How to enable Quick Launch in Windows 8.1

Quick Launch was a special, useful toolbar on the taskbar near the Start button. It was there since the Windows 9x era. With the release of Windows 7, Microsoft de-emphasized the Quick Launch toolbar in favor of pinning. Quick Launch however is not completely removed from Windows 8.1, Windows 8 and Windows 7. It is not obvious for a novice user how to enable Quick Launch as it involves numerous steps and cannot be automated.

I was getting a number of emails from Winaero readers on how to enable Quick Launch in Windows 8 as they prefer its compact size. Even with the modern taskbar, many users consider the Quick Launch toolbar still useful. For example, even if you set pinned icons to a small size, they are still spaced too far apart from one another. Another issue is that the taskbar mixes running programs with non-running ones, whereas if you use the Quick Launch toolbar, running programs will always appear to its right.

Quick Launch has a more customizable appearance; you can easily put any shortcut or folder there without having to use tools like Winaero Taskbar Pinner or Pin to 8. You can change their icons, have multiple rows of icons if you make the taskbar larger, and save overall space on the taskbar. In this tutorial, we will look at how to enable Quick Launch in Windows 8.1.

To restore the Quick Launch toolbar, follow these simple steps:

Right click on an empty space of the taskbar. From its context menu select the Toolbars -> New Toolbar... item.
taskbar context menu

The following dialog will appear on the screen:
New Toolbar - Choose a folder

In this dialog, select the following folder:

C:\Users\YOUR USER NAME\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

Replace the "YOUR USER NAME" text with your actual user name in Windows 8.1.
Alternatively, you can copy and paste the following text into the Folder text box in the dialog above:

shell:Quick Launch

The shell: protocol gives quick access to special folders as I covered previously. Or you can enter the following path instead of the shell command:

%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

%userprofile% is an environment variable which points directly to your user profile in Windows 8.1.
quick launch folder Now click the Select Folder button.

The Quick Launch toolbar will get added to the taskbar:
quick launch toolbar
As you can see, it is locked to the right side of the taskbar and has a title. Let's move it to the left side and hide the title.

Right click on the taskbar and untick Lock the taskbar.
Lock the taskbar

Now drag the Quick Launch toolbar from the right to the left, using the dotted bar which appears after your have unlocked the taskbar. Drag all the way to the left of any pinned icons you may have.
After that, right click on the Quick Launch toolbar and untick the following options:

  • Show title
  • Show text

untick this

See the following video if you have any questions:

That's it. Now you have the good old Quick Launch enabled in Windows 8.1. You can even create a shortcut to a Modern app in your revived Quick Launch toolbar.

quick launch

This trick to enable Quick Launch also works on Windows 7 and you can get rich tooltips showing useful information if you do this tweak:

Rich tooltip on Quick Launch

Rich tooltip on Quick Launch

9 thoughts on “How to enable Quick Launch in Windows 8.1

  1. David Ferguson

    This worked great for me, except that when I restart the computer, invisible until they are hovered over, and then they are maybe 2 x 2 pixels, just tiny, tiny square dots. If I then click on view for the toolbar and change the icon size, it goes to the correct size. Using Windows 8.1. Also using Start8.

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  2. Angelos

    To change the small icon size, right click the Quick Launch bar and select “View” -> “Large icons”.

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    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      Thanks for the tip.

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  3. Bolyn

    Thanks, very clear and easy to follow, just the way i like my how-to’s.

    Nice to have the quick launch and with it, the ‘show desktop icon’ back.

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    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      yep, that icon is pretty cool :)

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  4. Lech

    Another reason why Quick Launch is useful/better: if a pinned application is already opened you cannot easily open a new instance, whereas Quick Launch will open a new instance. E.g. nowadays I usually use tabbed browsing in Firefox but sometimes it is useful to open a new window. The alternatives would be

    a) right click on the already open task in the taskbar and click “Open new window”
    b) find a shortcut for FF on the desktop
    c) open a new window from Firefox itself

    All of these involve 2 clicks (or actions) whereas the quick launch is one click.

    OK, you can also press Ctrl + N within Firefox but this relies on you being within Firefox.

    I notice that with newer iterations of Windows, as a general rule, tasks seem to involve more steps than before.

    I have only just upgraded to 8.1 from the best version of Windows ever, Windows XP, but I have managed to bring it almost completely back to XP :) (thanks to tweaks like this one).

    Governments and corporations are paying Microsoft millions (if not billions globally) for extended “custom” support of XP. Of course, a big part of the reason is that they have been lazy, but I think it also has to do with how great Windows XP has worked for all these years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It will be a shame to see it go.

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  5. Tc145

    How do I add remove items from the quick launch and how do I add items from taskbar to quick launch?

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  6. Mike

    Thank you. I had already figured out how to get the quicklaunch back (I had to do it in Win7 too) but making just show the icons instead of a picklist that was labeled “quicklaunch” had baffled me until I saw this. Thanks!!!

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    1. Sergey Tkachenko Post author

      Glad to be of help.

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