Windows 11 has been a welcome change to the long-tested Windows OS in the past 5 years. While there were some rumors that Windows 10 was going to be the last of its kind, Microsoft soon refuted these claims with the Windows 11 event held last month. The new OS comes with some much-needed improvements including a new frosted glass UI, the ability to install Android apps, and most of all, some under the hood security improvements to help keep your PC safe in the 21st century.
However, Windows 11 also introduces grouped icons in the taskbar which have received mixed reviews at best. Many users prefer the old taskbar without grouped icons and thankfully there is now a way you can do this on Windows 11. Let’s find out how you can do this and ungroup your icons in the taskbar.
What is icon grouping in the taskbar?
Icon grouping was a new feature in Windows that was introduced in Windows 10. When activated, this feature would group all your instances of an app no matter how many windows you had open, under a single taskbar icon. Hovering over the icon would allow you to view and select one of the open instances. The idea behind this feature was to better manage the taskbar and help keep it organized for users that usually have multiple windows open on their desktop.
Windows introduced the ability to group all your taskbar icons in Windows 10. However, you got the option to disable this feature in the previous iteration of the OS by selecting ‘Never Combine’ in the taskbar settings. This option has been removed from Windows 11 and you no longer get the option to disable icon grouping in your taskbar. Thankfully, you can now disable this option using a couple of workarounds to get a taskbar that is reminiscent of the Windows 10 days.
Does Windows 11 have the ‘Never combine’ taskbar icons feature?
Sadly no, Windows 11 no longer has the ‘Never Combine’ option when customizing your taskbar. This feature was removed in favor of Windows 11’s new minimalistic look which is enhanced by icon grouping. Disabling group icons might be useful to you but it is detrimental to the overall material design adopted by Microsoft for Windows 11. Hence, the ‘Never Combine’ feature has now been removed from taskbar customization in Windows 11.
Is there a workaround available to ungroup icons on Windows 11 taskbar?
You can not disable the grouping of icons in your taskbar on Windows 11 natively, however, you can use the methods listed below in this guide, to easily disable the feature to group icons in your taskbar. You should keep in mind though that this workaround is not perfect and can introduce bugs and glitches with some services.
A known issue with this workaround is the bugged Wifi icon in your taskbar which will stop working. This can be fixed by using the workaround mentioned below after the guide. It is not recommended to apply this workaround on important work PCs or systems that are your daily drivers.
Is it safe to use the registry hack?
Editing your registry is never safe and you can end up modifying or creating values that harm the performance of your PC. However, this happens when you edit or modify registry values for vital components of your system. The hack employed in this workaround modifies the behavior of Windows Explorer alongside some third-party tweaks.
While this workaround will break the functionality of certain icons and introduce some bugs and glitches, it won’t damage your OS or PC permanently. Additionally, this registry hack can be easily reverted using the guide below, hence you are safe to use this hack to disable the grouping of icons in Windows 11.
Also, do check out a section below on the compatibility of this hack for the beta and public version of Windows 11. You might want to know already how the registry hack will work — or not — when the new updates are rolled out later on.
How to ungroup icons Windows 11 taskbar
Follow the guide below to disable the grouping of icons in your taskbar on Windows 11. This workaround will require you to install legacy skins for your taskbar that make it look like Windows 10 taskbar on your Windows 11 PC. Sadly, if you do not wish to change the look of your taskbar, then this workaround won’t work for you. Currently, this is the only way to disable the grouping of icons in your taskbar on Windows 11. Follow the guide below to get started.
Tip: Download these files to a single folder convenient location that helps you easily access them without any issues.
Start by installing Winaero Tweaker on your Windows 11 PC. Unzip the downloaded archive and run the .exe file. Now follow the on-screen instructions to install the program on your PC.
Once installed, launch the app and select ‘Classic Start Menu and Taskbar’ on your left.
Check the box for ‘Enable Classic Taskbar and Start menu’.
Now restart your system or sign out and sign back into your Windows account. Once you are logged back in, the taskbar should have changed at the bottom of your screen. However, notice that the Windows icon for the start menu no longer works and neither do quick setting icons for volume, wifi, and more show up on your screen. Let’s fix this. Press Windows + R on your keyboard and enter the following command.
Once entered, press ‘Enter’ on your keyboard or click on ‘Ok’ to execute your command. You will now get a window where you can select the system icons that you wish to show in your taskbar. Click on ‘Turn system icons on or off’ at the bottom of your screen.
Enable the icons you wish to show up in your taskbar. We recommend enabling the following system icons. Simply click on the drop-down arrow beside the desired system icon and select ‘On’.
- Action Center
Once you have enabled the necessary icons, click and launch the .exe for ‘Classic Start’ we downloaded earlier. Follow the on-screen instructions to install Classic Start on your PC.
The Start menu button should now be working on your system. Simply click and test your new start menu. We are now ready to disable icon grouping on your PC. Open the start menu and search for PowerShell. Click and launch the app once it shows up in your search results.
Copy-paste the following command in your PowerShell window and press ‘Enter’ on your keyboard to execute it.
REG ADD "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced " /v TaskbarGlomLevel /t REG_DWORD /d 2
Now Restart your PC for good measure.
And that’s it! Once your PC restarts, group icons should be disabled in your taskbar. You can test the same by opening a few instances of any particular application like the Windows File Explorer or your favorite browser.
Well, just one big issue — thankfully! — for now.
The Wifi icon in the taskbar does not work
This is a known issue with this workaround where the older Wifi icon is no longer able to source your Wifi networks or change them. You can simply disable this icon using the guide above or let it be as it is. To change your Wifi network, you can use the ‘Settings’ app instead which can be launched by pressing Windows + i on your keyboard simultaneously. As soon as a workaround shows up to get the Wifi icon working again in your taskbar, we shall update this guide.
Will the registry hack work on the beta and public release versions of Windows 11?
This is a dicey question, whose answer is going to be speculation at best. Initial testing of the old taskbar code in Windows 11 suggests that it is exclusive only to insider previews of Windows 11 for developmental purposes and to provide support for older programs. Microsoft is expected to remove the code for the old taskbar in the final release of Windows 11. If this happens to be the case then it is likely that the old taskbar code will also be removed from later beta versions of the OS.
However, the code is expected to stay in the Insider builds and the first few betas to say the least. However, features included in Windows heavily rely on user feedback. Take the removal of the Refresh icon from the right-click context menu for example, after numerous complaints, Microsoft restored the ‘Refresh’ button in the right-click context menu in the second Insider release of Windows 11.
Hence, if enough users manage to send positive feedback for the older taskbar, we could end up seeing the code getting included in the final release of Windows 11. For now, it is highly unlikely that Microsoft will include this code in the final release of Windows 11 which means that this registry hack will no longer work with Windows 11.
We hope this guide helped you get familiar with disabling icon grouping in Windows 11. If you face any issues or have any more questions for us, feel free to reach out using the comments section below.