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Windows 7 - How to Disable or Enable Taskbar Grouping

Taskbar button grouping is one of the more significant interface changes in Windows 7 over Windows Vista and previous editions of the operating system. While most users will be happy with the changes, some prefer to use the classic style. Taskbar button grouping is enabled by default in Windows 7. The idea is that it frees up space on your taskbar but, some users find it easier to see which programs and folders are open by using the classic view. This guide will explain how to customize this feature using built-in Windows settings.

1 – Customizing Taskbar Grouping
Right-click on an unoccupied area of the taskbar and click "Properties" to access the "Taskbar and Start Menu Properties" window.
Beside "Taskbar buttons," you'll see a drop-down box containing three options. The default option in Windows 7 is "Always combine, hide labels." With this option, you only see the icons for the programs, files and folders currently open on your computer. Multiple files opened in the same program will be grouped together so that, when you move the mouse over the button, another menu will appear displaying the files opened in that program.
Choosing "Never combine" will return the taskbar to the classic style used in older versions of Windows. The other option, "Combine when taskbar is full" is a good compromise, since you can enjoy the classic style while buttons will only be grouped when the taskbar is full. Click "OK" when you've chosen your preferred setting.

2 – Permanently Disabling Taskbar Grouping Settings
If you are the system administrator, and you are logged into a user account with administrator rights, you can also disable these options so that other users of your computer cannot change them. To do this, you'll need to open the Local Group Policy Editor by typing "gpedit.msc" into the start menu search box and pressing Enter. This is only available in the Enterprise, Professional and Ultimate editions of Windows 7.
In the left-side pane of the Local Group Policy Editor, navigate to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar. In the other side of the window, right-click on "Prevent grouping of taskbar items" and select "Edit." Select the radio box "Enabled" and click "OK." Close the utility.
From now on, the options explained previously will be grayed out, making it impossible for users of standard accounts to change the settings.


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