I can’t see the top of a window, so I can’t minimize, maximize, or close. What can I do?

Sometimes windows can inadvertently be positioned off screen where your mouse can't reach. The keyboard interface, on the other hand, most certainly can.

Every once in a while for a variety of reasons, it’s possible for a window to get positioned such that its title bar – the bar across the top of the window with the program name as well as the Minimize, Maximize, and Restore buttons – is off the screen, becoming both impossible to see and impossible to click on using the mouse.

Almost as common are windows that are completely off screen – perhaps due to unplugging a second monitor before moving all windows back to the remaining screen.

If you’re used to using the controls on a window’s title bar to move, manipulate, or otherwise deal with the application, you’re kind of out of luck.

At least if you’re using a mouse.

It might be time to break out the keyboard interface.

The title bar

For our example, I’ll fire up Notepad. Here’s what I’m referring to when I talk about the title bar:

The title bar and its components

In addition to the title, the title bar also includes the System Menu on the far left, as well as the familiar Minimize, Maximize, and Close icons on the right.

System Menu? Yes, the application icon that appears on the far left is something you can click on:

Application System Menu

As you can see, there are the Minimize, Maximize, and Close items, as well as a couple of others: Restore (inactive since the window is in the “restored” state – neither minimize nor maximized), as well as Move and Size.

This will come in handy in just a moment.

Getting at the system menu

If any portion of the application window is visible at all, you can simply click on it and then type ALT+spacebar (hold down ALT while typing the spacebar once and then release both). Somewhere on your screen, you’ll get the
system menu for the application.

Alternately, right-click on the application in the task bar (in Windows 7 & 8 you may have to hold down the Shift key as you click):

Application System Menu on the Task Bar

Moving the window back

Click on the Move menu item. The mouse cursor changes to the “move” cursor:

Move cursor

Now … let go of the mouse. Smile

The next step uses the keyboard.

Press any arrow key. Somewhere on the screen, you’re likely to see a partial outline of a window border. Ignore it.

Now wiggle the mouse.

Move outline

What you’re seeing is an outline of the window you’re moving. Use the mouse to move it where you will, click, and the window is placed there.

Windows keyboard interface

It’s helpful to remember that Windows (and any well-designed Windows application) does not actually always require a mouse. There is generally supposed to be a way to do everything using just your keyboard1. Yes, many things are more difficult with a keyboard, but nonetheless they should still be possible. It’s worth being familiar with the basic keyboard interface for situations such as this or for that day when your mouse finally gives up the ghost.

ALT+spacebar is the key to basic window operations. As we saw from there, you can not only minimize, maximize, and restore your window, but you can also move and resize it. To move (which only works if your window is visible and not maximized), hit ALT+spacebar, type M for move, and then use the arrow keys to move the window all around. Press Enter when done. You can move your window almost completely off the screen this way. To resize your window (again, only if your window is visible and not maximized), hit ALT+spacebar, type s for size, hit an arrow key that points to the edge of the window that you want to move, and then use that arrow key and its opposite to move that edge of the window.

Most people realize that CTRL+ESC is equivalent to pressing the Start menu. But most people don’t realize that the Start menu and task bar have a keyboard interface as well. Try this: press CTRL+ESC to bring up the Start menu – now press ESC again to make it go away. The task bar is left with focus (meaning that keystrokes go to it). Depending on your layout and version of Windows, various sequences of Tab and arrow keys can move you through all of the elements of the task bar. When you finally highlight something you want to activate, the Enter key usually does the trick.

In fact, along the way, tabbing through the task bar eventually makes your desktop become active. Arrow around through the various icons on the desktop and type Enter to activate one.

Here’s another handy keyboard shortcut: CTRL+SHIFT+F10 is often the same as right clicking. While you’re arrowing around those desktop icons or the notification area or elsewhere, give it a try!

