Basics: Using Start and Taskbar in Windows 10

Technical Level : Basic


The Start menu and Taskbar have been hallmarks of the Windows desktop experience for nearly 20 years. Both have evolved over the years with features and enhancements to make users productive and more agile at their everyday computing tasks. Windows 10 introduces an assortment of enhancements and productivity boosters. In particular, both are optimized for Touch, Keyboard and Mouse; making users feel right at home, no matter the device or form factor they are using. In this article, we take a look at some of these improvements and how you can get started with them if you are coming from earlier version of Windows.


The Start

Depending on how your computer is setup, you might see different options when you click Start. Here are some of the common features and functions you should know when you click Start in Windows 10.

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Resources: Quick Tip: Find and launch programs quickly using All Apps in Windows 10

This command

Does this

All apps

Displays all programs installed on your computer


Shuts down, restarts, hibernates or put your computer to Sleep.

Most used

Displays all your recently used programs.


Displays a collection tools you can use to change the settings of your Windows installation.


Opens your documents folder where you will find all of your saved files

File Explorer

Provides access to all your personal folders (Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Downloads and other folders) or your computer environment (hard disks, optical drives or attached storage).

User Name

Change account settings, lock your computer, sign out of your computer or switch to another user account.

Resize Start Menu

The new Start menu is also more customizable; you can easily resize it by placing the pointer at both horizontal and vertical edges, then drag it into a desired state. See below:

Resizing vertically

Resizing horizontally

Customize Start menu & Taskbar

Quick Tip: Add Personal Folders to the Start menu

Quick Tip: Customize which icons appear in the Windows 10 System Tray

The Taskbar

The Taskbar is another important element of the Windows Desktop, it is the first thing you see when you sign into Windows. Everytime you start a program or open a window, a shortcut is placed on the Taskbar with a visual indicator at the bottom of the program telling you it is running. When you exit a program, it will disappear from the Taskbar or the indicator will no longer appear below the program.

If you have many windows associated with the same program open, for example, several Microsoft Word documents; these will be displayed as a single group on the Taskbar. To view all the windows associated with the program, hover over the program icon and you will see a preview of each window.

If you have more than one window with the associated program open and you hover the icon over the program shortcut, you will see a visual preview of each window.

At the end of the Taskbar, you will find the Notification Area. Here you will find the Peek, Date and Time, Language, Notification Center, Volume, Available Network, Battery and a 'Show hidden icons' button that will reveal other notifications. Below you will find more information about each.

This command

Does this


If you want to see whats on your desktop without minimizing windows, hover over the Peek button or click it if you want to go immediately to the desktop.

Date and Time

displays your date and time, you can also click it to view a full calendar and additional clocks.

Language Input

If you need to use multiple languages, use this to quickly switch input methods.

Notifications Center

Displays all your notifications, for example a tweet, when you attach a thumbdrive, scheduled updates, new email messages. The Notification Center also gives you quick access to quickly configure and adjust areas of the system, such as Tablet mode, access to Settings, display brightness, Airplane Mode and others.


Adjust your volume, click it to individually adjust volume settings for individual applications, speakers and system sounds.

Network Flyout

Use this to quickly connect to Wireless or Virtual Private Networks.


Displays your battery status.

Hidden icons Over time, when you install programs, they might place additional icons that will be hidden, click this menu to see them.

Two new members of the Windows desktop, Cortana Search and Notification Center.

Search the web and Windows

Windows 10 includes new friendly assistant that makes it easy to not only find information on your computer such as apps, files and settings, but also information on the Internet. You can use Cortana Search to find information such as the following:

⦁ Weather – “Kingston Weather”
⦁ Finance – “MSFT stock”
⦁ Dictionary – “define impressive”
⦁ Calculator – “12*38”
⦁ Flight Status – “UA 238”
⦁ Reference – “how old is Madonna”
⦁ Showtimes – “movies near me”
⦁ Tech Help – “memory in my computer”
⦁ Time Zone – “time in Bahamas”
⦁ Unit Conversion – “42 ft in meters”
⦁ Chit Chat – “tell me a joke”

Task View

Another feature new to the Taskbar is Virtual Desktops. You can use Virtual Desktops to gain additional space for all the programs you are running. For instance, you can create a desktop for email, productivity applications, web browsers or a desktop for personal and work.

Learn more about setting up Virtual Desktops using in the following article:

How to: manage running programs and virtual desktops using Task View in Windows 10


Basics: End your Windows Session - shutting down your PC

Basics: Using Settings to customize Windows

Basics: How to open a document in Windows 10 

Basics: Finding information on the Web and in Windows using Cortana 

Basics: Using Apps in Window 10 


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Last updated November 12, 2019 Views 63,465 Applies to:

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Very nicely detailed article.

In the current public build, many of us feel that the taskbar icons are too small relative to previous Windows editions. I understand the 'underline' indicating active applications; but, I for one prefer the highlight over the entire icon like we had in Windows 8.x and 7.

Other than that guys and gals, keep up the good work. Fit'n'fitnish, Fit'n'finish....

plus they could've mentioned that if you don't want to use edge, but the oldy but goody explorer, go to windows acceriores and there it is, as if you still want to update java, you need to either do a check for updates to get the latest version 8 51
My Taskbar wont AutoHide. Any advise on this one please before I downgrade back to 7
Good article as long as taskbar is working.  I've installed 10 and after two days my taskbar is pretty blank and doesn't respond.   So, how do I turn it back on when it is unresponsive? 

Regarding the Start Menu not working. I've tried for almost a year now to correct it by making every change suggested. I finally installed it cleanly. When asked if I wanted to save my files I said, "No". When warned that all my files and programs will be lost, I still went ahead and did the clean install.

Finally things are working as usual even after updates.

use to be - if you hovered over an icon on the task bar it would show the last few items worked on.  That no longer works.  Why?  How do I get it back?  I also use to hover over my Chrome icon and it would show me the last places I have been to - banking, facebook, etc - that also disappeared.  This is just in the last week or so.  Why?  I want it back.  It made life so easy.  I hate going through all the steps to get back to my last documents, my last facebook, my last excel or Word document, etc.  How do I fix this? 


Have fairly new HP19, lots of problems with viruses,, hacking,etc.  All I want to know is how do I get my Task Bar BACK???  The last time support had to clean system (last week) they didn't put the bar back.

If you can help me or send me to another member of the community. I would be so HAPPY.



Hi.  I had a lot of things not working on the desktop.  I deleted the whole account and started clean by setting up a new account.  The new account works fine.  Apparently the profile was corrupted on the old account.
In order to display the long date format on the task bar in windows 10 you must display the task bar on the bottom of the screen.
Reply In reply to deleted message
I have the same problem- no task bar and no start up menu.  HELP.

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