Microsoft Fix-It to Disable Gadgets in Windows 7 and Vista

It’s hard to tell if they’re doing this to improve security, or if they’re just trying to push users towards the Metro interface …

Rumor has it that Microsoft is going to kill gadgets in Windows 8, and while nothing has been confirmed yet it seems like a move that aims to get users to work with the Metro interface and the apps it provides. There could be another reason though, and it comes in form of a security advisory for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

If you look at the reason for the advisory, you are probably wondering why that is only being addressed now and not previously. Here is Microsoft’s official statement regarding the issue:

Disabling the Windows Sidebar and Gadgets can help protect customers from vulnerabilities that involve the execution of arbitrary code by the Windows Sidebar when running insecure Gadgets. In addition, Gadgets installed from untrusted sources can harm your computer and can access your computer’s files, show you objectionable content, or change their behavior at any time.

First, there is a vulnerability in Windows Sidebar that could allow malicious gadgets to run run arbitrary code in the context of the current use. This is a security issue that needs to be addressed. But Microsoft goes on and explains that gadgets installed from untrusted sources can be malicious in nature. And that’s like telling us that software programs installed from untrusted software can be malicious. The consequence however is to disable the gadget engine and Windows Sidebar completely which feels like an over the top solution to the issue.

Microsoft has made available to Fix-It solutions that address the issue. One disables gadgets and the sidebar in supported operating systems, while the other enables the features of the system again. All you have to do is run the Fix It which will automatically enable or disable gadgets and the sidebar on the system. A system restore point is created prior to that.

microsoft fixit disable gadgets sidebar

Please note that the gadget is automatically using the primary language of the operating system, or, if not supported, English.

Administrators and users who do not want to use the Fix It solutions can disable the sidebar in the Group Policy or the Windows Registry instead.

Disabling Sidebar and gadgets manually

To disable the Sidebar using the Group Policy do the following (Group Policy is not available on all systems):

  • Bring up the run box with Windows-r, enter gpedit.msc and hit enter
  • Browse to Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Sidebar
  • Right-click on Windows Sidebar, select Properties, and there the Enabled button.
  • Log off or restart the PC to apply the changes

To disable the Sidebar in the Registry, do the following:

  • Bring up the run box with Windows-r, enter regedit and hit the enter key.
  • Go to HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Policies
  • Right-click on Policies and select New > Key and enter Windows as its name
  • Right-click on the new Windows key, and select New > Key and type Sidebar as the name
  • Right-click on Sidebar and select New > DWord (32-bit) Value and name it TunrOffSidebar
  • Right-click TurnOffsidebar and change the value to 1
  • Log off or restart the system for the changes to take effect.

Both solutions disable the sidebar in the operating system.  (via Mike)

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