I’ve observed a stange behavior in Windows XP with the Task Manager, which apparently is also rearing its ugly head in Windows 7.  The symptoms appear sometime after a few defaults are changed, and a few reboots and application installations or uninstallations occur– just like in XP.

After opening Task Manager, the options menu has the following options, with those selected by default marked with an asterisk.

  • Always On Top  (*)
  • Minimize on Use (*)
  • Hide When Minimized

Most users don’t use this tool, other than accidentally discovering it in the task bar’s context menu, and marveling at the pretty graph that rolls by in the performance tab.  Sometimes, it is to purposely kill off some stuck process (as instructed by the web help page that Google found for them).

As a developer, I like having Always on Top set to off, and Hide When Minimized set to on.  With the latter, the CPU usage is visible in the tray when Task Manager is minimized.  This way, I get to look at the pretty graph while testing my application, and have a quick way to open the Task Manager by double-clicking it.  Seriously, it is a quick way to monitor memory consumption patterns when processing large amounts of data.

After these modified settings have been in effect for some time, the lower one (Hide When Minimized) “kind of” stops working.  This setting will remove the Task Manager from the task bar itself, and leave only graph in the tray.  When it “kind of” stops working, it removes it from both the task bar and the tray. A clue that this will happen is the tray icon does not appear when Task Manager is launched with these settings.

The only way I have found to reset them is to do the following:

  • With Task Manager open, change the option settings back to their defaults.
  • Close Task Manager (don’t minimize it).
  • Wait about 1-2 seconds
  • Relaunch Task Manager
  • Change the settings on options back to the custom setting (Always on top set to off, Hide When Minimized to on).
  • Close Task Manager
  • Wait about 1-2 seconds
  • Relaunch Task Manager

YMMV, but this is what it took for mine to begin working again as desired.  I have no clue what caused it to break in the first place.  It’s just weird.