Sorry, no more Windows Sidebar or Gadgets!


When Windows Vista came out, Microsoft touted a great new feature called Gadgets (originally mounted to the Sidebar in Vista but were free-floating in Windows 7) which we were led to believe was a very innovative and unique desktop feature.  These modular little programs hovered on your desktop doing a variety of little functions like displaying the time, showing a mini calendar or even gave you recent stock prices.

The truth is that several operating systems already had this modular utility for some time.  Despite that many people welcomed the change (including yours truly) because it was immensely helpful to have these pieces of code just delivering this content in a small package.

Last week it was announced that Microsoft has found vulnerabilities in these little modules and that they should be disabled to protect your computer.  Personally, I am very disappointed because I get a lot out of these applications and I did some research to see if there was a way to block this vulnerability. 

The fact is, the blocking is only as good as the code used to create the Gadget.  Some of those Gadgets are written by 3rd parties and even the Microsoft-created Gadgets have potential vulnerabilities.  Microsoft’s “baby with the bathwater” approach is unfortunate but without resources to secure many thousand lines of code, I can understand the move.

Unfortunately I am left to advise to everyone that they disable the features immediately to provide security on desktop computers.  Thankfully there is a web page from Microsoft that you can go to and have these features disabled without a lot of fuss.  Please check out:  http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2719662 where you can have the features disabled.  Keep the link around in case they actually do fix Gadgets, because you can also re-enable the feature.

Many articles were written about this and I provide them below for your further reading:

TechNet: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/security/advisory/2719662
H-Online: http://www.h-online.com/security/news/item/Microsoft-advises-disabling-Windows-Gadgets-amid-vulnerability-fears-1636895.html
MSN Tech Blog: http://www.technolog.msnbc.msn.com/technology/technolog/microsoft-tells-customers-disable-windows-sidebar-gadgets-879132
Internet Storm Center: https://isc.sans.edu/diary.html?storyid=13651

Wade Stewart is the Managing Member of Stewart and Son Computer Services, LLC in University Place, WA and serves as a trusted partner to many local small and medium sized businesses.