Fixing When the Windows Taskbar Refuses to Auto-Hide Correctly

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably had a problem with the Windows taskbar refusing to auto-hide, even though you’ve set the option in Control Panel. Here’s a few tips that might get that Taskbar hidden again.

Note: Since we’re running Windows 7 everywhere, most of this article focuses on that version, but some of the tips apply to Vista or XP as well. Keep in mind that we don’t have the answer for every single problem here, and these are just helpful hints.

So What’s the Problem?

When you’re using the auto-hide feature for the Windows taskbar, it will stay hidden until an application starts flashing the taskbar button, or there’s a notification balloon from a system tray icon—for instance, you’ll notice here that Asian Angel has sent me an instant message, which caused the taskbar to display, and the icon to change.

In this case I can simply click on that window to dismiss the notification and the taskbar will hide again.

The other scenario is when a notification balloon pops up, which will cause the taskbar to stay visible until you dismiss the message. These are obviously easy to close as well, or you can customize the notifications to not display.

The problem, however, is that some applications are not written quite right, and they trigger a notification in Windows to keep the taskbar open, but don’t display anything visible for you to close. This problem is even worse when combined with Windows 7’s ability to hide system tray icons.

You can usually fix the problem by restarting the problem application, or clicking on the icon to trigger whatever the hidden notification was. Keep reading.

Verify the Taskbar Settings

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, right-click on your Taskbar and choose Properties, which should bring up this dialog. You’ll want to make sure that the box for “Auto-hide the taskbar” is set correctly. Sometimes you can simply uncheck this, click Apply, and then re-check and click Apply again. If that does work, be happy.

Open Up the Hidden Icons and Right-Click on Them

In my scenario, the problem was actually caused by Input Director—all I had to do to make the taskbar start hiding again was to right-click on the Input Director icon. In your case it will probably be a different application, so you’ll want to try each of them separately and see what works.

Customize the Notification Settings

Now that we’ve figured out that one of the applications is causing a problem, we’ll head into the notification settings by clicking on the little hidden icon on the left side of the tray, and then clicking Customize.

In here you’ll want to find the icon that is hidden, and change it from the default of “Hide icon and notifications” to “Only show notifications”, which will make sure that even though the icon is hidden, the messages will show up so you can dismiss them.

Of course, if you really don’t want the messages, you should check in the application settings to make sure you can disable any notifications there. That’s really your best best.

Temporary Fix: Restart Windows Explorer

Sometimes when this problem happens, you can simply restart Explorer.exe to make the problem go away, and get everything back in order—which is much faster than rebooting. Just press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open up Task Manager, and use End Process on explorer.exe.

You can also use a fun hidden trick to restart Windows Explorer—hold down Ctrl+Shift while right-clicking on the taskbar, which will show an Exit Explorer item.

Once you’ve killed Explorer, you’ll need to open up Task Manager if it isn’t open by using Ctrl+Shift+Esc, then using File –> New Task to open up the run box. Once there, type in explorer and hit the enter key to open everything again.

Completely Disable Balloon Notifications

If you want to completely get rid of all notifications, you can use a registry hack that disables them across the board for every single application. This isn’t necessarily the recommended step, but it’s an option if all else fails.

Read our article on how to disable balloon notifications, which should work for all versions of Windows.

Other Options and Such

There’s a lot of other reports out there about problems with taskbar auto-hiding, and from what we’ve seen there’s a couple of things you can try. First, there’s the Solve PC Issues icon in the system tray, which is just part of the Action Center. Sometimes clicking on the icon to open up the Action Center and view the messages will fix the issue—read our article on managing the Action Center for more.

We’ve also seen some other issues—for instance, the Outlook reminders window will keep the taskbar open. Close it and all will be well, and don’t forget that you can disable email notifications easily too.

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