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1.   Basics
    How to still use a Windows computer if the taskbar has gone.
2.   How to restore a hidden or displaced taskbar...
       by unhiding it if it is merely hidden
      by finding it if displaced off edge of screen.
3.   How to restore a missing taskbar...
       by booting to Safe Mode and/or repairing Explorer.exe
      by running Error-checking
      by editing the Registry
      by restoring a backup of the Registry
      by restoring a drive-image of the C: drive
      by restoring a Windows System Restore Point
      by trying more MS Knowledge Base fixes
      by removing trojan Vundo or the like
      by repairing or reinstalling Windows.
4.   The taskbar is present but...
      the buttons for opened programs are missing or blank
      the taskbar's height is excessive
      the taskbar is permanently locked/unlocked
      the taskbar is on the wrong side of the screen
      the Language toolbar is showing
      the Volume button is missing.
5.   Windows 7's orb button is present but...
      the rest of the taskbar is missing.

1.  Taskbar basics
The loss of a taskbar is an extremely rare occurrence.  But it does occasionally happen to some people.  And, when it does, it is a severe inconvenience which has many possible causes and can be either fairly simple or very difficult to fix.
There are three basic reasons why a taskbar might suddenly go missing.  It could be due to (i) an accidental action by any user of the computer (ii) a mischievous action by any person with access to the computer or (iii) corruption within the operating system.  We deal with the first two first as they are the easiest to eliminate (that is our section 2 below).  The last one is the most difficult to resolve as it could be caused by malware or, more probably, by some indeterminate Windows' glitch.  These harder causes are dealt with in a lengthy section 3 which will step you through all known solutions.
Regardless of the cause of a missing taskbar, patiently working through the following separate lines of attack should eventually have a healthy taskbar up and running again, though not necessarily quickly nor easily.
1.1  How to use a computer with no Taskbar
If you think your taskbar might just be hidden, or displaced off the side of the screen, skip this section 1.1 and go to step 2.  However, if you are fairly sure the taskbar is completely missing, not merely hidden or displaced, or if you need to do some urgent work on the computer before worrying about getting the taskbar back, you will need to know how to use your computer without the Start button.  In that case, continue here before going to step 2.
Using a Windows computer which has lost its taskbar may seem impossible at first glance.  But, provided the computer has otherwise booted fully so you can see at least the normal desktop icons and background wallpaper, then, by pressing Ctrl+Esc, or the Windows key, whichever works for you, you can pull up the Start menu.  If the keyboard shortcuts fail to pull up the Start menu on your particular computer, an equally effective way of negotiating the computer would be by double-clicking on the (My) Computer icon on the desktop or by right-clicking on the Recycle Bin icon and choosing Explore.  This would allow you to browse normally to any drive, directory or application, anywhere on the computer.  If there is no (My) Computer or Recycle Bin icon on your desktop, the solution to that is to create a new shortcut on the desktop to Windows Explorer.  To do that, right-click on the desktop, choose New > Shortcut > Browse... > browse to the location on your system of the file explorer.exe (usually at C:\ Windows\ Explorer.exe) > use the right-hand mouse button to drag the file so it is over the desktop > release the button and, from the context menu, choose Create Shortcut Here.  So, there are four separate ways of making it possible to use the computer, in an emergency, until such time as the taskbar and Start button are restored.  If you open more than one of your programs, or if you lose a window by minimising it (there being no taskbar for it to contract to), pressing Alt+Tab will allow you to move from window to window, including minimised windows.
2.  Recovering a hidden or displaced Taskbar
If the loss of your taskbar coincided with your computer being infected by a virus, trojan etc., or removal of any such infection, go to section 3.  If you are confident your computer is clean, apart from the absent taskbar, continue with this section 2.
When a taskbar suddenly disappears it does not always mean disaster has struck.  The taskbar may, somehow, merely have been put on autohide, or displaced from its normal, visible position to somewhere it can't be seen.  So the first step is to check if the problem is due to either of those occurrences, as follows...
