The taskbar can be thought of like a hub for Windows 10. It's the starting point for modifying quick settings, accessing the Start Menu and searching the entire PC. It's also where you'll find a selection of app icons, offering a convenient and quick way to launch your favourite programs. 

The ease with which this can be customised (simply right-click on any open app and choose 'Pin to taskbar') makes it easy to set it up to your liking. 

However, Windows 10 has an annoying recent tendency to hide these apps for no apparent reason. This seemingly sudden change can be extremely frustrating, although there are a number of potential solutions.

Restart your PC

It sounds cliché, but sometimes all your device needs is to be switched off and back on again. If that doesn't work, move on to the next solution. 

Check you're not in tablet mode

By default, tablet mode removes all the icons from the taskbar, in an attempt to create a more touch-friendly user interface. Simply switching back to desktop mode should fix the issue:

  1. Click the icon in the bottom right that looks like a speech bubble
  2. In the list of quick settings at the bottom, Tablet mode should be highlighted. Click it to return to desktop mode
    Windows 10 exit tablet mode

If you want to stay in tablet mode, right-click (or long-press) any empty space in the taskbar and choose 'Show app icons'. 
Windows 10 show app icons

Add script to Command Prompt

If neither of those fixes are working, you'll have to try something a bit more complex. Make sure you're using an administrator account before proceeding:

  1. Hit the Windows Key + X and then choose 'Windows PowerShell (Admin)'
    Windows 10 PowerShell admin
  2. Click 'Yes' to allow the app to make changes to your device
  3. In the window that appears, copy the following exactly as it is below:
    DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth
    Windows 10 command prompt
  4. Hit Enter, and after a few seconds you should see a message saying the process was completed successfully
  5. Restart your device to ensure the changes are applied

Reinstall the taskbar software

The only way to uninstall utilities like the taskbar is via Windows PowerShell:

  1. Launch Windows PowerShell as an admin, using the same method as above
  2. Click 'Yes' to allow changes to be made to your device
  3. Copy and paste the following into the window that appears:
    Get-AppxPackage -AllUsers| Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register “$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml”}
    Windows 10 reinstall taskbar
  4. Hit Enter and wait for the process to be completed
  5. Restart your PC

Update your device

If none of these solutions are doing the trick, it might be a bug relating to an older version of Windows 10. Head to Settings > Update & Security and check if there are any outstanding updates. 

If you're already running the latest version, it's probably worth waiting until an update fixes the problem. Microsoft releases security patches at least once a month, so you probably won't be waiting long before any wider issues are addressed. 

For more on the latest feature update, check out our guide to the Windows 10 October 2020 update