If you’re interested in learning more about keyboard shortcuts, select Help and Support on the Windows Start menu and search for keyboard shortcuts for a good summary of all thing things you can do without your mouse.

This is an update to an article originally posted : March 1, 2004

Footnotes and references

1: It’s unclear if this will hold true with Windows 8, given its emphasis on touch screen capable machines, but it should. Mouse-less access remains important for those with physical challenges.

There are 85 comments:

  1. Michael Reply

    Thanks Leo. I’ve have this problem with one application for months now and I’d just given up on being able to ‘restore’ it. The same thing just happened to another program last night. I had tried the ‘move’ command before but I didn’t realize that I was supposed to use the arrow keys after that (duh… I was trying to use the mouse). All is well now.

    BTW, I really miss seeing you on Screen Savers.

  2. Armen Reply

    Thanks Leo, good remarks about short keys,
    What is, if this window is a children window?
    So ALT+SPACE runs menu of main window, but I will move or resize the children.
    Like: MS Word and a Word document. I wont move (or resize) the dokument, but alt +space call “MS Word” main window.
    Regards,
    Armen

  3. Leo Reply

    ALT+the minus key is supposed to fire up the system menu for child windows in an MDI (Multiple Document Interface) compliant app. I think that’s what you’re looking for.

  4. jim Reply

    I have a dockable window, like a tool menu, that does not respond to the ALT+the minus key. I’ve closed all the child windows, is there some other way to move this window or make it re-dock?

  5. Leo Reply

    Unfortunately there’s no way for me to know. Dockable windows often vary from application to application, and sometimes don’t have a keyboard interface.

  6. Adrian Reply

    I have a similar problem. When I maximize my IE windows, they disappear, but are still functional, although I cannot see any part of them. I can press alt+space and do all that (I know all the commands) and hit F11 for fullscreen, but when I leave fullscreen mode, it’s still gone. I think something’s screwing up the registry or something, because when I minimize it, I can see which direction it’s coming down to the start bar from, and it’s WAY up there… Can you help? Please respond via email if at all possible, as I will most likely forget which message board this is.

    Adrian

  7. clayton t. smith Reply

    Great tips…, here’s a question for ya,

    Usually, when I use the tab key to move from one field to the next, it works fine. However sometimes, I don’t know why, it instead maximizes a different window that I have minimized. How do I set it back to work properly to move from one field to the next?

  8. Leo Reply

    Well, ALT+TAB does what you describe, so I’d make sure my thumb wasn’t resting on the ALT key, and/or perhaps change keyboards incase the one you have has a sticky ALT.

  9. spring Reply

    Whenever I open a program or a browser, it doesn’t appear in the task bar. How do I fix this? It’s driving me nuts!

    Thanks, Spring

  10. Mary Reply

    Hey Leo,
    Million thanks. For some unknown reason my screen had moved Right & Downward. I was unable to see the maximize or the screen arrows. The
    On Line AOL “Calcutta Tech Help” were useless because they couldn’t understand what I was talking about. Man, was I in high hag. Was able to pull up your web site by asking the AOL Quick Answer. There is something sick that I can type a question into a computer and it understands and the Calcutta Crowd is still scratching their head.

  11. W. Del Monaco Reply

    I upgraded from Windows ME to XP. I made the icons bigger so they were easier to see. They now fill up the whole screen. When I try to return them to the normal size, I can’t see the OK button to process the change. Also, the colors on my screen saver all all screwed up. Any ideas?

  12. ken Reply

    To ‘find’ your missing windows when you ‘un-maximize’ and the windodw disappears:
    I was experimenting with a multi-desktop program and may have inadvertantly closed the multi-dekstop app while another app was running, as I no longer could see the window, just a taskbar icon.
    It took awhile to figure this out, there’s nothing on the net about it almost.