2.1  Recover a hidden Taskbar by unhiding it
An absent taskbar may only be hidden.  To check if this is the problem, start off by right-clicking on the desktop > if there is an item 'Active Desktop' on the menu, hover over it to bring up the submenu and, if any sub-items have a tick against them, click them in turn until no items are left ticked.  Next, right-click on the desktop again > Refresh.  Now press Ctrl+Esc or the Windows key (whichever works) to display the Start menu.  If neither of those keyboard shortcuts pulls up the Start menu on your system you can still get to the Taskbar Settings dialog by creating a temporary desktop shortcut to the Control Panel.  To do that, right-click on the desktop > New > Shortcut > at the location field, type in the word control > Next > Finish > double-click on the new shortcut (to open the Control Panel) > Appearance and Themes > Taskbar and Start Menu (those labels may vary slightly with different versions of Windows).
Note that, if pressing Ctrl+Esc or the Windows key caused the Start menu to appear, and the taskbar as well, that would confirm the taskbar is merely hiding.  Irrespective of which method you use to access the Control Panel, negotiate your way to the dialog for the Taskbar's settings.  If a keyboard shortcut works on your system, the route from the Start menu may vary depending on your version of Windows.  In XP, for example, it would be via Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Taskbar and Start Menu.  Once at the taskbar settings' dialog, untick all the boxes > Apply > OK > restart the computer.  After Windows has rebooted, return to the taskbar settings' window.  In XP, say, you should typically only retick 'Lock the taskbar', 'Keep the taskbar on top' and 'Show Quick Launch'.  Then restart the computer again.  With luck, you will now have your taskbar back in place, with the new settings duly remembered as a result of doing that final restart.
If the above process fails to restore the taskbar, press Ctrl+Esc or the Windows key again to see if that action now brings up the taskbar as well as the Start menu.  If still no taskbar, step 2.1 has, at least, determined the taskbar is not merely hidden.  Clear the Start menu by clicking on the desktop or pressing Esc, and go to step 2.2.
2.2  Recover a displaced Taskbar
Although a Windows taskbar looks like a permanent fixture along the bottom of the desktop, that is not the case.  It is a toolbar and, as such, it can be unlocked and floated anywhere over the desktop, and shrunk in size, or it can be docked to any other side, or it can be floated completely off any side.  Such repositioning of a taskbar can be done by anybody with access to the computer - it could be accidental but, equally, it could be by a joker in the family or a contemptible colleague at work if that's where the computer is.  But, in such cases, the displaced taskbar is, fortunately, still there, it just can't be seen.
The first job is to carefully scrutinise all round the whole of the desktop, and along all four edges of the screen to see if there is anything showing anywhere which could be a tiny part of a displaced taskbar.  If you cannot see any sign of any part of the taskbar, not even part of a miniaturised taskbar, the next job is to temporarily make your screen resolution higher as this will reveal a taskbar if it has been floated right off the edge of the screen.  For example, if you are currently on a low (big icons) resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, change to the highest (smaller icons) resolution (of 1024 x 768 or more) that your display settings permit.  To do that, right-click on the desktop > Properties > go to the Display settings' window and then jack up the screen-area slider one or more notches to the right.  After enlarging the screen res., look round all four sides of the desktop again, very carefully, to see if the taskbar is now visible.  Be conscious that, if it has also somehow been shrunk down in size, it will be even tinier at this higher (i.e. smaller icons) resolution.  If you still cannot see anything which might be the taskbar, it is always possible it has been collapsed down to nothing along the bottom edge of the highest res screen.  Slide your mouse all the way down so the cursor is trying to disappear off the bottom edge of the desktop.  If the cursor changes to a double-headed arrow, hold down the mouse's left button and drag upwards, the taskbar will then reappear.  If you do not get a double-headed arrow at the bottom edge of the screen, repeat the same process against the other three sides to see if that is where the taskbar went.
