Fixing an Application That Appears in Task Bar but Doesn't Open

Sometime back while I was out of the office, my system crashed with a blue screen message about a hard drive failure.   Fortunately, I was able to restart and save any essential files that weren't already backed up.  When I got back to the office I ran SpinRite on the hard drive, it didn’t find any problems, and I have yet to have another crash.

But recently I launched a program which I had running during the crash.  The program appeared in the task bar but nothing happened.  When I clicked on the task bar icon it expanded to show a program instance, but nothing happened. When I right clicked on the task bar icon, it expanded to show the program, “Pin the program to the taskbar” and “Close Window.”  I clicked on the program and got an error saying the program could not access a needed file and the program was terminating.  I tried several times to get the program to run and each time I couldn’t see the program and eventually getting the same error.  I tried several fixes such as renaming the offending file, deleting the file, etc., but nothing worked.  Finally I restored to a virtual machine where I was able to run the application and finish my work.

Back in the office, I asked a coworker for some help to get a fresh pair of eyes on the problem.  I showed him what was happening and I was able to reproduced the error.  He sat for a moment and then said, “I wonder if it is running off the screen.”  He right clicked on the task bar icon looking for the “Move” option and it wasn’t there.  (In Windows7, you have to let the task bar item expand and them right click on the instance you desire in order to see the familiar options of “Restore, Move, Size, Minimize, Maximize and Close.”) [more]

Once he selected “Move” he was able to move the application window (using the arrow keys) back onto the screen so it could be viewed.

I then realized I was getting the access error, because when I right clicked on the task bar and then left clicked on the program, it was attempting to launch a second instance of the program.  It couldn’t do it because the program was already running and had locked the needed files.

“Moving” windows back on the screen is often required when you work with multiple monitors and then switch to work on only one monitor.  In this Gotcha, I hadn’t been working on multiple monitors, but the crash must have mixed up the window location.  “Move” fixed the problem.  If you can see an application icon on the task bar, but not on the screen, assume it is running and you need to “Move” it onto the screen.

General SpinRite Windows 7