    Download and run a small program called: GVWM.exe
    it’s a simple split desktop manager, freebie.
    ( I have it for d/l here if you need it:
    -ttp://apachego.com/dl/MultiDesk-GVWM.zip

    maximize the missing window program and start to drag it to another window.
    all of a sudden, the ‘not-maximize’ button shows, an dyou can get control of the window back.

    I made sure the window was in the main screen, upper left, and closed out of GVWM

    voila.

  13. manix Reply

    Real helpful article, hurray I can see my window again, never thought of using the arrow keys to resize. Nice work.

  14. Alan Reply

    Thank you very much! I’ve been a user for all these years and I found your information very useful! I appreaciate your help.

  15. Shailesh Kamble Reply

    I have a similar problem. when i am open one or more window.my problem is when i am minimize the window i can not see to start bar.plz. help me i am waiting for ur guidence
    [Email Address Removed]

    Shailesh

  16. Nathan Reply

    Resizing my window using the technique in the article works, but if I close the window or app and open it again I am back to where I starte. The close, max, min, boxes are off screen. Adjusting my settings has not helped either. This just started the other day.

  17. Richard Reply

    Hi, I’m having a similar but slightly different problem. I’ve loaded an application which for some reason doesn’t have a horizontal scrollbar. There are important buttons off the right hand side of the window which I can’t get to because I can’t scroll over to them. The resize window option (alt+space) has been disabled.

    Does anyone have any ideas how to resolve this?

    Thanks,
    Richard

  18. Kunle Reply

    Many thanks Leo…for some strange reason some applications were stuck on another screen I do not have! I also could not resize them. I used the alt+space+m command & I’m all sorted now :)

  19. Steve Reply

    when i minimize anything i cannot see it at the bottom of the screen to re-open it

    thanks
    steve

  20. marie Reply

    press alt+space and choose unmaximize.
    this will solve ur issue..

  21. rebakan Reply

    Sorry if I am posting in the wrong article.Do you know the small dimensional blue points there are in a blank paintbrush window when you open it? How can I make them bigger so I can see easily?
    It seems there isn’t anything in windows to set it to a bigger size.
    Thanks rebakan

  22. Randy harding Reply

    Thanks, I recently added a second monitor slightly smaller than my existing monitor. At some point my application went of the screen on the smaller one and I could not move it back. This article helped solve!

  23. homebldr Reply

    Thanks for the posting the article! I’ve spent 1 hour trying to move/resize a window that somehow “disappeared” from the desktop, thanks to the keyboard commands i was able to move it so i could see it! Thanks again, keep up the good work!!!

  24. Malc K Reply

    You certainly helped me, Leo! I usually use 2 monitors and change settings accordingly, but when I had to go soemwhere else where only one monitor was available, some of the windows I tried to open flew off the screen as though openeing on the missing monitor, even though the graphics options were definitely set up for one monitor. Ctrl-space-m then using the arrows did the trick – many thanks!

  25. Brad Albing Reply

    The techniques described absolutely works. However, my Adobe Acrobat Pro continues to open new PDFs in a normal window that’s shifted up too far, so I have to keep doing the alt-space-X trick. Is there a reg-edit I can do that’ll fix this once and for all?

  26. Kelly Reply

    I accidentally installed some sort of google desktop option. It reduced the size of my screen and showed constantly (no way to minimize it), so I deleted the program through Task Manager. Now my screens wont go back to full scree.

  27. Terry Reply

    I’ve got a small window open but it’s positioned too high up.
    I can’t get to the top to move the small window around.
    I know there’s a key command that I can hold down while I drag the window, but I can’t remember it.
    Can you help?

    Terry

  28. John Dooley Reply

    I have the opposite problem. I can’t see the bottom of my window and need to click a button out of view. I’ve tried resizing but can’t view the bottom of the window.

  29. Gisela Reply

    My screen size changed suddenly, and I cannot see the left or right edge, and the top edge is almost invisible. I tried the advice with ALT + Space, and it brought up the menu, but only the buttons close, minimize and maximize are highlighted. Can anyone help?
    Thanks!