If any of the above tests, including Ctrl+Esc or Windows Key, did reveal the taskbar, but the bar is not properly proportioned and needs resizing, left-click on the taskbar > press Alt+Space Bar > from the menu which pops up, choose Size > resize the taskbar using the keyboard's non-numeric arrow keys.
If none of the above steps has succeeded in bringing the taskbar back into view, not even a displaced or shrunken taskbar, this will have determined the taskbar is neither hidden nor displaced but definitely missing.  Put your screen resolution back to your preferred size, then continue to section 3 next.

3.  Recovering a missing Taskbar
Proceed with this section only if you are certain your taskbar is definitely missing, not merely hidden or displaced off the side of the screen, as dealt with in the preceding section 2.
If the loss of your taskbar coincided with the computer being infected by a virus, trojan etc. you must remove the infection as a first step and run an up-to-date anti-virus scan and a spyware sweep (step 3.8 in the RH col may also be relevant).  If successfully removing any such infection does not also restore the taskbar, or your computer has not been infected in any case, work through the following steps, one by one.  This will, eventually, lead to the reinstatement of a missing taskbar but, not knowing which particular step will work for you, it could take quite some time as it is a case of eliminating possible causes by trial and error.  There is, unfortunately, the real possibility that the only foolproof and relatively easy cure will not actually be available to you - you'll know if that's the case only if the first four steps below fail to fix your problem.
3.1  Recover a missing Taskbar by booting to Safe Mode
Booting into Safe Mode, and straight back, without doing anything else, may be able to restore a taskbar to its default size and location.  This is because, when Windows runs in Safe Mode, it automatically returns some of its Start menu and Taskbar settings back to their heritage defaults, thus making it possible for a taskbar which was missing in normal mode to become visible in Safe Mode.  If that happens, the regained visibility should be retained when you return to normal mode.
3.1.1  How to boot into Safe Mode
Before going into Safe Mode, carry out a normal shutdown of the computer, wait 30 seconds, then switch it back on and let it boot normally into Windows.  If the taskbar is still missing, now reboot into Safe Mode.  To get into Safe Mode is usually a case of pecking on the F8 key immediately after switching on or restarting a computer.  When a black DOS-like startup menu appears, choose the plain 'Safe Mode' option.  When at the Safe Mode desktop, do not do anything, just wait without pressing any keys or clicking anything, after waiting 30 seconds restart the computer back into normal Windows.  If the F8-key method does not appear to provide access to Safe Mode on your system, refer to our separate article about Safe Mode (link at bottom of this page).  If booting to Safe Mode, and going straight back to Windows, failed to reinstate the missing taskbar, and Windows XP or later is being used, go to 3.1.2, otherwise go to 3.2.
3.1.2  How to clear a Windows shell error (XP or later)
If the preceding step had no effect, there might be an error in the Windows shell (explorer.exe).
Open the Task Manager.  You won't be able to do that the easy way by right-clicking on the taskbar, not without a taskbar.  But there are several other ways.  They won't all work in all Windows' versions, just go with the first one that does.  Try (i) Ctrl+Shift+Esc (ii) Ctrl+Alt+Del (iii) Ctrl+Alt+Del > Task Manager or (iv) WindowsKey+R (to open the Run box) > type in taskmgr > OK.  With the Task Manager's window duly opened, if no tabs are showing, double-click on an empty part of the windows' top frame to make the tabs appear, then... > click on the Applications tab and, if it shows there are some tasks running, select them one at a time and click the End Task button (except for any running app which you think might contain unsaved worked from the session you were in) > click on the Processes tab > look down the list of running processes to find Explorer.exe > right-click on it > End Task > OK > click File > from the menu choose New Task > type in explorer > OK.  For this procedure to work, you must first have ended the crashed instance of the Explorer.exe process (as described above).  If you don't, a new instance without the same basic error cannot start.  If restarting a new instance of explorer.exe in this way does not immediately redisplay the taskbar, close any programs you had open and do a normal reboot of the computer.  If there is still no taskbar, that eliminates a kernel error as being the cause, so go to 3.2.
