You need to use the taskbar regularly on your Windows 10 computer, and all you would have done is pin app icons on it or automatically hide the bar. Well, why fix something that ain’t broke, right? That said, you can now use the taskbar to perform specific actions to save time and easily access other functions. This is only possible with the programmable taskbar, which is available if you are running Windows 10 build 20161 or higher.
With the new programmable taskbar, you can further personalize your Windows experience by modifying the taskbar functions to suit your usage and needs. Microsoft is making it clear that the programmable taskbar experience is intended for new account users and those signing into Windows for the first time. This means that it will not have a huge impact on existing users.
What else does the programmable taskbar allow you to do? We’ll discuss it along with what it means to you, if you should turn it off, and if you want, how to do it.
Understanding the programmable taskbar
As stated earlier, the main purpose of the taskbar is to host various app shortcuts. Some of them, like the Start button, are more permanent. Meanwhile, the email and browser apps are removable and replaceable. You can make the best use of the capabilities of cloud computing and go beyond tinkering with app icons.
Let’s say you just connected your Android smartphone to a laptop using the Your Phone app. Windows will detect this and immediately add the Your Phone app icon to the taskbar. When you disconnect your phone from the computer, the Your Phone icon will disappear since you no longer need it. You can experience the same with many other apps like Xbox Games or Steam every time you launch a connected game.
This is how you get a cleaner, less cluttered taskbar so that you can focus on things that need your immediate attention – for example, browser notifications. Because the cloud service drives the programmable taskbar, you will need to allow Windows to collect data on behalf of “individual default properties, monitoring diagnostic data and user feedback”.
While the dynamic nature of the taskbar is good, I foresee an issue. You may not like the system to automatically change the behavior of your computer or even your mobile. I am very comfortable with displaying icons in a particular location. Things can get awkward when they disappear and reappear at will. It will also change the keyboard shortcuts that I carefully defined using PowerToys.
You could enjoy the neat, bloatware-free experience, especially if you plan to get the most out of it. However, if you’re having trouble with Microsoft taking control of the taskbar by reading and transferring data to its cloud servers, we’ll walk you through how to turn it off.
Programmable taskbar experience
Microsoft notes that the experience is limited to “new account creation or first-time sign-in scenarios” only. The update promises that the behavior of the taskbar of existing account holders will not be changed. However, I am not convinced because the same policy can be changed or modified in the future. I would feel more comfortable when the feature is turned off. Fortunately, there is a trick.
Disable the programmable taskbar
There are two ways you can turn off the programmable taskbar and both are slightly technical in nature, so roll up your sleeves. The first is the Registry Editor, which is available to all Windows users. The second requires Group Policy Editor and is only available to users running Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise editions. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
I recommend that you make a backup of the registry files before making any changes. There is a chance that something could crash and system level files could keep your computer running if you don’t know what changes you are going to make.
Step 1: Find and open Registry Editor from the Start menu. You will be asked for administrator rights in a pop-up window. Let this.
2nd step: Navigate to the folder structure below.
You can create a new folder if the one mentioned in the hierarchy is missing. Right click on the parent folder to create a new one.
Step 3: Right-click to select New> DWORD (32-bit) Value from the right pane to create a new key and name it “DisableCloudOptimizedContent”.
Step 4: Double click on the newly created file and change the default data number to 1.
Restart your computer to apply the changes. Then check if these changes were applied successfully.
Group Policy Editor
Step 1: Find and open the Group Policy Editor from the Start menu.
2nd step: Navigate to the folder structure below.
Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Cloud Content
Step 3: In the right pane of the window, open the “Disable Cloud Optimized Content” file and select Enabled to disable this policy. Click Apply to save the changes and restart your computer.
Now that you know what the programmable taskbar does and how to turn it off, you can handle it on your computer. Of course, you may disagree with the way Microsoft wants to change things with the taskbar. Sophisticated users who know what they’re doing and want to stay away from this feature. All change is not for the better. Fortunately, there are ways to control these updates and you can choose to leave it on or off using any of the methods above. A programmable taskbar is a good idea, however.
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Last updated Nov 25, 2020
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