Tooltips hidden behind taskbar in XP

Every once in a while the tooltips start showing up behind the taskbar so they can’t be seen. This is very annoying.

I found a fix that worked, but I’m surprised and a little dismayed that it fixes the problem. It’s like telling someone with a headache to jump around clucking like a chicken, but hey, whatever works.

The way to fix the problem (thanks to Kelly Theriot) is as follows:

Go to Start/All Programs: Hover over any program listed, right click and select Sort by Name. Repeat once more.

I sorted by name once and checked the tooltips and they still weren’t visible, so I did it again and it worked. It remains a mystery why this has any affect on the tooltips being visible, especially having to do it twice.

Update: Thanks to several commentors for pointing out ToolTipFixer, a free utility (requires .NET) that solves the tool tip problem once and for all. Another solution is to use nircmd as follows:

nircmd win settopmost class "tooltips_class32" 1




  1. The sorting thing didn’t doe it. I think opening the start menu or the all programs menu did the thing. So sorting is not necessary, but it does a nice cleanup, tho ;-)

      » Comment by Bram on October 7, 2006 @ 8:41 am
  2. Interesting. Opening the start menu or all programs definitely did not do it for me, because even after I did that (and sorted the first time), the tooltips were still hidden behind the taskbar.

      » Comment by dan on October 8, 2006 @ 6:51 am
  3. Wow I had a hard time finding this because I was looking for a registry tweak etc. Sure enough sorting by name in the start menu fixed it. Simply opening the all programs menu did not fix it for me though.

      » Comment by martin on November 12, 2006 @ 6:10 pm
  4. I found this: http://www.tech-pro.net/howto_018.html “How To: Fix Tooltips hide behind taskbar”
    This appears to be a bug in Windows. It’s caused by a conflict between windows that want to be the topmost window (in other words, appear in front of everything else.) Tooltips always want to be topmost, but if you have the Taskbar property “Keep the taskbar on top of other windows” selected, then so does the taskbar. Sometimes the messages that make the windows topmost arrive in the wrong order, so the taskbar sticks in front of the tooltips.
    Solution

    There is no known solution to this problem. It is caused by a bug in Windows. None of the “fixes” found elsewhere on the Internet actually work.

    There are some workarounds:
    Avoid using the Show Desktop shortcut (Windows+D) as this often causes the problem to occur. Use Minimize All Windows (Windows+M) instead.
    Don’t use “Keep the taskbar on top of other windows”. Right-click the taskbar, select properties, clear the check box for this option and then click OK.
    If you prefer to keep the taskbar on top of other windows, then deselecting this option as described above, and then reselecting it again, restores the correct window order and brings the tooltips back to the front, until the next time!

      » Comment by T S Raman on November 15, 2006 @ 7:19 am
  5. TS Raman: Thanks for the info.

      » Comment by dan on November 15, 2006 @ 9:28 am
  6. The Sorting programs by name twice did nothing for me, neither did repeatedly popping open the start menu or unlocking/relocking the task bar. This has been a very annoying problem for a while, but thanks to T S Ramans description of what causes the problem I found a solution that worked for me.

    Simply go into the taskbar properties and uncheck the “keep taskbar on top of other windows” Apply, then go back and re-check this setting. This refreshes windows little pecking order and fixed the problem for me.

    peace & good luck, maybe Vista will be better.

      » Comment by flguy123 on February 7, 2007 @ 8:36 pm
  7. [...] Re: Windows xp balloons tip size problem Are you talking about balloon tips or tooltips? I see tooltips become hidden behind the taskbar fairly often. Here is a strange fix I found: Tooltips hidden behind taskbar in XP – Amidst a tangled web [...]

      » Pingback by Windows xp balloons tip size problem - Error on February 15, 2007 @ 4:35 am
  8. Heres a fix. Hope it works for you.
    Just copy this into notepad and save it as a .reg file. Then merge it with the registry.

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VisualEffects\TooltipAnimation]

    “SetWindowPos”=”HwndInsertAfter, Hwnd_Top”
    “SetForegroundWindow”=dword:00000001

      » Comment by Bobby on February 27, 2007 @ 9:26 pm
  9. Thanks to Kelly Theriot, that little tip works great, I always wondered how to fix that. Annoying but not too troublesome.

      » Comment by Tweeker182 on March 6, 2007 @ 3:25 pm
  10. The original tip posted here worked for me. I simply put the mouse over a random submenu of the All Programs menu, right clicked, and pressed the “B” key on my keyboard (because hitting “B” selects “Sort By Name”). After doing it twice, the tooltips were on top of the Task Bar again.