3.2  Recover a missing Taskbar by running Error-checking
When Windows starts to suffer from odd problems on a (non-infected) machine it is often possible to nip them in the bud by the simple expedient of running Error-checking followed by Disk Defragmenter.  These are two disk maintenance utilities which are always a part of every version of Windows.  The first tool automatically fixes various disk and file-system errors whilst the second tool pulls fragmented files on the hard disk back together.  We cannot say for sure if this could fix something as tricky as a missing taskbar but, bearing in mind the taskbar is simply code within one or more fragmented files, there is some logic in giving it a try.
Both these tools are supposed to be run periodically by the user anyway.  So now is as good a time as any to do it.  If you have run both tools in the past, you will obviously know how to do it and can skip reading the rest of this step, and simply get on with it.  If, afterwards, you find the missing taskbar problem has not been fixed by running the two tools, you would continue from step 3.3 below.
If you have never run the two tools before, we should warn that this can, on some systems, be a tricky operation, and always takes several hours to complete.  That will seem frustrating if it fails to fix the missing taskbar problem.  But you will, at least, have learned how to run the tools for the future.  To start Error-checking, open (My) Computer > right-click on the C: drive's icon > Properties > Tools tab > at 'Error-checking', click 'Check Now' > at the window which appears, if more than one drive is available, select the C: drive > tick all the appropriate boxes to ensure the scan will be a thorough error-fixing scan > Start.  If XP or later is being used, you will be told the PC will be restarted - the computer will automatically restart in a protected mode, then the error scan will begin.  If Windows 95, 98 or Me is being used, the error scan will attempt to run in normal Windows' mode.  For that to succeed, it is first advisable to have closed all opened programs, disconnected from the internet, disabled all third-party icons in the System Tray (including anti-virus and firewall) and disconnected any printer or other peripheral hardware.  With Windows 98 it is also crucial to disable (untick) TaskMonitor via the Startup tab in the System Configuration Utility.  The reason for doing all those things is that the Error-checking tool requires exclusive access to the hard disk.  If you try to run the tool in those older systems while some other program is still able to write to the disk, the Error-checking tool will keep restarting and never finish.  If you encounter this problem of repeated restarts on Windows 95, 98 or Me, despite terminating all those things, the usual solution is to run the tool in Safe Mode, in which case we would refer you to a separate page (link at end of this page) which is all about Safe Mode and includes detailed sections on overcoming restart problems when trying to run Error-checking or Disk Defragmenter.  If this all sounds too laborious for now, skip this part and move on to step 3.3.
3.3  Recover a missing Taskbar by editing the Registry
If steps 3.1 and 3.2 failed to reinstate the missing taskbar, or you chose to skip 3.2, the next thing to try is the first of several possible fixes on this page from Microsoft's official online Knowledge Base.  This one involves deleting a single key in the Registry which may have become corrupted.  Do not be afraid of venturing into the Registry but you are advised to make sure you have a restorable backup of the registry files before you do so.  More on backing up a registry is in 3.4.
To edit the registry, open Windows' Regedit tool and navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Explorer\ StuckRects
Right-click on the subkey (yellow folder) named StuckRects [or StuckRects2 in the case of XP] > Delete > exit Regedit and do a normal restart of the computer.  The deleted key will be regenerated and, with luck, will bring back a healthy taskbar with it.
