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Why do new windows open underneath others?

Question: I’m running Windows 7, 64-bit. I normally use the Firefox browser, sometimes Safari. A while back, I noticed that some really obnoxious pop-ups were appearing behind the window that I was looking at so I wasn’t seeing them until I minimized the used window. Recently, I accepted several new updates from Microsoft, which included IE10. I figured that even though I didn’t use it, I might get some security benefit from the new version, right? Now, every time a new window opens, it’s hidden behind everything else. Any help?

Whether you are using Internet Explorer or not, you need to keep that browser as up-to-date as possible because other components on your system are using it. You’re absolutely right to do that.

But what you’re seeing now are called pop-unders. Unfortunately, I don’t know why updating Internet Explorer would cause things to pop up behind your windows. All we can really do is take a look at some of the possible causes for what you’re seeing in general.

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What are pop-unders?

In the early days of advertising on the web, you’d see banner ads on web pages. Then, some advertiser got the bright idea of having an additional window pop up to display an ad. Eventually, that caused pop-up blocking software and similar features in your browser to become mainstream.

To get around this software, some sites are now using pop-under windows. With these, you visit a website and a new window appears behind your browser, so you don’t see it right away. In fact, you continue browsing and then when you minimize the browser or close the window, you finally see the advertising in that pop-under window.

So advertising is the number one cause of pop-under windows. For a (very short!) while, I used an advertising service that didn’t tell me that they used pop-unders on Ask Leo!. That relationship didn’t last very long because I really, really do NOT like them, and I suspect that you don’t as well.

The problem with pop-unders is that some pop-up blockers don’t block them. I don’t know what to do about that.

I presume that your pop-up blocker is enabled in your browser. If that’s not blocking pop-unders, that makes it difficult to suggest a solution other than not visiting sites that use pop-unders. Of course, you don’t see them for a while so it’s not always obvious which site it using them.

Single-click versus double-click

Another thing that comes to mind is whether you’re single-clicking or double-clicking the link. When you see a link on a web page, you click it once to go to that page. If you mistakenly double-click the link, it’s possible that the first click opens a browser window and then the second click causes your current window to come to the foreground. The result is that current window remains in front of whatever it is you just clicked.

The fix, of course, is to make sure that when you’re clicking links, you click them only once.

‘Always be shown on top’ settings

I have one more theory about how this could be happening. It actually is possible for programs to tell Windows that they must always be shown on top of other Windows. In fact, there are even some add-ons that allow you to apply that functionality to any window. But you would have to have downloaded and installed one of those to make that work.

But if you have a program that automatically forces Windows to do this, it can be annoying unless the program is doing something really important. Nonetheless, it could be another reason why you are experiencing this problem.

I don’t really have an answer to why it’s happening to you after your IE 10 upgrade, but I wanted to cover at least some of the basic ways that windows can show up underneath your current window.

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10 comments on “Why do new windows open underneath others?”

  1. This “windows open underneath” is a usual feature of using Windows XP–on the desktop as well as in my Firefox browser. I have always attributed it to just another aberation of the crappy MS software.

  2. Your ‘one answer at a time’ pages used to have a link for the next question in your Ask Leo Newsletter. Its not there anymore. Can you please reinstate the link.

  3. The big problem I think is that this is not just happening in web browsers, but also in Windows in general. Like when one installs something you get the ugly UAC prompt asking if you are really sure about what you are doing? And thats okay if it is displayed on top, but when it does a “pop under” it is not as fun. UAC though on the other hand is not the best example as it does give you a flashing box on the status bar, other programs does not, and you just sit there waiting for the progress bar to get moving.
    This also happened just a moment ago when I clicked (one click) another link about this problem, then I saw the page loading and suddenly it jumped to an older firefox window that I had kept open for later.
    And wasn’t going to try to solve this problem on my computer as I thought it had to do with the angry email I sent to {email address removed] years ago complaining about all these windows that keep jumping in front of the screen when processing something, like an installation of .Net or something that takes really long time. I don’t want to sit in the backseat and be unproductive while Steve and Bill are working on my computer, I want to be in charge!! I don’t need to see the progress bar even if it’s good that it’s there if I ever wonder how things are going.
    And I thought I was cursed!! It’s probably just the competing open-source software I’ve installed in windows!!!

  4. My husband is trying to tell me that porn pop ups on the search history can even cause multiple open windows that are minimized. I do not believe him. Also, to even get porn pop ups in the history, wouldn’t you have had to click on a related type of site initially to generate these types of pop ups? I’m not a computer expert by any means and would very much appreciate your help-especially with the answer concerning the open porn windows. TY!

  5. SO,
    You list a theory about why it happens, but not how to fix. My laptop, running windows 10 has always brought the new “anything” on top so I can work on it. Example. I am working on a word document, I got to the window on the bottom right and click on excel to create a new excel document. It used to come up in front, now it comes up in back and looks as though it never opens. This isn’t just in word and excel. If I am in the email window and click a link, I used to go to the link, now it stays in email….This started after an automatic update. It is very frustrating and I haven’t a clue how to switch it back. DO you? if so can you please share? it isn’t advertising pop-ups, it isn’t double clicking. it’s a new problem.


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