    I suspect the people who say it didn’t work simply didn’t do it correctly.

    I also doubt the registry values shown above will be helpful. But I have not tried it.

    Microsoft is not helpful, but knows about this problem:

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/912650

    Isn’t it nice how they haven’t bothered to fix it, after all these years? I guess this bug can get in line–but the teller’s closed anyway.

    Here’s another workaround–this one works and requires no work. It requires a third-party program, but it is one that uses VERY little memory, and essentially NO CPU time:

    Discover
    http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Alley/3532/main/freeware.html#discover

    Run Discover, then enable the “Automatic” option from its tray icon. Then, tooltips will always be forced ABOVE the task bar, even if they were beneath it to begin with. There’s a slight delay (about a second) before the tooltip will be forced above, but this is easier and faster than using the All Programs tip.

      » Comment by Ediot on March 17, 2007 @ 2:12 am
  11. I apologize for having forgotten to mention that the program I mentioned, Discover, is freeware.

      » Comment by Ediot on March 17, 2007 @ 11:25 am
  12. This is caused by right clicking in the start menu. Dont right click in the start menu.

      » Comment by Nick Brozack on March 24, 2007 @ 1:49 pm
  13. “I also doubt the registry values shown above will be helpful. But I have not tried it.”

    Actually they can help, according to the Microsoft MSDN Database, under the section for Creating ToolTip Controls (is at about the middle of the page). Though you may have to insert the settings manually, instead of scripted.

    Linky: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/shellcc/platform/commctls/tooltip/tooltip.asp

      » Comment by Taliesin on March 30, 2007 @ 1:23 pm
  14. The tip that worked perfectly for me was the one posted by flguy:
    “Simply go into the taskbar properties and uncheck the “keep taskbar on top of other windows” Apply, then go back and re-check this setting”

      » Comment by Ian on April 10, 2007 @ 3:20 pm
  15. wtf silly Windows, but thanks to your blog for helping me solve this:-)

      » Comment by John on April 13, 2007 @ 12:15 pm
  16. Hooray, heres a new link to the tooltip fix program cuz the other one is broken
    It’s probably best to drop it on ur taskbar in quicklaunch so u have easy access
    http://atpeaz.placidthoughts.com/exit.php?url_id=127&entry_id=153

    this is the website that’s hosting it
    http://atpeaz.placidthoughts.com/index.php?/archives/153-Fixing-the-Windows-XP2003-Taskbar-Tooltip-bug.html

      » Comment by Nicholas Brozack (again) on April 20, 2007 @ 2:03 pm
  17. OMG… This ^^^^^^^ Really Works…. Thank You.

      » Comment by kimmy on May 12, 2007 @ 2:57 am
  18. [Right click anything under programs -> sort by name] X 2. Once does nothing, and twice fixes it. Crazy.

    Also, I don’t know about the WIN+D thing causing it, but as the MS bug page says, the one thing that does cause it every time (near as I can tell) is opening anything on the start menu by (instead of a simple left-click) right-click -> open (or PREVIEW for pics, or whatever). Strange. I broke it and fixed it several times, just out of curiosity.

    What an odd bug, and an even odder way to fix it.

      » Comment by Joshua Walker on June 8, 2007 @ 3:55 am
  19. Isn’t it great that Microsoft REALLY provides an useful solution?

    “Restart your computer.”

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/912650

      » Comment by JJLL on June 27, 2007 @ 2:16 am
  20. None of the solutions above did it for me. What worked was killing and restarting the explorer.exe process.

      » Comment by zoltan on June 28, 2007 @ 5:46 am
  21. worked for me. thanks

      » Comment by Anastasios on July 13, 2007 @ 8:37 pm
  22. It seems that this problem can be caused in a variety of ways because not one fix (err.. workaround) works for everyone.

    However, the program linked in comment #16 Nicholas Brozack worked for me and I now have it on my quick launch. Annoying though.

      » Comment by Joe on September 3, 2007 @ 11:50 am
  23. Worked for me:
    Right-click on open area of taskbar, the select Properties
    On the “Taskbar” tab, change the setting for “Keep the taskbar on top” and click “apply”. Then, restore the setting for “Keep the taskbar on top” and click “ok”.