If the 'Stuckrects' key appeared to be missing, double-check that you have navigated down the correct registry tree as it is easy to get lost if you have little experience of browsing the registry.  The full path of wherever you currently are in the registry is displayed in the Status Bar along the bottom of Regedit's window [if the Status bar is not showing, choose View > click Status Bar (to put a tick against it)].  If the subkey is definitely missing, then the taskbar problem is almost certainly associated with that absence.  To remedy the situation, the simplest solution, if you have been keeping backups of the registry, would be to restore a recent backup of the registry (see step 3.4).  Another option, if you have access to somebody else's computer using an identical Windows' version to yours, would be to Export (copy) the StuckRects subkey from the other computer's registry as a .reg file and Import it to the registry on your own computer [but, if using a USB memory key to transfer any file from another computer to yours, always take every possible precaution to ensure nothing malicious jumps onto it at the same time].  Failing that option, you could try manually creating a new StuckRects subkey [StuckRects2 in the case of XP] with Regedit.  Before adding stuff to a registry (as opposed to deleting stuff), you need a genuine backup of the present registry, as reassurance.  Using Regedit to make an Export of the relevant branch is not an appropriate means of backing up in this instance.  After the change to the registry, reboot the computer afterwards to see what happens.  If still no taskbar, proceed to step 3.4.
3.4  Recover a missing Taskbar by replacing the Registry
If editing the registry as per step 3.3 failed to restore the taskbar, the next option is to try replacing the whole Registry with the latest-available backup copy made when the taskbar was still working properly.  This can be by any of the following three options, whichever is available to you, if any.  If none proves available, you will have to move on to step 3.5.  The three options are (i) one of the five automatic backups that Windows keeps (this option is not available if you have rebooted the computer five or more times since the taskbar first disappeared, which is quite probable) or (ii) a backup you recently made yourself using MS Backup or (iii) a backup you recently made using some third-party tool, such as by a cleanup tool, or by a registry cleaner before the registry cleaner was run, or, best of all, by either of the purpose-made registry backup tools WinRescue (inexpensive shareware) or ERUNT (free, simpler, but an XP bias and less compression).  Assuming one or other of the above three backup alternatives is available to you, proceed to replace the current, possibly corrupt registry with the earlier, uncorrupted backup.  However, if Windows' automatic backups are all too recent to be of any use, and you have not been making any manual backups of the registry, or you did replace the registry but it did not restore the missing taskbar, go to step 3.5.  Continued in RH col.
Taskbar gone
What if you switched on your computer one day and the taskbar was missing, as above.  Or it suddenly disappeared as you were doing something on the computer.  What would you do?  It's a rare occurrence but it has happened to quite a number of people at one time or another.  This page holds all the answers to getting a full taskbar back, whatever the cause.
Taskbar back

Continued from bottom of LH col.
3.5  Recover a missing Taskbar by restoring a drive-image backup
If, for some reason, you are not able to replace the registry as per step 3.4, or you have replaced the registry but that also failed to restore the taskbar, this next step is the foolproof one which cannot fail.  But it will only be available to you if you have made a drive-image backup of your C: partition fairly recently, at a time when everything was perfectly normal.  Restoring that drive-image will return your system to exactly as it was at the time you made the image, complete with, of course, a perfectly normal taskbar.
You will only have a drive-image if you have been making periodic backups of your system's complete C: drive with a recovery disk like the Linux-based ones from Acronis True Image or Clonezilla, or with the imaging tool built into Windows 7 Pro.
If the drive-image option is available to you, do remember, before restoring an entire imaged C: partition, that any data files you have changed or added on that partition since making the image, including any photos, music, letters, accounts, saved e-mails, Address Book changes and so on, will all be completely lost and/or be overwritten by earlier out-of-date versions.  So, before proceeding, first be sure to back up all such data either to a separate partition which is not included in the drive-image, or to an external drive, or to removable media, so you won't lose anything important.  The data of other users may also be at risk if there are multiple user accounts on the one machine.  You will also lose any applications you may have installed to the C: drive since last imaging, though they can all be reinstalled again afterwards if they will still be required.
If the option of restoring a drive-image was not available to you, go to step 3.6.
3.6  Recover a missing Taskbar by restoring a Windows' System Restore Point
If you were not in a position to restore a drive-image backup, but Windows XP or later is being used, and you have been allowing Windows to periodically make its own System Restore Points, stepping back to one of them may resolve the problem.
