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HP and Compaq PCs - Start Button and Taskbar are Missing (Windows 98, ME or XP)

This document pertains to HP and Compaq desktop PCs with Windows 98, ME, and XP
Introduction
Use the following steps if the Start button and taskbar are not displaying.
 note:
Pressing the Ctrl and the Esc keys at the same time is the same as clicking the Start button. This action opens the Start menu. If the Start menu does not open after pressing the Ctrl + Esc keys, skip to Step 5.
Step 1: Check if the Start button and taskbar are minimized
Use the following steps to check if the Start button and taskbar are minimized:
  1. Slowly move the mouse pointer toward the bottom of the screen.
  2. If the mouse pointer turns into a double-pointed arrow, the Start button and taskbar are minimized.
  3. When the double-pointed arrow appears, press and hold down the left mouse button.
  4. Drag the pointer slowly up a couple of inches towards the top of the screen.
  5. Release the mouse button. The Start button and taskbar are displayed.
Step 2: Check if the Start button and taskbar are set to Auto Hide
  1. Press the Ctrl key and the Esc at the same time.
  2. In Windows XP, right-click on a blank portion of the Start menu, and then click Properties.
    In Windows 98 and ME, when the Start menu displays, click Settings, and then click Taskbar.
  3. Select the Taskbar Options tab.
  4. Make sure that Always on top or Keep the taskbar on top of other Windows is selected.
  5. Remove the checkmark next to Auto Hide or Auto-hide the taskbar.
  6. Click OK. The Start button and taskbar should now display.
Step 3: Restart Windows Explorer
Restarting Windows Explorer can bring back the Start button and taskbar.
  1. Press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys at the same time.
  2. Open Task Manager.
  3. Click the Processes tab.
  4. If explorer.exe is listed, select it, and then click End Process.
  5. Click File, and then click New Task (Run...).
  6. Type explorer, and then click OK.
Step 4: Restart the PC in Safe Mode
Restart the PC in Safe Mode, and then restart in Normal mode.
 note:
Starting Windows in Safe mode loads a minimal set of basic system drivers and uses the standard VGA video display. The Windows desktop will temporarily look different.
  1. Click Start, and then click Shut Down or Turn Off Computer.
  2. In the Shut Down dialog box, select Restart the computer, and then click Yes.
  3. When the PC restarts, press the F8 key repeatedly until a menu screen appears.
  4. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to select Safe Mode, and then press the Enter key.
  5. The Windows desktop appears with reduced colors and with the words Safe Mode displayed in the corners. Wait one minute before continuing.
  6. Click Start, and then click Shut Down or Turn Off Computer.
  7. Select Restart the computer, and then click Yes.
    The PC restarts in Normal Mode. The Start button and taskbar should display in their normal positions on the Windows desktop.
Step 5: Further troubleshooting from Microsoft
If the steps above fail to show the Start button and taskbar, refer to the Microsoft support article Taskbar Is Missing When You Log On to Windows (in English) for more detailed troubleshooting information.

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