      » Comment by BengalTigger on September 18, 2007 @ 6:06 pm
  24. Neosmart has a patch that will fix this problem. Here is the link

    http://neosmart.net/dl.php?id=10

      » Comment by Kevo on October 29, 2007 @ 10:01 am
  25. There is a freeware program called ToolTipFixer that addresses this issue.

    You can download it from NeoSmart Technologies here:
    http://neosmart.net/wiki/display/TTF/ToolTipFixer+Home

    It’s free and takes care of the problem permenantly.

      » Comment by Marc Alex on October 30, 2007 @ 5:21 am
  26. I’ve finally found the perfect solution here!

    Best of all it is FREE!

      » Comment by Ken Ng on October 30, 2007 @ 11:07 am
  27. Ummm, that totally worked. How f-ing weird…
    (scratches head)

      » Comment by Nick on November 17, 2007 @ 11:40 pm
  28. I can second zoltan’s (20) method and Nick Brozack’s (12) comment. Restarting explorer.exe from the task manager fixed it for me, and right clicking in the start > all programs menu does make the problem reappear.

      » Comment by Mob R on December 22, 2007 @ 6:32 pm
  29. Unset the taskbar On-Top property, the taskbar will remain on top of windows after doing this, but the tooltips will be fixed.

    However, it does NOT solve the problem for Balloon-tips. :))

    (ex: done easily in AutoIt Script)
    Opt(‘wintitlematchmode’, 4)
    WinSetOnTop(‘classname=Shell_TrayWnd’,”,0)

      » Comment by Crash Daemonicus on January 19, 2008 @ 10:00 pm
  30. Edit:
    Disabling the taskbar on-top property manually (through the taskbar properties window) DOES fix it.

    Odd.

      » Comment by Crash Daemonicus on January 19, 2008 @ 10:03 pm
  31. SIMPLEST SOLUTION
    Click Start, Run
    In the Open text box type: tskill explorer

    Explorer will stop and restart. Problem solved. No need to run any software.

      » Comment by Keep It Simple Sweety on January 30, 2008 @ 10:58 pm
  32. a 10kb utility which needs a 40mb+ runtime.. yeah that makes sense (at least to all dumb idiots who only can point and click).
    for those who like to know whats going on ,on their system : get nircmd .

    a small commandline based utility and use :

    “nircmd win settopmost class “tooltips_class32″ 1″

    this sets the windows class for tooltips to topmost,after that tooltips work like they should.

    nircmd just sets this value ,and exits,no cpu/ram is further used !!! you can create a shortcut/.cmd file for this,so in case your tooltips are hiding,just use the shortcut and your done.

      » Comment by chaos on February 6, 2008 @ 9:15 am
  33. chaos: Thanks for the tip.

      » Comment by dan on February 6, 2008 @ 5:34 pm
  34. Highly recommend Nircmd, as it doesnt require a running program, Thanx a lot author!

      » Comment by james on March 9, 2008 @ 11:11 am
  35. I concur. I started using nircmd and it’s been working like a charm without having to keep anything running.

      » Comment by dan on March 9, 2008 @ 8:54 pm
  36. omg the “tskill explorer” in RUN really do the trick ! after everything ive tried (other than using any software) this is the best solution ever! Fast, safe, and effortless.

      » Comment by KLH on April 14, 2008 @ 10:23 pm
  37. The sort trick didn’t work the first couple times I tried it. I did it a few more times, then it worked.

      » Comment by PENIX on April 18, 2008 @ 8:37 am
  38. Huh! It worked on the first try! Go figure…

      » Comment by Sam on June 6, 2008 @ 6:39 pm
  39. tskill works, but it also removes some icons in the taskbar program tray area (where the clock is) … they just disappear! But the programs are still loaded in memory, as shown by taskmanager. But even taskmanager’s icon is now missing. The way to restore the icons is to use taskmanager … first use taskmanager to remove the program by highlighting it in the processes view and then clicking “end process” … and then manually restart the program and its icon will return to the task bar program area. This works for all program except for taskmanager itself, whose icon will only remain there if the taskmanager window is never closed. What a nuisance.

      » Comment by /wam on July 2, 2008 @ 2:45 am
  40. For me the problem occured by selecting my taskbar. It fixed itself by clicking an other window, but reappeared by clicking the taskbar again.8-) Windows is really a weird thing:P

      » Comment by JustMe on October 17, 2008 @ 3:12 pm
  41. The sort by name didnt work under win3000, but the nircmd did. thx

      » Comment by binyo66 on May 27, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
  42. nircmd works! great!!!
    I have been searching for a solution for quite some time, thanks a lot!

