How To Disable Taskbar Button Grouping in Windows

Stop Combining Taskbar Buttons in Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista & XP

Screenshot of the Windows 10 Taskbar and Start Menu Properties Window
Taskbar and Start Menu Properties (Windows 10).

Have you ever "lost" a window because it was grouped with other windows in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen? No worries; the window isn't gone and you haven't lost anything - it's just hidden.

What happens is that, by default, Windows lumps together buttons that belong to the same program, and it does this to both better organize the windows and to avoid filling up the taskbar. Five Internet Explorer windows, for example, can be kept together in one icon when taskbar grouping is enabled.

Taskbar grouping may be handy for some but for most it's just an annoyance. You can stop Windows from doing this once and for all by following the steps as I describe them below.

Time Required: Disabling taskbar button grouping is easy and usually takes less than 5 minutes

Applies To: Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

How To Disable Taskbar Button Grouping in Windows

  1. Right-click or tap-and-hold on the taskbar. This is the bar that sits on the bottom of the screen, anchored by the Start button on the left and the clock on the far right.

  2. Click or tap Properties in the menu that pops up.

    In Windows 10 and Windows 8, a window called Taskbar and Navigation properties will open. Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP call it Taskbar and Start Menu Properties.

  3. Go into the Taskbar tab at the top of the window and then find the Taskbar buttons: option.

    If you're using Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, you're wanting to look for the Taskbar appearance options at the top of the Taskbar window.

    Note: The screenshot on this page shows this window in Windows 10, but the options are very similar in other versions of Windows.

  1. Next to the Taskbar buttons: option, use the drop down menu to select Never combine. See Tip 1 at the bottom of this page for another option you have here.

    If you're using Windows Vista or Windows XP, uncheck the Group similar taskbar buttons checkbox to disable taskbar button grouping.

    Note: If you're not sure exactly how this option will affect your system, the small graphic at the top of this window (in Windows Vista and XP only) will change to demonstrate the difference. For newer versions of Windows, you have to actually accept the change before you can see the results.

  1. Click or tap the OK or Apply button to confirm the changes.

    If prompted, follow any additional on-screen directions.

More Help with Taskbar Button Grouping

  1. In Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7, you can instead choose the option called Combine when taskbar is full if you want the buttons to group together but only if the taskbar gets full. This still lets you avoid grouping the buttons, which can be annoying, but it does leave the combining capability open for when the taskbar gets too cluttered.
  2. In Windows 10 and Windows 8, you can put a check next to the Use small taskbar buttons option to reduce the button sizes. This will let you have more windows open without forcing the icons off the screen or into a group.

    This option is included in Windows 7 too but it's called Use small icons.