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Windows Vista - Missing Sidebar
Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Windows Sidebar is a new feature on the desktop, introduced with Windows Vista (ref. 1 and Fig. 1 below).

Fig. 1 - Windows Sidebar

Figure 1 - Windows Vista Sidebar

The Sidebar consists of Gadgets, which are small programs that display some information. In Fig. 1 above, we have three Gadgets - a clock, a slideshow, and a news ticker. You can also add or remove gadgets from the Sidebar (ref. 2), and even create your own gadgets (ref. 3).

While not the most important feature in Vista, the Sidebar does offer some utility, so it is somewhat disconcerting when it disappears for no clear reason.

The problem

I was setting up a new laptop the other day, and it happened - the Windows Sidebar disappeared (Fig. 2 below).

Fig. 2 - Sidebar gone!!

Figure 2 - Sidebar disappered!!

In fact this was the third time it had happened, on different systems, and the last two times it happened just after I uninstalled Google Desktop. There is some flaw in the Google Desktop uninstall process that makes the Sidebar disappear.

What did not work

I did a web search, and while the problem seems quite common, the answer was not clear. Most of the fixes were either not applicable or seemed too complex, so I decided to try on my own.

As a first attempt, I located the "Windows Sidebar" control panel and double-clicked on it. You will find this in Start -> Control Panel -> Classic View -> Windows Sidebar (Fig. 3 below).

Fig. 3 - Sidebar Control Panel

Figure 3 - Windows Sidebar Control Panel

This brought up the Sidebar dialog (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4 - Sidebar Control Panel Dialog

Figure 4 - Sidebar Control Panel Dialog.

The option to "Start Sidebar when Windows starts" was un-checked for some reason. I "checked" it as shown in Fig. 4, then clicked OK to save the changes, and rebooted the computer.

Unfortunately, the Sidebar was still missing after the reboot.

The solution

I checked the Sidebar Control Panel, and the option to "Start Sidebar when Windows starts" was still checked (Fig. 4). On a hunch, I "checked" the box labeled "Sidebar is always on top of other windows" and clicked on OK (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5 - Sidebar on top

Figure 5 - Putting Sidebar on top

Somewhat unexpectedly, the Sidebar appeared on the Desktop (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6 - Sidebar is back

Figure 6 - Sidebar is back.

The problem was not completely solved, because I did not want the Sidebar on top all the time. It would waste valuable desktop space by being on top of other more useful Windows.

Next, I went back to the Sidebar Control Panel, and un-checked the option labeled "Sidebar is always on top of other windows" (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7 - Sidebar not on top

Figure 7 - Sidebar not on top always.

When I clicked on OK, the Sidebar stayed on the screen (Fig. 8), and also was no longer the topmost window. I could tell this from the transluscent nature of the Sidebar background (compare Figs. 8 and 6).

Fig. 8 - Sidebar not on top

Figure 8 - Sidebar not on top always.

When I rebooted the machine, the Sidebar was still there, and not the topmost window. The problem was solved.

To summarize, here are the steps to solve the problem:

  • Open the Sidebar Control Panel
  • "Check" the option "Start Sidebar when Windows starts"
  • "Check" the option "Sidebar is always on top of other windows"
  • Click "OK". The Sidebar should appear.
  • Open the Sidebar Control Panel
  • "Un-check" the option "Sidebar is always on top of other windows"
  • Click OK. Sidebar should stay, and no longer topmost.

Discussion

I have done this on three or four different computers, and it has worked each time. As I recall, in each case the problem was caused by uninstalling some software via the "Programs and Features" Control Panel. In two of the cases the problem happened immediately after uninstalling Google Desktop.

I have not yet discovered what makes the Sidebar "hide" when certain programs are uninstalled. It is also possible it could happen for other reasons, and this fix may not work for all cases.

References

  1. Windows Sidebar http://www.microsoft.com/windows/.../sidebargadgets.mspx
  2. Windows Sidebar Gadgets http://vista.gallery.microsoft.com/vista/SideBar.aspx
  3. Gadget Development http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa965850(VS.85).aspx

Comments
(in order from older to newest)

"Dude thanks so much you totally solved my problem, thanks soooo much."

July 26, 2008, 10:11 AM by CYP.

"I have a missing sidebar. However your ideas don't work for me."

Aug 14, 2008, 2:40 AM by DHS.

"Thank you so much!!! This worked for me as well."

Aug 21, 2008, 5:02 PM by M T

"I am missing the Sidebar in Control Panel, I only have Sideshow .......... ;-("

Aug. 30, 2008, 5:57 AM by Bram

"Very helpful!"

Sep. 20, 2008, 4:58 AM by bobby

"THE SOLUTION IS GOOD.BUT IT'S TOO SIMPLE.IT DOES NOT WORK ON ME."

Sep. 20, 2008, 7:00 PM by sam

"This worked for me. Thanks!"

Oct. 8, 2008, 8:48 AM by B. E.

"Whilst removing Norton my sidebar was also removed. The normal sidebar icon in control panel is a folder and not the normal icon. When clicked it indicates no associated programme. Please help! How can I reinstall sidebar."

Oct. 24, 2008, 6:18 PM by Didar S.

"Worked for me as well. Thanks."

Nov. 2, 2008, 11:07 AM by RCE

"Still the problem is there.. any other solution?"

Nov. 12, 2008, 2:49 PM by anonymous

"Very straightforward. Very helpful."

Dec. 8, 2008, 3:56 AM by don i.

"Microsoft needs to bullet proof the sidebar. I have seen many different problems, your solution has fixed 2 for me. In a very stubborn cases, I had to redo the profile."

Jan. 6, 2009, 6:39 PM by DeveloperX

"Actually you don't have to set the sidebar on top of all windows and then go back and change it. After you have "Checked" the option "Start Sidebar when Windows starts", check if it is up. If it is not, look in the system stray. there should be a new icon there; a desktop with three squares (that resemble gadgets). Click on it, and the sidebar should come up."

Jan. 13, 2009, 5:10 PM by jt

"Thank you sooooo much! I've search almost every chinese website to find a way to solve it but it all didn't work out. And then I thought why don't I search in English? Then less than a minute my sidebar came back! That is really helpfu! Thank you so much!"

June 20, 2009, 5:21 AM by Rosie

"7-28-09 Windows Update download on my Vista Desktop and rebooted. Then my sidebar and icon were gone. Yes, I was at my computer. I went to the Control Panel and followed your instructions. First time this has happened. But my sidebar is back."

Jul. 29, 2009, 5:54 PM by Judy

"I removed a label program and lost my sidebar--it appears everywhere but the control panel. I have tried everything but nothing seems to bring it back. I loved it especially the date."

Jan. 14, 2010, 8:11 AM by meh

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