Manually make a new restore point of the current setup in case you need to revert to it, despite the missing taskbar.  To do that in XP (use equivalent route in later Windows), go to All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore.  In the System Restore area you can manually create a new System Restore point for the present setup.  After which you can return your computer to a previous setup when the taskbar was believed to be still present and correct.  When doing the latter, go into Safe Mode to do the roll-back as that will offer the best chance of everything which should be restored being restored.  The way to enter Safe Mode was touched on in 3.1.1.  If you find the restoring process won't work in Safe Mode you will then have no option but to do the restore back in Windows' normal mode.  If trying a restore point is not an option available to you, or it fails to bring back the taskbar, and you are using Windows XP, go to 3.7, otherwise go to 3.8.
3.7  Microsoft Knowledge Base fixes for XP
If none of the preceding steps have brought back the taskbar, and Windows XP is being used, and the computer will boot as far as the desktop wallpaper, there is a lengthy official article on Microsoft's online Knowledge Base which may help.  It covers causes for a missing taskbar such as (i) your user account settings may be corrupted (ii) the core files may be damaged or (iii) the Explorer.exe file may not be loading during startup.  KB 318027 (link still valid when last tried 18.6.12).
If, after all the steps therein, your problem has still not been fixed, you may have acquired a malicious infection without actually realising it - in which case take a look at step 3.8 even if you did not think, at first, that infection might apply to you.  If you are completely certain infection could not be the cause, go to step 3.9.
3.8  Recover a Taskbar if erased or damaged by malware
A valued reader, in February 2008, advised she had lost her taskbar as a result of acquiring the Vundo spyware trojan.  A search of internet forums revealed other victims had also suffered loss of, or serious damage to the taskbar because of Vundo.
We suspect this is an unintended side-effect as trojans are meant to do their dirty deeds without drawing any attention to themselves in such an obvious way.  Fortunately, there are free removal tools available at well-known anti-virus sites like, for many named Trojans, including Vundo, so your first step is probably to find one and see if it does the trick.  Success is not guaranteed, however, as removal tools that were once effective can themselves be defeated by subsequent variants or mutations of the original trojan.  Our reader found her successful fix for vundo.akf at (link still valid when last tried 19.6.12).
If you could not restore your taskbar by removing Vundo, or whatever other nasty might have caused your taskbar troubles, nor by any of the other preceding fixes on this page which you felt were worth a try, go to step 3.9.
3.9  Recover a missing Taskbar by reinstalling Windows
If you are still with us despite all the preceding remedies, then we regret you may be faced with the painful prospect of reinstalling Windows from scratch.  It may be possible, however, to just do a 'repair' of Windows, which would leave any data files stored on the C: drive unharmed - and may even leave some of your installed programs in working order.  It's a big subject in its own right so, for further help, look on Google for articles specifically on the subject of repairing Windows.
To do a full reinstall of Windows would require the Recovery Disk, Recovery Partition or Windows Installation Disk that came with your computer when it was new.  This solution should be regarded as an absolute last resort as the time it will take to get your system back to how it was will be out of all proportion to the silly little problem you are lumbered with.  If reinstalling Windows is a task you have never undertaken before, we would recommend seeking help by putting the job in the hands of a computer-savvy friend, or the shop where you bought the computer, or a local computer repair shop.  Before doing any of those things, though, do take the precaution of copying all your vital data, audio and picture files to removable media, as a precautionary backup.  Also essential, after backing up, is to shred or wipe (note shred, not move or delete) any sensitive pictures or data files which are on the hard disk before letting any friend or repair shop near the computer.  We do not want any of our readers unwittingly becoming the next Gary Glitter or convicted animal rights' activist, or whatever, as a result of our well-intentioned advice to give the machine to a third-party repairer.
Finally, we have completely exhausted all the taskbar solutions we know of.  So, all we can hope now is that you will have found, somewhere above, a successful fix for your lost taskbar.

4.  The Taskbar is present but not correct
This section deals with several incidental problems which occasionally affect otherwise normal taskbars.
4.1  Buttons on the Taskbar are missing or blank
Occasionally, people find they have not lost the entire taskbar, just the buttons which would normally appear on it when they have opened applications like Notepad or Paint etc.  Or the button shapes may be there, but blank with no labels on them.
