Help with Windows bottom-bar-thingum

Hey guys.

I’m a technophobe at heart, so when this occured, I began to panic. Still am, actually.

The problem as I see it; I’m running Windows XP, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a little bar on the bottom left-hand corner of my screen, right next to the ‘start’ button, that had single buttons for some of my most-used programs, as well as a button to simply go to desktop.

Well, durring my web-browsing tonight, that bar vanished. Now, the grey bar at the bottom is still there, and it shows me what stuff is running on the right-hand side, just left of the clock. The start button is still there, as is the little boxes that tell me what is currently ‘active’ (at the moment, only my web-browser).
I’d really like the rest of the buttons back, though, and as I don’t even know what that sort-of thing is called, I wouldn’t even begin to know where to look on how to recover it all.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks much!

Right-click your bar. See whether your particular toolbar has become unchecked.

It did not. It simply emptied itself of all buttons, and I’m not sure why. I’ve re-established the buttons now, but still have two (recognized) problems*

One: I don’t know how to make a new button for ‘clear to my desktop’. I know there’s a way to do it, but I don’t know what it is.

Two: My Outlook Express adress book is inaccesable, and I don’t know why. It’s in the proper folder, and I even ‘re-imported’ it, but when I click on the address book, there’s nothing there. No addresses. I fear all of this may be related, and I’m starting to get panic-attack-y.

*I say recognized because I haven’t found anything else wrong yet, but that doesn’t mean there -isn’t- anything else wrong.

Upon edit: Found how to make the ‘go to desktop’ button, but still puzzled as to how to get my darn address book back.

You just right-click the bar, and there’s a “Show the Desktop” option. All windows minimize instantly, leaving only the desktop showing.

Okay, and I’ve imported my addresses from my backup thumb-drive, but I’m still paranoid about what else may’ve suddenly vanished. Is there any way to scan the computer to see any recent changes / deletions?

Not really. Well, nothing easy anyway. I recommend you download Crap Cleaner (it’s actually called CCleaner now), and run it regularly. You can find it on Google. It’s a great program, and helps with weird shit stuff like this by keeping everything nice and clean.

Thanks much. Will do.

The bottom-bar-thingum is called the “taskbar”. That area with the little buttons is called “Quick Launch”.

A couple of other very basic things to check:

-Right-click the taskbar and select “Properties”. In the “Taskbar and Start Menu Properties” dialog, look for a checkbox called “Show Quick Launch”. If it’s not checked, check it and then click OK.

-Right-click the taskbar and see whether “Lock the Taskbar” is checked. Just to be anal:

1 - Uncheck it if necessary. You should now see a few gray vertical bars appear in the taskbar. These are “handles”. When you hover over them, your mouse pointer should turn into a left/right arrow.
2 - Hover over the handle just to the right of the Quick Launch area (i.e., just to the left of the box that tells you your web browser is active). Click and drag it to he right. You may see more Quick Launch buttons appear (hopefully).
3 - Assuming that worked, let go of the handle, then right-click the taskbar and check “Lock the Taskbar” again.

If that doesn’t work, you may have to add shortcuts to your Quick Launch area again; it’s not that hard, but is a few more steps.

You can bring up Windows Explorer (lets your look at what files are on your computer; icon looks like a little file folder with a magnifying glass in the middle) and do a search, and specify something like all files changed in the last one day. However, you will get a long list of hits of files that the system changes all the time that don’t indicate a problem. You can also check your recycle bin. However, I think it is possible for certain processes to delete files without sending them to the recycle bin.

As for your address book, either it was wiped out, or it was deleted and Outlook automatically created a new blank one when it couldn’t find it.

What version of Windows are you using?