In Windows 10, the taskbar comes with app button combining is enabled by default. When you launch more than one instance of an app, e.g. open two File Explorer windows or several Word documents, they appear as a single button on the taskbar. If you are not happy with this behavior, you can quickly change it.
A taskbar button combining feature was first introduced in Windows XP. The OS was able to combine similar windows into one taskbar button which showed the number of grouped windows. In Windows 7, taskbar button grouping was added in addition to button combining. The user could re-arrange the taskbar buttons and disable button combining but button grouping for multiple windows of same program was enforced now.
Starting with Windows 7, the taskbar also underwent a signifant change overall with the addition of jumplists, movable notification area icons, progress bars etc. These features exists without any major changes in Windows 10 as well. This modern version of Windows, just like Windows 7, allows combining of taskbar buttons to a single icon. The user can disable or enable this feature, which is enabled by default.
When taskbar combining is disabled, Windows shows each running app as an individual button with a text label. However, unlike Windows XP, the buttons remain grouped per app, so you cannot have taskbar buttons in an order as such, [Microsoft Word], [File Explorer], [Microsoft Word] in Windows 10. Instead, the OS shows them as [Microsoft Word], [Microsoft Word] and [File Explorer].
Tip: The classic behavior of Windows XP's taskbar can be achieved in Windows 10 with a third party tool. See the article Get Classic Taskbar in Windows 10 (Disable Grouped Buttons).
Taskbar Button Combining Behaviors
Windows 10 supports the following taskbar combining behaviors.
- Always combine, hide labels - This is enabled by default. Each app has only one icon and without a text label. If multiple windows for an app are open, a frame around the app's icon appears to indicate this.
- Combine when taskbar is full - This option adds a text label to the taskbar icon and shows each app as a single button until the taskbar becomes crowded. Once the taskbar becomes full with app buttons, multiple open windows of the same app will be combined into a single app icon with a frame.
- Never combine - Windows will show each running app as an individual button with a text label, even if the taskbar is full. It will only group them but not combine them.
Disable Taskbar Button Combining in Windows 10
- Open Settings.
- Go to Personalization - Taskbar.
- On the right, change the value of the option Combine taskbar buttons. Select either Never combine or Combine when taskbar is full according to your preferences.
- The taskbar will change its appearance.
You are done!
Also, this option can be configured with a Registry tweak or Group Policy.
Disable Taskbar Button Grouping with Group Policy
To change the option with a Registry tweak, do the following.
- Open the Registry Editor app.
- Go to the following Registry key.
See how to go to a Registry key with one click.
- On the right, create a new 32-Bit DWORD value NoTaskGrouping.
Note: Even if you are running 64-bit Windows you must still create a 32-bit DWORD value.
Set its value data to 1 in decimals.
- Restart Windows 10.
If needed, you can download the following Registry files:
The undo tweak is included.
Note: The tweak described above applies to the current user only.
Finally, if you are running Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education edition, you can use the Local Group Policy Editor app to configure the options mentioned above with a GUI.
Launch the Group Policy Editor app (gpedit.msc) and set the option User Configuration \ Administrative Templates \ Start Menu and Taskbar \ Prevent grouping of taskbar items to Enabled. The taskbar combining feature will be disabled for the current user.