  30. wendy bartlett Reply

    Brian, had same problem on my Vista. JUST fixed it, whew! Went to control panel/Nvidia Control folder.In select a task, I selected “move CRT screen position”, then on followed directions and tapped bottom arrow until it wouldn’t move down anymore, then hit apply. Suddenly the media center window dropped down enough to access the top buttons! I pulled it down further, then moved the screen arrows to shift my desk photo up back to normal.No resolution fussing, nothing! So simple, yet so elusive…

  31. Judith Wagner Reply

    Another method is to right click the taskbar and select “Tile Horizontally”. (If only the misplaced app is open, run an instance of Notepad, etc. so that there will be at least two windows to tile). This should bring all window boundaries within the screen space, where they can be dragged to the appropriate dimensions.

  32. Alwiren Reply

    I have a problem. I was playing a game on full screen and when I needed to do something else while I was playing I pressed my Windows Button key and I went to the desktop. After I was done I clicked on the game that was minimized in my taskbar and the cursor of the game changed and when I clicked on any empty space in the game, it took me back out to the desktop. Can you please tell me how to get rid of that problem please?

  33. Jennifer Barkow Reply

    at-space can maximize..mini…etc but it does not answer the problem. your just giving keyboard shortcuts that arent going to help this issue. the window is at the top and when u press alt-space u get the options that u said but still…how does this help the problem. u can also just click it at the btm to max-min so why waste ur time with alt-space…can someone actually address this issue..the actual question posted. u can close the window, u can max the window BUT when u min the window…it goes right back to the same spot and stuck at the top….we need to move the window but cant grab the top…help us with this problem

  34. Robin Quinn Reply

    To the last poster, I believe he DID address that issue when he wrote “To move (which only works if your window is visible and not maximized) hit alt+space, m for move, and then use the arrow keys to move the window all around. Press enter when done.”

  35. Carol Reply

    Yay! I have been looking at this darn window that I could not close for days. This worked in a minute.
    Thanks!

    C

  36. SteveG Reply

    Thanks for your column! I have a dual monitor setup at work, but when I undock my laptop, some programs didn’t display. The alt+space tip was just what I needed!

  37. graeme Reply

    thank you so much, my firefox window was stuck where I couldn’t move it but the alt-space, m tip worked a treat.

  38. Keith Maillard Reply

    What you suggested worked in seconds! I love you.

  39. Aleksandr Konjushenko Reply

    I don`t belive, but it helps me to resolve my issue. Thanks from me too!!!

  40. Jarad Reply

    Instead of saying “Alt+Space” you should qualify that with “Alt+Space (space = spacebar)”. Plus, you didn’t give good clear instructions on when to press and release which buttons. I had to tinker around with it to find when to release and when to press.

  41. Sze Reply

    I’ve been quite a whiz kid because of you! Gee, thanks for sharing.

  42. pam Reply

    Very helpful Leo but my problem is a window WITHIN a program (photobook to be exact.) The “crop picture” window opens but will not show the bottom of the window where the close button is. Tried your remedy but it only minimises the whole program. The inner window is still there and uncloseable. Can you help please?

  43. connie Reply

    @Pam,
    See if the program doesn’t have a zoom feature. There is a chance that if you zoom out you’ll be able to find the edges.

  44. Mona Reply

    I still can’t click in the box to continue the downloading process. I can move the page but can’t get my cursor in the box to accept the program.

  45. Brad Reply

    These are great – thanks!

    On my computer running Windows XP, it’s not necessary to type Ctrl-Shift-F10 to bring up the right-click menu. You can do it with Shift-F10.

  46. Mark J Reply

    Ctrl+shift+esc is what I use to quiclky access the Task Manager. And yes, it, and other shortcut key combinations, work in Windows 8. Crtl+esc brings up the new Metro interface screen.

