As you may know, before Windows 8 and its Windows Store Apps, there were desktop gadgets designed to work in Windows Vista and Windows 7. These small applications were designed to perform simple tasks, such as display clocks and calendars, run RSS feeds, or launch search tools. They could also be used to control external applications. Back in 2009, I picked up on this latter fact and went to town creating a host of desktop gadgets that automated some useful command line utilities.

Of course, I still have several Windows 7 systems in my lab and use the desktop gadgets on them from time-to-time. Recently, I was using one of my desktop gadget creations on a Windows 7 system, and I wished that Windows 8.x could run desktop gadgets. But alas, Microsoft removed that capability from its newest operating system.

Upon reflection, I recalled that early betas of Windows 8 still had desktop gadgets. So, I wondered, maybe Microsoft really only hid the feature, and it was still buried in the operating system somewhere. Turning to Google, I soon discovered that an enterprising developer by the name of Helmut Buhler had created a free tool called 8GadgetPack that reinstalls the original desktop gadget program files in Windows 8.x and allows you use these handy little applications in the new operating system. 8GadgetPack comes with a host of gadgets, including the original Microsoft gadgets. Plus, you can install any gadget that you can lay your hands on. Soon, I was running all my helpful gadgets from 2009 on my Windows 8.x systems.

Note: 8GadgetPack doesn’t work in Windows RT.

In this article, I’ll briefly describe the gadgets that I created and provide links so that you can download them. Then, I’ll show you how to install and use 8GadgetPack.

My desktop gadgets

As I mentioned, back in 2009, I created a host of desktop gadgets for TechRepublic that were designed to automate several command line utilities for troubleshooting TCP/IP connectivity issues. Command line utilities can be a pain, because using them in a troubleshooting expedition typically means typing them over and over again, possibly with different switches for different results. Not only can that be a lot of typing, but you also have to remember all of the switches.

My desktop gadgets are designed to make these command line utilities much easier to use by giving them a GUI that presents the command-line tool’s options on a fly-out menu. All you need to do is select the option you want to use and click the OK button. When you do, the gadget opens a Command Prompt window and runs the command, along with the selected options.

While I’ll give you brief descriptions here, you’ll find more details by following the link for each gadget. You can then download any of the gadgets from within the article. However, keep in mind that the installation instructions within those articles no longer applies. There are new installation instructions later in this article.

The IPConfig Gadget (Figure A) was the first one that I created, and it’s designed to automate the IPConfig command, which — as you know — can be invaluable when troubleshooting TCP/IP connectivity problems. I actually created it for Windows Vista, but it works perfectly in Windows 7 and in Windows 8.x.

Figure A

The IPConfig Gadget using a fly-out menu to display all of the available switches.

As a follow-up, I created the PathPing Gadget to automate the PathPing command. This command combines the features of the Ping command with the Tracert command into one powerful troubleshooting tool that can generate a detailed statistical report to precisely indicate the cause of the network problem.

The Route Gadget automates the Route command, which is another great tool for troubleshooting TCP/IP connectivity problems on a Windows network. The Route command allows you to investigate the current IP routing table, plus add or delete specific IP routes.

The NetStat Gadget makes it easier to harness the power of the NetStat command, which is great for identifying the status of the connections and quickly providing information about client services and TCP/IP communications.

The ARP Gadget allows you easily use the ARP command line utility to investigate or modify the ARP cache as you look for problems.

Installing 8GadgetPack

Now, let’s look at 8GadgetPack. Once you’ve downloaded it, installing 8GadgetPack is easy with the help of the setup wizard (Figure B). But keep in mind that it’s a lengthy process. The reason it take a while is that 8GadgetPack comes with a host of gadgets, including the original Microsoft gadgets. In fact, once you install it, you’ll find that it comes with more than 50 gadgets. Don’t worry though, you can remove the ones that you don’t want. (See the site FAQ for details.)

Figure B

Installing 8GadgetPack will take a little longer than you might expect.

When the installation is finished, the Show gadgets when setup exits check box is selected (Figure C). This means that as soon as you click Finish, you’ll see the sidebar containing a couple of gadgets.

Figure C

When you click Finish, the sidebar containing a couple of gadgets will appear on the desktop.

If you click the Add gadgets button at the top of the sidebar, you’ll see all of the gadgets that are included in the package (Figure D).

Figure D

8GadgetPack comes with more than 50 gadgets, including the original Microsoft gadgets.

Installing gadgets in Windows 8.x

While 8GadgetPack comes with a host of gadgets, as I mentioned, you can install any Windows desktop gadget that you can still get your hand on. Installing a gadget in Windows 8.x is as simple as double-clicking the .gadget file and selecting the Install button (Figure E).

Figure E

Installing a gadget in Windows 8.x is easy.

What’s your take?

What’s your favorite gadget? Please let us know in the discussion thread below.

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