How to hack the Windows 10 Taskbar to display your last active app window

Learn how to edit the Windows Registry to change the default behavior of the Microsoft Windows 10 Taskbar.

The Microsoft Windows 10 Taskbar can be a very powerful and versatile tool. Featuring the ability to pin applications, create jump lists to your most often used documents, and switch between open windows quickly, the taskbar is one of the primary ways we interact with the Windows 10 operating system. But sometimes, the taskbar just doesn't do what we want it to do.

For example, by default, if you have more than one window open of the same application, when you click the application icon in the taskbar you will be presented with thumbnails representing a choice between the available open windows. Some users may want to change that default behavior to have the last active window appear when you click the application icon. To accomplish that change you have to edit the Windows Registry.

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This how-to tutorial shows you how to edit the Windows Registry to change the default behavior (Figure A) of the Microsoft Windows 10 Taskbar to have the last active window appear when you click on an application icon.

ahacktaskbarlastopen.jpg
Figure A


Disclaimer: The Windows Registry file is vital to the stability of the Windows 10 operating system. An improperly edited or corrupted file could disable the entire operating system, which may require a complete reinstallation to correct. Back up your Windows Registry file before making any edits.

Change the Windows 10 Taskbar

With your Windows Registry file properly backed up, open the registry editor app by typing "regedit" into the Cortana search box on the desktop. The first item in the search results should be the editor (regedit.exe). Click it and then navigate to this key:

Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

The resulting screen should look something like Figure B.

bhacktaskbarlastopen.jpg
Figure B

To add a new key, right-click the Advanced folder and navigate to the New item in the context menu. Choose DWORD (32-bit) value for your new key and give it the name: LastActiveClick, as shown in Figure C.

chacktaskbarlastopen.jpg
Figure C

Right-click the new LastActiveClick key that you just created, select the Modify item in the context menu and then change the value from zero to 1, as shown in Figure D. Click the OK button to complete the change.

dhacktaskbarlastopen.jpg
Figure D

With the edit complete, click Exit to close regedit. Restarting Windows 10 should not be necessary.

From this point on, when you click on the application icon in the taskbar, you will be taken to the last active window of that application. If you wish to navigate to a different open window of an application, hover over the icon on the taskbar and choose one of the other thumbnails.

If you want to change back to the default behavior, change the value of LastActiveClick to zero or delete it from the Windows Registry file altogether.

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By Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.