  47. Benjamin Reply

    What I do in Windows 7 to get around this is I open Task Manager, right-click an open window, and select Maximize. Then I click and drag the titlebar down from the top of the screen, so that it restores down.

  48. Mitch MacKay Reply

    Uh Duh: What seemed to work for me is simply using the mouse to drag the screen back where you want it, click below or above lighted screen and drag. Also system restore will return to former date before the problem. As usual no solution seems to apply to anyone else’s problem but…

  49. Dan Reply

    We have a program that we run that spawns off report windows. Sometimes a user will run it with two monitors, and then run it next time on lapatop. The last location ran gets stored in the registry – so it might be pointing to a spot off the screen completely. If that happens we tell them to (before they do anything else) hold the [Alt] button, then hit the [Spacebar]. That will bring up the Move option (if they hit any other keys or click with the mouse, the missing window might not be the active window, and if they cycle through it will never find the spawned window, just the window that spawned it in the first place). When they click on Move, the 4 point arrow will appear at whatever edge the missing window is closest too. So if it appears on the far left, then use the right arrow key to bring it back on the screen. If it is at the top, then use the down arrow, etc…

  50. Mark Reply

    The Alt F4 command has always been good to me in these situations. Alt F4 closes the window you are in.

  51. Engineer10388 Reply

    Great, great stuff. Knew some of the tricks, after being heavy PC user since the days of MS DOS, but this old dog learned some new ones. BTW, my 1st desktop “PC” abt 1984 was $4500! It was max’d out… 640K of RAM, dual floppies, plus a huge 30MB HD, the largest DOS could handle. :-)

  52. Paul C. RAwbone Reply

    I have just read all through this artical 404 ” I can’t see ——”, and, some of the attached comments. Although I have not yet experienced this problem -I have printed off this page for future reference and, have moved the entire letter to my – “Ask Leo ” folder,- along with all the rest that I keep there. As I am now, just a retired relatively novice user – often requiring solutions to my “problems” – I find the “Ask Leo”newsletters /forums quite invaluable.

  53. Alasdair Reply

    Hello Leo,

    Thanks for all the good advice and info.

    My tip is to place shortcuts to the calculator and the snipping tool on the taskbar (positioned left and next-left) then when you need them, all you need to use is the or key combo.

    Probably doesn’t work before Windows 7, and you need the FLAG key, but is a handy shortcut, I reckon.

  54. Alasdair Reply

    The key combos I am referring to are FLAG + 1, and FLAG + 2.
    I used the ‘arrow’ keys in the original post, and they made the stuff inbetween ‘invisible’.
    So I’ve learned something else!

  55. Peter Wall Reply

    Hi Leo & Folks.

    I’m surprised Leo did not mention the Alt+Tab key sequence – it cycles through all active applications letting you choose which will receive focus. There was a time when I worked quicker with just the keyboard – no mouse – but lately I find more and more application features are not easily accessible without a mouse or keypad. The classic Windws XP menu interface actually showed the shortcot key combinations in the menu command lists. Unfortunately, that idea has gone by the wayside with the “ribbon”, a supposedly enhanced menu bar.

    Maybe Leo, in pointing out that Windows help contains documentation on all available shortcut keys, was attempting to motivate novice users to use Windows help as much as possible, but I would agree with anyone of like mind that often the help system can be difficult to navigate or search without some intimate knowledge of basic Windows terms.

    Still, my appreciative thanks to Leo. He provides a wondrous amount of practical and sage advice.

    Peter Wall

  56. Janice Reply

    You are brilliant! This has been driving me crazy for weeks and now it is fixed…..THANK YOU!

  57. DC Reply

    AWESOME!!! The ALT-spacebar-s is one I didn’t know and it worked when nothing else would.

  58. Eddie Reply

    Ive tried these methods but when I’ve moved it to we’re I’m happy with, I press enter and it goes back to we’re it was!
    Any help appreciated Eddie

  59. connie Reply

    Eddie,
    Keep fiddling around with it and you’ll figure it out. The important thing is to get the window moving. If you can manage to move it to where you can click on the top bar and move it regularly, then you are doing good. At that point you can move it to exactly where you want very easily. Trying clicking at the end instead of hitting enter.