      » Comment by Thomas Muders on June 17, 2009 @ 3:37 am
  43. I just had this problem again, and tried going to programs, right-clicking to bring up menu, then clicking on desktop to get out of start menu. I did that twice, without sorting, and it worked!

    So, I doubt you actually have to sort.

    (In case you have it sorted by another method, like by the order installed, this could save you some hassle.)

      » Comment by Devon on August 24, 2009 @ 3:57 pm
  44. nircmd does not work yet. Neither other fixes suggested. Probably the new updates from Microsoft breaks this possibility. I have Xp SP2 with the majority of critical and essential updates and hotfixes (installed when possible with the parameters /B:SP2QFE)

      » Comment by janius on October 9, 2010 @ 1:16 pm
  45. @janius nircmd works great for me on XP SP3.

      » Comment by Dan on October 9, 2010 @ 4:55 pm
  46. mega thanks

      » Comment by C on November 24, 2010 @ 8:01 am
  47. You’re welcome.

      » Comment by Dan on November 24, 2010 @ 2:47 pm
  48. tooltipsfixer tool really works for me. thanks to you.

      » Comment by Suresh on February 11, 2011 @ 11:07 am
  49. Just tried the tool tip fix for XP and the day date popup has returned and I can see it! Great!

      » Comment by Forrest on April 19, 2011 @ 7:32 pm
  50. “SIMPLEST SOLUTION
    Click Start, Run
    In the Open text box type: tskill explorer

    Explorer will stop and restart. Problem solved. No need to run any software.”

    Thanks to Keep It Simple Sweety, response #31! This was the first fix that I found works on this list, minus downloading a prgram. If I can fix it without a download, that’s the way to do it. MS has too many little problems to fix them all that way!

    Also, I couldn’t get the problem to come back by right-clicking anywhere in the Start Menu or anything else. My icons in the task tray didn’t disappear either.

    I’m running XP SP3.

      » Comment by Brotuulaan on October 8, 2011 @ 11:27 pm
  51. The Tip to kill the explorer.exe was the one that worked for me.Thanks Zoltan.

      » Comment by Ori on January 1, 2012 @ 9:56 pm
  52. There’s absolutely no need for any comments after #25 by Marc Alex, because the ToolTipFixer 2.0 is all you need to patch the bug in XP.
    http://neosmart.net/ToolTipFixer/

    Ok, so it stays running on your PC only using 1,176 KB of memory, and is basically idle after it does it’s job whenever the tooltips go crazy.

    If you can’t spare <2MB RAM and ~0% CPU power and want to manually click this, that, run tskill, nircmd, etc etc, keep on clicking. Have fun with that.

    I'll never have to touch anything again. THANKS!!!

      » Comment by ToolTipFixer on January 20, 2012 @ 4:21 pm
  53. “tskill explorer” worked for me.
    All programs–>SortName X2 didnot work.
    Didn’t try the ToolTipFixer. (I don’t like background running programs even if they don’t hog memory/CPU)
    Thanks.

      » Comment by sarao on April 25, 2012 @ 7:58 am
  54. @Sarao I agree, the fewer background programs running, the better. Thanks for the pointer to tskill.

      » Comment by Dan on April 25, 2012 @ 9:11 am
  55. tooltipfixer worked once for me, then stopped working.

    none of the above worked until ‘tskill explorer’ – very blunt indeed, but pretty-much guaranteed to work every time i’d think

    nircmd sounds like it’s gonna do the trick, too. got it lined up ready for the next time this xp64 bitch gets confused…

      » Comment by required on April 29, 2012 @ 7:44 am
  56. Thanks, chaos (#32). There is simple autohotkey script, that solves the problem. It stays running, uses 0% of cpu until a tooltip is shown. Then it ensures the tooltip has always-on-top flag, and waits again. The script:
    #SingleInstance, Force
    DetectHiddenWindows, Off
    Loop{
    WinWait, ahk_class tooltips_class32
    WinGet, xs, ExStyle
    top := xs & 8
    If Not top
    WinSet, AlwaysOnTop, On
    WinWaitClose
    }

      » Comment by 1am on May 23, 2012 @ 10:08 pm
  57. Thanks for the link to ToolTipFixer. Worked like a charm. :)

      » Comment by DaveT on October 17, 2012 @ 2:35 pm
  58. @DaveT Cool – you’re welcome.

      » Comment by Dan on October 17, 2012 @ 8:39 pm


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