If this started happening to you after being infected with a trojan or the like, then removing the infection, successfully and fully, should resolve the issue.  Also check out step 3.8.  However, this kind of sudden misbehaviour may alternatively occur merely because of something unusual which has recently been done on the computer.  For example, if anyone uses the computer to install games, use chat rooms, install widgets or any other OS-altering stuff, that is the kind of thing which might have unexpectedly fouled up.  Fortunately, it is a very rare occurrence for which no particular culprit has actually been identified.  All you can do is have a look in Add/Remove Programs [renamed Programs and Features in Vista] for any inessential applications which have only recently been installed, whether by yourself or other users.  That would be the most likely offender.  Try uninstalling the suspicious app(s) and rebooting the computer.  To do the uninstall, go into Safe Mode and, preferably, use the application's own uninstaller if there is one in its program group in the Start > (All) Programs menu.
Uninstalling something might not fix a taskbar button problem, even if the program concerned was actually responsible in the first place.  That is because programs cannot reverse or remove all the changes they will have made to the registry or elsewhere in Windows during the time they have subsequently been in use.  So this is one of those occasions when it might be worth the risk of running a freebie registry cleaner if the uninstall was ineffective.  Run the registry cleaner in Safe Mode too, if it will.  Before running any registry cleaner back up the registry first so you are in no danger of making anything worse than it already is.
If uninstalling any suspicious sounding programs did not fix the taskbar button problem, and 'cleaning' the registry afterwards failed as well, or were not relevant, check out steps 3.4 [restore a registry backup] and/or 3.5 [restore a drive image backup] and 3.8 [remove malware], in that order.
4.2  Taskbar is double the normal height
If a taskbar is twice as high as it should be, the fix is usually just a case of hovering the mouse over the top edge of the taskbar until the cursor changes to a vertical double-headed arrow, holding down the left mouse button and dragging the taskbar down to its normal single-row height.  If you are using XP or Vista, and that won't work, right-click on the taskbar first, unlock the taskbar, move the top edge of the taskbar down, then relock the taskbar.
Occasionally, however, some people find the taskbar will stubbornly refuse to go back down.  This situation is usually related to the presence of too many icons on the Quick Launch bar or in the Notification Area.  We have a detailed fix for the problem on our page about Quick Launch bar problems.  To go there directly, click this link for the over-height fix.
4.3  Taskbar is permanently locked/unlocked
With Windows XP or Vista, the taskbar is 'locked' by default.  You can see this setting from the context menu which appears if you right-click on an empty part of the taskbar or on the taskbar's clock.  However, people sometimes find the taskbar remains permanently locked or permanently unlocked irrespective of whether the option to lock it is ticked or unticked.
What this means is the option is not registering in Windows' registry.  The easiest way to fix this is to restore the most recent backup made of the registry when the taskbar was normal - see step 3.4.  If that option is not available to you, there is a registry hack which may do the trick.  If XP is being used, there are two ready-made '.reg' files which can be downloaded from... - when there, scroll down to item number 128 and choose the appropriate file, either taskbarlock.reg or taskbarunlock.reg.  Always back up the registry before ever merging any .reg file into it, just so matters can't be made any worse (more on backing up in 3.4).  After backing up, right-click on the downloaded file and choose Merge.  Then right-click on the taskbar and see if the Lock/Unlock option has been freed up.  If it has, do a normal restart of the computer and check again.  If you find Windows has reverted to the permanent locked/unlocked situation we are afraid you will have to live with it unless you want to go down the route of step 3.5 [restore a drive image], 3.6 [restore a system restore point] or step 3.9 [reinstall Windows].
