How-To Geek

How To Fix System Tray Tooltips Not Displaying in Windows XP

There’s a bug in Windows XP where sometimes the system tray tooltips and popup notifications will show up behind the taskbar, or behind other windows. This is really annoying when you want to use a tooltip.


There’s not a known perfect solution to the problem. The way to make everything start working again is to do the following:

  • Right click the taskbar, choose properties, and uncheck the checkbox that says “Keep task bar on top of other windows”.
  • Click Apply
  • Check the checkbox again.
  • Click Apply again.

This will temporarily make the system work right again, but you will have to repeat these steps if it happens in the future.

Update: Neosmart has created a small application that will fix this problem. The only thing is that the application will need to be running all the time, but if you have this problem often enough, you won’t care.

Download ToolTipFixer from NeoSmart

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 12/6/06

Comments (27)

  1. Nick Acquaviva

    — Comment Removed —

  2. The Geek


    While I don’t normally allow product placement links on here, your application does seem useful. I haven’t actually tried it, however.

  3. shifuimam

    “Nick” has been spamming his application on pretty much every site that has a page talking about this XP bug. It wouldn’t be so obnoxious if it was open-source freeware, but he’s just trying to get free advertising for his product.

  4. The Geek


    I’ve decided that I’m not allowing any links in comments anymore unless they are to open source or completely freeware applications.

    Thanks for the heads up on this one.

  5. Nick Brozack

    Fix: Log off, Log on again.

  6. Nick Brozack

    Also, to prevent this, dont right click anything in the start menu. Using sort by name actually causes the problem.

  7. Nope

    This tip didn’t work for me. When I uncheck the checkbox that says “Keep task bar on top of other windows”, the notifications show, but when I check the checkbox again, the problem comes right back.

  8. John

    I had the same problem as the guy above. Turning off the ‘Keep taskbar on top’ option solved the problem, but turning it back on again made the problem resurface.

    If you click ‘Start’, select ‘All programs’ and then right click somewhere in the list and select ‘Sort by Name’ the problem goes away (or it did for me, anyway.)

    Just another workround for a known XP bug.

  9. michael

    neither solution worked for me… well, except the logoff/logon idea (thanks Nick) And you’re right, right clicking a menu is the fastest way to bring the bug back.

  10. Nick Brozack

    Hey guys, found the fix: tooltips fix.exe was originally hosted on a site that has been shut down, but someone mirrored the file, here you are:

    it’s in a winrar file, I dropped it in my quicklaunch and just click on it when the problem occurs, then the problem is gone
    this is the site that’s hosting it:

  11. The Geek


    I haven’t tested the fix in Nick’s link above, so you are welcome to try it at your own risk.

  12. Javed

    Thanks nick, The tooltips fix.exe works fine
    finally a solution
    N i was worrying it might b some kind of spyware or virus but its not.
    Thanks again:)

  13. Geek'd

    i have had some trouble getting the windows media player tool bar to appear on my taskbar. i have Windows Media Player 11; can anyone help me with this?

  14. shifuimam

    Try right-clicking in the taskbar, go to toolbars, and select “Windows Media Player”.

  15. Wayne Miller

    I downloaded VisualTooltip22 and now I want to remove it. How do I delete or remove the program?

  16. Mark Zeeler

    Thanks Geek!

    The NeoSmart ToolTipFixer thingy did the trick!

    It’s taking up 2.5MB of memory in the background, but well worth every byte – the bug is actually gone! :D

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. mawst

    Great program. I was wondering if anyone else suffered from this annoying bug. It goes to show, the morons at M$ probably have horribly unorganized start menus and don’t sort by name. HA!

  18. Merry

    It’s only taking up 800KB here – well worth it though!

    Thanks NeoSmart, your products are awesome — First EasyBCD and now this! :D

  19. Nathan

    Just want to second Merry’s opinion here – I think NeoSmart Technologies is my new favorite freeware company :)

    First it was Sysinternals, I think neosmart is on-par at least with their old work.

  20. Simplest Solution

    Display the Windows Task Manager. End Task on explorer.exe. Click File, New Task (Run). Type explorer.exe and click OK. Problem solved.

  21. afuk

    I’m surprised that nobody mentioned this… since the problem is commonly caused by right clicking on the menu items, the simplest fastest way to revert the bug is… to right click on the menu item again!
    So, right click on any menu in “all programs”, then press ALT, or ESC, or click outside the menu (whatever brings the focus out of the menu).

    Anyway, this method works 100% for me.

  22. E2001

    If you have nircmd on your system, you can do a quick command line fix:
    “nircmd win settopmost class “tooltips_class32″ 1”.
    NirCmd is a free multi-purpose command line utility, available here:
    Just extract all files to your system path (C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32)

  23. hikikomori-san

    A solution much simpler and better than logging off then back on “but inspired by it” is to “switch users”. You won’t have to log off or install any applications, and it’s quick. To do this, press win+L, where win is the windows logo button (between ctrl and alt). This will bring you to the welcome screen but you will remain logged on (your apps won’t close, so you don’t have to wait for that transfer to finish or save your work or whatever). Once on the welcome screen, choose your user name again and viola. It worked for me, I hope it does for you.

  24. Rick

    E2001, in Vista, however, that command doesn’t do the trick. Perhaps the class name is different now, I don’t know.

  25. Hagis

    Thanks for the good program !

    Its unbelievble that M$ couldnt do anything to this annoying bug
    i get very angry every time it happens =P

    So its great to be able to read the tooltips without the need to
    minimize all windoews etc (ok not all tooltips are visible even then)

  26. Fried XP

    lovely mess here
    I have a worse problem
    after a bunch of updates were foisted on this system
    and some failed to apply

    the tooltip has now completely vanished from all areas including;
    the desktop, taskbar, quick launch, and the notification area / system tray

    nothing pops up on mouse over anymore

  27. Jack Sams

    Why can’t I open my toolbars XP? Need help

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