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When you run more than 6 applications on Windows 7 and you press alt-TAB, icons representing the first 6 applications and the desktop appear on the first row of the grid and you can cycle with alt-TAB-TAB... through the 6 most recently used windows the usual way, but the 7th and other less recently used windows don't follow the same rules. Instead they get grouped together according to their application but disregarding whether they were recently used or not. This new behavior is mentioned here.

I am very used to the old way of cycling and the new system is driving me crazy. I tend to have 20 or so windows open at one time and I frequently need to alt-tab to the 7th or 8th window on the stack but it doesn't work the same anymore.

Does anyone know how to put back the old behavior, so that alt-tab-tab-tab... goes through the whole list in most-recent to least-recent order?

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Question is quite old now. But let me know if 1. Holding alt (any) and pressing tab - tab -tab ... and 2. alt + shift + [tab tab tab] (for backwards) work today with your machine. I am curious. – Anubhav Saini Aug 18 '14 at 7:49
Under System properties > Advanced > Performance options > Visual effects, I had adjusted for best performance I was getting grid of icons which is classic ALT+TAB behavior. So, I was curious. – Anubhav Saini Aug 18 '14 at 8:12
Let me know if that is not the classic grid. I think it is. Another thing, even then, 'Always on Top' applications get a special treatment. – Anubhav Saini Aug 18 '14 at 8:14
up vote 82 down vote accepted

To restore the XP Alt-Tab functionality simply, lauch regedit, add a DWORD named AltTabSettings to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer and set its value to 1.

And here's a one line powershell script which does the above:

Set-ItemProperty HKCU:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer AltTabSettings ([int]1)
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It worked! Thanks, accepted. Is there a way to turn off the weird W7 ordering without turning off the nice W7 large alt-Tab preview icons etc? That is, can I keep the W7 alt-tab interface but with the XP ordering? – Carlos A. Ibarra Mar 4 '10 at 19:16
+1 Oh, thank you so much for this! – René Aug 11 '11 at 12:03
Thanks. But why this happens? Why explorer forget to switch windows with Alt+Tab? – Isaac Oct 12 '11 at 15:11
@Isaac it happens due to change they wanted it to work, – eis Dec 18 '12 at 12:53
Paste reg add HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer /v AltTabSettings /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f into the "Run" dialog if you're too lazy to use PowerShell like me. – Evan Anderson Jan 10 '13 at 16:43

Not sure about tab order but you can access the old Windows XP looking Alt-Tab like this:

  1. Hold down the left alt key

  2. Press and release the right alt key, keeping the left alt key held down

  3. Then, still keeping the left alt key held down, tab-tab-tab away to you heart's content...

alt text

Thanks to BlogSofts via The Road To Know Where

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Nice! I didn't know it could do that! But it's a PITA that you have to hit the right Alt then the left Alt for this to work. – Hondalex Feb 26 '10 at 22:55
You do get used to it after a while :) – Shevek Feb 27 '10 at 7:57
Does anyone know how to make this the default behavior? I like that sooooo much better. – jimbojw Sep 30 '11 at 13:11
Add the "AltTabSettings" DWORD = 1 in "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer" then it'll become the default behavior. – deddebme Apr 13 '12 at 12:56
AMAZING! @Hondalex : also it makes it so you can't map this (in addition to the newer alt+tab) using the Steam Controller (without AHK magic at least) – Pair Sir Parser Apr 9 at 16:39

While I tried, liked and upvoted the accepted answer I found this setting by googling a bit more:

  1. Go to System Properties (right click “Computer” in an explorer window and choose properties)
  2. Click “Advanced System Settings” in the left panel
  3. You should be on the Advanced Tab, in the performance section, click “Settings…”
  4. Uncheck “Enable Aero Peek”

Turns out you can keep the W7 look but avoid the odd flashing behaviour (lack of better words) that is aero peek.

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Great tip! but I can't up-vote you because your answer doesn't seem to answer the original posters question. – jpierson May 13 '11 at 14:07
I'm upvoting yours b/c you have added another piece to the puzzle of "making alt-tab work like it used to." Thanks - great nugget! – stevemidgley Jul 12 '11 at 22:00
This answer works best if you can't edit your registry directly (perhaps on a locked down machine) – Gary Rowe Aug 20 '12 at 11:22
link doesn't work any more => always post the important piece from the remote site – sjngm Oct 13 '15 at 8:47
@sjngm Thank you for notifying me. I copied the steps from the link and edited my answer. – johnny Oct 13 '15 at 9:30

Did you try the combination "Win + Tab". It uses the aero interface but give you a full cycle of your applications.

share|improve this answer
Interesting, I always hated the Win + Tab switcher but it does seem to keep stack ordering so maybe I'll have to start giving it a try once again. – jpierson May 13 '11 at 14:10
@jpierson wow I never used it long enough to notice that. That's actually useful. – Pair Sir Parser Apr 9 at 16:40

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