Posted by: Ed Tittel
Thanks to old friend, occasional co-author, and MS Security MVP Deb Shinder, I’m now aware of a snazzy little utility named 8GadgetPack that restores those ever-so-handy-and-informative desktop gadgets to Windows 8. For those who don’t recall, gadgets were stripped out of Windows just over a year ago because of security concerns, more or less in synch with the release of Windows 8 (here’s an undated MSDN article entitled “Desktop gadgets removed” that provides MS’s official rationale for that decision). Given that Ms. Shinder is a ten-year recipient of the MVP with a focus on Enterprise security — see her bio for more details — I feel even more comfortable adding back Gadgets to Windows 8 than I did before, in stubbornly refusing to give them up on Windows 7 (all of my surviving Windows 7 machines still run them).
The screen capture you see to the left of this text material shows what the default install of 8GadgetPack looks like on my production Windows 8.1 PC. It appears in the old-fashioned (but very handy) fenced-in sidebar area reserved on the right-hand edge of the screen that was introduced with Windows Vista, and removed in Windows 7. Those who elect to put their gadgets elsewhere, or do away with the fenced in area completely, need only right-click inside the sidebar and manipulate the program’s Options settings to arrange things more to their liking. I like these defaults (at least for now: it’s still only my second day with the program installed on my Windows 8.1 deskop) so I’m going to leave them alone for a while.
I’d more or less resigned myself to living without gadgets on Windows 8, resorting instead to a handful of other favorite tools to glean similar information from the OS to what’s show to the left of this text. But with the ability to regain access to both Network Meter and CPU Usage (both from AddGadget.com, and my two very favorite Windows gadgets because they show me what my PC is doing locally and on the network at all times with only a quick glance) I’m happy to put those items back on my Windows 8 and 8.1 desktops. The information they provide is simply too useful and informative to live without, when I don’t have to. And with dual layers of firewalls around my local network, and reasonably strong endpoint security software on all of those machines in addition, I’m willing to shoulder the security risks of compromise through those gadgets, given that my understanding is that it’s pretty minimal under these conditions.
I still need to find a reliable source for one more old favorite gadget, simply known in its own information block as the “Shutdown Gadget.” It provides a simple control bar with three icons: shutdown, restart, and logout current user. Like the other gadgets I use, it offers great convenience and easy access to functions I like to keep immediately at my fingertips (that goes double on those Windows 8 systems I own with touchscreens, where a fingertip is all that’s needed to activate those controls). By tracing it back to the name of the gadget file itself on one of my Windows 7 machines, I learned that it is named shutdown_v2.gadget, and remains available for download from Microsoft. The last time I went looking for this, I found several sites that purported to offer this item were in fact offering malware-infected payloads. The original from Microsoft remains entirely safe, so feel free to use the foregoing download link yourself, if you like.
To those who never really got into gadgets, I apologize for the “happy dance” tone of this blog post. Personally, I have always found some of these simple and tightly focused programs quite helpful, so I am delighted to see them return to my Windows 8 and 8.1 desktops. If this has been nothing more than a big ho-hum for you, after asking “Why are you still reading this?” I can add “So sorry for going off about something so apparently insignificant.” In my own case, however, the information the foregoing items provide to me (especially as I have to ponder whether or not to restart an apparently hung PC, or wait for some oddball resource consumption spike to work its way through my system) makes a certain amount of celebration entirely worthwhile. Woohoo!