  60. ArtIsJunky Reply

    Thank you much for your Help Leo. I will start referring to your page when I need more help ^^!

  61. michelm Reply

    Thanx a bunch, out of the blue no blue bar on top and what a pain! But Alt + Space bar menu got me out of trouble – I clicked on move it was too fast for me to see what happen but I think my folder was back to normal!
    :) MM

  62. Mike Mounier Reply

    Here’s another handy keyboard shortcut: CTRL+SHIFT+F10 is often the same as right clicking. While you’re arrowing around those desktop icons or the notification area or elsewhere, give it a try!

    Just a little FYI : the [ Ctrl ] key is redundant in this shortcut . . . [ Shift ][ F10 ] alone does the job.

  63. mimi Reply

    thank you. I had been dinking with it for 30 minutes. rebooted and the stupid window was still where i couldn’t get to it. I just typed in “i cant see the top of a window so I can’t minimize maximize or close what can I do” and i found your website.

    THANK YOU quick fix and good lesson!

  64. sara Reply

    hii
    my page email Yahoo! does not open completely and gave this message
    “Your screen elements are hidden from view. Press Esc or move the cursor to the centre of the screen to return to Mail.”
    what is problem?

  65. Bjorn Reply

    I got to this because I was trying to find a fix for a problem regarding windows moving north when I engage the task bar. But of course the problem you showed the solution to was different. Anyway what happens is that if I move a window, say the IE Explorer window such that its bottom border is a couple of inches above the task bar while the top border is pretty much in line with the top of my screen, and them engage the task bar, the window moves up thereby hiding the top portion of the menu. If I move my mouse up to the top of my screen the window moves back to its original position. Very annoying indeed. Is there a fix for this?

  66. Amanda Reply

    Thank you! I was getting so annoyed with my window being lost at the top of my screen, and this helped a lot.

    • Chris Reply

      Amanda…does this apply to XP. I still can’t click on my title bar.

  67. Chris Reply

    I must be missing something here. If I open an application I have the problem of the title bar and buttons going up out of sight. I’ve read your article but all it allows me to do is move a window around the screen in any position. How does doing that resize the window to fit the screen allowing access to the title bar?
    Just before I had this problem I had altered the aspect ratio on the monitor, would this have made a difference?

    Thank you.

    • Leo Reply

      You can move it around to make the title bar visible. OR, if you look at the system menu that pops up on ALT+space, *if* the “resize” option is there you can use that to resize the window as well.

      But if you have any border of the window visible, and if the window even can be resized (some cannot be), then you can simply click-hold-and-drag to resize that border, and then move presumably the window around.

      Most common complaint is that not all windows are resizeable. This is a decision made by whomever wrote the software that displays it.

  68. Nathiya Reply

    When i minimize the windows explorer or any other folder it will not fix in the task bar.how to i get this to task bar?

      • Nathiya Reply

        When i minimize the folder and the running application it not get minimized in my task bar otherwise it will minimized in my desktop itself.why? and how to rectify the problem

  69. Nathiya Reply

    If i do rename for the folder in my system it show the error like this
    An unexpected error is keeping you from renaming the folder.If you continue to receive this error,you can use the error code to search for help with this problem. Error 0x8007000D:The data is invalid

  70. Regina T. Reply

    THANK YOU! I have this problem once in a great while, & I think I stumbled into fixing it once, but couldn’t remember. I tend to have some programs I run full screen, but most as a smaller window, & it BUGS ME when I can’t have it the way I want!

  71. PG Reply

    It saved my day. My notepad++ was positioned out my screen. I just tried Alt+Spacebar +m and moved my screen back to my viewing area.
    Thanks a lot buddy.

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