Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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?

share|improve this question
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

4 Answers 4

up vote 69 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)
share|improve this answer
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, blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2008/07/01/8673981.aspx –  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

share|improve this answer
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

While I tried, liked and upvoted the accepted answer I found this setting by googling a bit more: http://blog.grushin.com/2009/12/04/windows-7-bring-back-old-alttab-behavior-turn-off-aero-peek/

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

share|improve this answer
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

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

protected by Community Oct 28 '12 at 13:42

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.