Windows 10 update is messing with the taskbar – but there’s an easy fix

Frustrated Windows 10 User
(Image credit: fizkes / Shutterstock)

Windows 10 recently received a new preview update, and it’s reportedly causing trouble with the taskbar for some users.

Patch KB5003214 is a preview of June’s cumulative update, but as well as the known issues listed by Microsoft, there’s a problem with icons on the taskbar going awry, as flagged up by Windows Latest.

This patch is for May 2021 Update, October 2020 Update and May 2020 Update versions of Windows 10 (which are all essentially the same version, just with minor changes in the newer ones). KB5003214 began rolling out earlier this week with some bug fixes, and the update also made the ‘News and interests’ feature on the taskbar available to everybody.

And it’s the latter where the taskbar problem reportedly lies. Some users are complaining that the system tray area of the taskbar (in other words, the icons on the far-right) are getting messed up by this patch, with this apparently being related to having ‘News and interests’ enabled.

Some folks got in touch with Windows Latest to describe the problem, with one reader of the site saying that their system tray icons are overlapping or disappearing, and generally suffering from corruption of one type or another, “especially” with the News feature turned on. Others have observed problems with Action Center notifications, or the network icon no longer working properly, or the taskbar search box disappearing, and icons vanishing or randomly shifting around in the system tray.

One user who installed the patch reported on Microsoft’s feedback hub: “After installing quality cumulative preview update KB5003214, I’ve got some issues with the taskbar, mainly right side icons will move randomly, disappear (hide) or will be scrambled. Tested on a Surface Book 3 business edition and Alienware M17 R5.”

The user observed that uninstalling the update made the issue go away.

Another report on the feedback hub complained: “After installing KB5003214, my taskbar (in the bottom right with clock, notification centre, network icon etc) all broke. The icons appeared over the clock for a bit then disappeared.”

A denizen of Reddit also reported ‘graphical issues’ with the taskbar’s system tray being messed up, or even vanishing entirely.

There are also some users experiencing display scaling issues which could be related to KB5003214, and again there’s a thread on Reddit where folks are complaining about the icon for the new feature looking fuzzy or out of focus.

Quick fixing

Of course, preview updates are still in testing, so it’s not surprising that there might be problems – though these sound like some particularly frustrating niggles to still be left in at this point.

Several potential easy fixes for the issue have been pointed out though, and one we’ve already mentioned: simply uninstall KB5003214. However, there are also reports claiming that just turning off the News widget on the taskbar will cure the icon corruption issues, a much simpler fix.

A possible workaround is described by ‘old_old_geek’ on Reddit: “After booting has finished, right click on the taskbar and select Taskbar settings. Toggle the setting for ‘Use small taskbar buttons’. After the taskbar is redrawn, toggle the setting again. This works for me. I’m assuming it’s because it forces the taskbar to be redrawn.”

Worryingly, another Reddit user suggests that: “News and interests causes this when its disabled. It’s like they purposely broke the taskbar so you would enable the feature.” Although that runs against the grain of what everyone else is reporting, namely that the gremlins manifest if the feature is enabled – not disabled.

Clearly enough, there’s an issue of some kind here, and hopefully it’s one Microsoft can fix before this preview update is rolled out as the June cumulative update.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).