HUGE pain to use two clicks to just activate a program. Personally, I think that the new taskbar is a huuuge step backwards. Sure, it looks great, but for usability, Windows has always been better than Mac. It’s good to know that unlike some other companies *ahem*, Windows doesn’t force it on you.

  15. 107E6


  16. crabsncancer

    You dinosaurs (Yes, i’m talking to people like Kari and Ryan) are what keeps innovation back. You guys get used to doing something one way and no matter how good the new thing is, you guys refuse to adapt thus keeping companies who are afraid of complaints form proceeding ahead.

    For one thing, You’re saying that finding things in the taskbar by text is faster than finding it by a thumbnail? WHATEVER. If you have multiple instances of IE open for instance, if you mouse over the icon, thumbnails of your screens come up and you can quickly find what you are looking for visually! One click.

    Also, the new way saves so much room on the task bar. Do you remember when you could have just 6 or 7 applications open and it would fill up the entire taskbar? The icons were small and the words were barely intelligible.

    I hate people like you guys who don’t know how to adapt. Adapt, Learn, Grow.. repeat a million times. That is life. If you can’t do anyone of those things, you are waste of skin.

  17. Danny

    Very good but I noticed one thing that doesnt make it look 100%

    Go to that link, its a picture on google (just full sized image version) it shows yo ucan’t make it look completlely like vista because of that end part

  18. chetan

    nice share buddy

  19. Hassan

    But I think that default style is good.——

  20. Cam

    Of course you can adapt, it’s a matter of if you WANT to… what would be so hard about giving us options? Plus, if everyone was the same, the world would be pretty boring, huh? I don’t like the new start bar, I do like other features of Windows 7, but not it. I too would rather read text than identify a pop-up image.

  21. Omar Mtz

    i don’t know why but when i do this it doesn’t work. My taskbar has been screwed up for a couple of months now and i don’t know how to fix it. When i try to pin a program in a certain spot in the taskbar, it just goes a random place and it messes up the icons in the taskbar. help

  22. glowflu

    ho\who would do that

  23. Dualor

    You….Are…..A….God! Finally I can now use 7 with my soon to be new laptop! Much Apprciated :)

  24. zarnaik

    is there any way to change the color of the taskbar? instead of it being see-through.

  25. Hesham

    You don’t have to unpin programs and show the Quick Launch you can easily pin your programs to the task bar and you can Click||Win+# to launch or Shift+Click||Win+Shift+# to run a new instance if they are already running.

  26. jason

    how do i restore the choice to have the taskbar stay on top of other windows, because i want to again be able to turn it off.

    microsoft has such an aggravating habit of asking the most bas-ackward questions regarding their interface choices.

    i use photoshop (for example) and a number of other applications in full screen. where even dual-display is real-estate shy and i am FOREVER having to break my focus and grapple with that edge i need to interact with, frustratingly dodging the taskbar constantly springing up – pause ’till it hides – damn !! there it is again … – pause, it hides – damn !!

    the floor around my desk is full of tufts of grey hair, and most importantly:

    i find myself avoiding using the thing ’cause i feel so defeated after a while.

    microsoft; very narrow-minded. i would’ve expected your human interface team to be more on the ball than this.

  27. Dave

    If the Window 7 taskbar is slower to use than Vista, I use a telnet 5250 with multiple instances say 15 and it does not stack on the Win7 taskbar because i have a 27″ screen, and its so slow to work out which instance i am looking for, as i swap alot.
    Alt tab is no good as only shows the one name slow and Win+tab is the same, the vista stacking showed me in one click and selected with one more click, changing to Windows 7 was a waste of time and is just plan slow.

  28. Michael

    I have my reasons why I don’t like the Windows 7 taskbar. Has nothing to do with failure to adapt. For one thing, I like to be able to read the text denoting exactly what tab/website the browser’s focused on when I want to restore it. 7’s taskbar shows this via a barely visible frame around the tab after you’ve waited for the previews to pop up. Also, when I get new e-mails or Facebook notifications, it’ll show this on the Vista-style taskbar with the text. Again, I have to mouse over the previews to see updates in 7’s design.

    Same thing goes for documents I open up. I like to see which of my four currently-open Notepad documents are named what – instead of waiting for a preview to show me four different walls of text. Aero Peek does little justice; why should I wait for the previews, then mouse over each one so I can read the title of each at the top of each window… It seems easier to just break them down individually, names with icons, so I can see at a glance where I can go for my windows.

    Also, separate browser windows don’t show up as separate in 7’s taskbar. You mouse over the graphic for the preview and it shows every tab of every window of that same browser, and you find yourself playing a guessing game on which of your ten tabs is the individual window you opened.

    Finally, I hate the new icons on the bottom right corner of the taskbar in 7. They all look the same, you have to stop and process which icon’s which. Maybe I’m just used to Vista, but Vista seemed simpler and easier for me.

    Only thing I like about 7’s taskbar is how each task lights up with a certain color related to its icon color when you mouse over it. Firefox’s task shows an orange light, folder tasks show a vanilla light, Malwarebytes shows a nice red, and so forth. Not practical, but it looks cool.

  29. Abdul Rauf

    Awesome ….. but How can I enlarge the size of the Quicklaunch icons as the size of the other icons???

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