Just for information, or if the kellys-corner page can't be found, and you are comfortable working in the registry, you can apply the hack manually easily enough, instead of downloading the .reg file.  Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Explorer\ Advanced - and, for Taskbar Lock, set TaskbarSizeMove to 0 (zero) or, for Taskbar Unlock, to 1 (one).  Then browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Policies\ Explorer - and, for Taskbar Lock, set TaskbarSizeMove to 1 or to 0 for Taskbar Unlock.  Still in Regedit, click View > Refresh > close Regedit > right-click on the taskbar and see if the lock option has been freed up.  If it has, do a normal restart and check if it has stayed corrected.
4.4  Taskbar is on wrong edge of screen
If, for some unknown reason, the taskbar is along the top of the screen or down either side, and you want to move it back to its traditional place along the bottom of the screen, proceed as follows...
Memorise or write down the contents of this paragraph > close all windows you have had open, including your browser, so no opened items are still present on the taskbar > right-click on the taskbar > click the ticked item 'Lock the Taskbar' (to remove the tick) > use the mouse's left button to click on an empty area of the taskbar, hold down and drag the taskbar from its improper position > drag down until the taskbar is against the bottom of the screen > release the mouse > right-click on the taskbar again and click the 'Lock the Taskbar' (to restore the tick) > right-click on an empty place on the desktop > click Refresh.
4.5  Language toolbar needs disabling
The Language toolbar in Windows XP can be a nuisance if you can see it but do not require it.  Sometimes it will be sitting on the taskbar, over by the Notification Area, serving no useful purpose.  Other times it will be floating irritatingly up in the RH corner of the desktop.  In either case it is totally superfluous for the vast majority of people - but the way to disable it permanently is awfully well hidden.  If you can see it but don't need it, click Start > Control Panel > click 'Switch to Classic View' > double-click 'Regional and Language Options' > Languages tab > under 'Text services and input languages', click Details > under Preferences, click 'Language Bar' > untick 'Show the Language bar on the desktop' > OK > OK > Apply.  That should zap it!  Then change back from the Classic view to the standard XP view.
4.6  Volume button is missing
If the taskbar is normal except the Volume button has mysteriously disappeared from the Notification Area, try the following steps (which may vary slightly depending on your version of Windows or whether you are using a Classic or default Start menu): choose Start > Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices > if there is no tick against 'Place volume icon in the taskbar', click on it to add the required tick.  If there was already a tick there, click the item to remove the tick > do a normal, full shut down of the computer > wait 30 secs and reboot.  If the icon is still missing after that, restoring it is going to be troublesome as it could be due to a driver fault, file corruption or a malware attack.  You will find more guidance at the following page, either in the main article or in one or other of the many reader-responses further down that page:  (link valid when last tried 29.10.10).
5.  Only the orb (start button) is present
Windows 7 introduced a different kind of taskbar problem which has affected a few users.  Whereby the taskbar might disappear but the orb would still be present.  A possible cause might be taskbar overload.  Before Windows 7, the taskbar was sort of self-regulating as to how many quick-launch icons and application buttons would be on it at any one time.  But, with the Windows 7's superbar, it's surprising just how much stuff can be on there during a session without the user ever realising it, from running progs, open files and power-hungry high-def thumbnails.  To test if overload's the problem, close everything on the taskbar, disconnect form the internet and reboot.  With luck, the full taskbar will be back.  If it's still only the start-orb that returns, right-click on it > Properties > Taskbar tab.  At the item 'Auto-hide the taskbar', click it to put a tick against it > OK.  Go into Taskbar settings again and ensure, this time, there is no tick against the same item > OK > reboot the computer again.  If you can still only see an orb, no taskbar, go back into Taskbar settings and double-check there is no tick against 'Auto-hide the taskbar'.  Assuming there isn't then, unfortunately, there is no simple solution.  Go to section 3 and patiently work your way through all the steps in there, while still offline, until you reach one that fixes it.

  Related pages  
  Safe Mode - how to boot into Safe Mode.  
  Quick Launch toolbar - how to resize a double-height Taskbar.  
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First posted here 19.5.04    Last amended 28.6.12 (dmy)    Copyright (C) 2004-2012 PM Designs    All Rights Reserved