Photo credit: Windell H. Oskay,
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How to drag an off-screen window back to the desktop (in Windows)

January 28th, 2008

This is a problem I just had (in Windows XP): My graphics card was set to force a TV display, even though I did not in fact have anything hooked up to my TV-out connection. Unfortunately my system chose to use the (non-existing) TV display as the primary display, so when I right-clicked on the desktop to access the display settings (so I could turn the TV output off), the display settings were displayed… on the TV screen. Which I couldn’t see. A nice little catch-22 there. Not to worry, there’s a solution.

Solution one: using the taskbar. If your off-screen application shows up in the taskbar, just right-click the application there, and select “move” from the pop-up menu. Then, without moving the mouse, click, then drag. Your window pointer should have been moved to the application window, so now you should holding the window, and should be able to drag it back to the screen you are seeing.

Solution two: for applications that do not show up in the taskbar. The desktop settings window does not show up in the taskbar, so you can’t do it as described above. Here’s what to do.

  1. Right-click the desktop and select “properties”. The “Display Properties” window open, but you can’t see it because it’s on a secondary, invisible screen.
  2. Press alt-space. This will open the window menu, like when you right-click on a window title bar.
  3. Press ‘m‘ on your keyboard. This will select “move” from the window menu. (This may not work if you are using Windows in another language… try it on a window yuo can see and figure out what key to use)
  4. Without moving the mouse, click, and then drag until you can see your window. Alternatively, you may use the arrow keys to nudge the window back to your desktop. (You can also use the arrow keys to move a window off-screen, although I’m not sure why you would ever want to do that.)