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10 ways to customize the taskbar in Windows 10

How to get a sexy, streamlined taskbar.

We were all excited to get the Start menu back in Windows 10, and we wasted no time in customizing it to the best of our abilities.

But what about the poor, neglected taskbar, who never left us in the first place? Here's how to make the taskbar look pretty and work for you.

Add some shortcuts

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Smaller taskbar buttons

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Are the buttons on your taskbar unnecessarily large? Make them smaller by right-clicking on the taskbar, clicking Settings, and turning on Use small taskbar buttons. Checking this option will also remove the date from your taskbar clock.

Clean up the System Tray

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The System Tray is the part of the taskbar where all those pesky notification icons and useless things like clocks show up. Good news -- you can get rid of all of these icons, including the built-in system icons like the clock, volume and network icons.

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To start cleaning it up, right-click the taskbar and click Settings to open the Taskbar settings menu. Under Notification area, click Select which icons appear in the taskbar. Here, you can either choose to always show all program icons in the taskbar, or you can turn icons on/off individually.

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To turn off system icons, such as the clock, volume control, or the action center, click Turn system icons on or off. You can toggle off just about everything, including the power, location and Windows Ink Workspace icons.

Get rid of Cortana

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Cortana is sweet and all, but her search icon takes up valuable taskbar real estate. Right-click the taskbar, hover over Search and click Hidden to remove Cortana's button from the taskbar completely.

Get rid of the Task View button

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Task View is a new Windows 10 feature that lets you see and use virtual desktops. The Task View button is a small button on the taskbar that lets you quickly access these desktops. To get rid of it, right-click the taskbar and click Show Task View button to toggle it off.

Taskbar buttons, your way

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If your taskbar is looking cluttered -- because you love having 64 Firefox windows open at once -- maybe it's time to customize your taskbar buttons. Right-click the taskbar and click Settings. Under Combine taskbar buttons, click the dropdown menu and choose your flavor: Always, hide labels (this will combine one program's windows into one taskbar button); When taskbar is full (this will only combine a program's windows into one taskbar button when there's no more room on the taskbar); or Never.

If you have multiple displays, you can choose separate options for how the taskbar on your main display is presented (versus the taskbars on your secondary displays).

Hide it

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If you hate the way the taskbar looks, you can set it to automatically hide whenever it's not in use (move your mouse over the taskbar area to see it again). Do this by right-clicking the taskbar, clicking Settings, and turning on Automatically hide the taskbar in desktop mode.

Lock it

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If you love the way the taskbar looks, and you don't want to accidentally resize or move it with your clumsy mouse handling, you can lock it in place. To do this, right-click the taskbar and check Lock all taskbars from the menu that pops up.

Add toolbars

In Windows 10, you can add toolbars, as well as folders, to the taskbar. There are three toolbars already created for you: Address, Links, and Desktop. The Address toolbar is an address box -- type a URL into it and hit Enter, and your default web browser will open that page. The Links and Desktop toolbars are just folders -- the Links toolbar lets you see all the files in your Links folder; the Desktop toolbar lets you see all the files on your desktop.

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To add a toolbar, right-click the taskbar, hover over Toolbars, and then check the toolbars you want to add.

You also have the option to add a New toolbar, which is essentially just a folder that you'll be able to quickly access from your taskbar. Click New toolbar... and navigate to the folder you want to add. Click Select Folder and your new toolbar will appear on the taskbar.

Change the color and transparency

To change the color and transparency of your taskbar, open the Settings menu and go to Personalization > Colors. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and make sure Show color on Start, taskbar, action center, and title bar is turned on. Choose the color you want to use and your taskbar will change to reflect your choice.

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To make the taskbar transparent, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and turn on Make Start, taskbar, and action center transparent.

Editors' note, August 12, 2016: This article was originally published February 11, 2016, and was updated to reflect changes made in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.