How to install Google Desktop

Google sidebar

Note: In September 2011, Google announced it would discontinue a number of its products, including Google Desktop. Although Desktop could do several cool things, TBYB! was primarily interested in the Photos gadget, which was a handy way to display a small photo slideshow in the corner of your computer’s screen while working on something else. We also used The Quote gadget, which did the same thing with text. Slideshows are one of the very best ways to advertise to yourself, so we’re sad to see Google Desktop go. Fortunately there are several other ways to automatically deliver a rotating collection of pictures or text.

In the last article I introduced the concept of using desktop widgets (Google calls them gadgets) to display ads for yourself. As I said in that article, some widget collections require that you install a “widget engine” to run them. This article will show you how to install and configure the Google widget engine.

Google’s widget engine is buried inside a larger application called Google Desktop. Google Desktop is an application whose primary purpose is to index every document, photo and email message on your computer, and make that material searchable for you. Regardless of whether you think making all of your documents searchable is a good idea, I recommend that you consider installing Google Desktop just to get the Google widget engine. It’s that good.

You can configure Google Desktop to display a narrow column on the right side of your screen that Google calls this the sidebar. The sidebar is a container for your gadgets. You can add new gadgets to the sidebar, and arrange and configure them to your own preferences. I’ve gotten very used to working with this column on the side of my screen, and find that it’s a nearly ideal place to display my ads.

Note that as of this writing Google Desktop requires or Windows 2000 SP3, Windows XP SP2, or Windows Vista. Sorry Mac and Linux folks! Here are the system requirements.


  1. Go to
  2. Click Agree and Download.
  3. A download dialogue box will open for the file GoogleDesktopSetup.exe. Depending on your browser configuration, it may offer to open the file or save it to disk. Click through the steps to download and open GoogleDesktopSetup.exe.
  4. That will start the Google Desktop Installer. If you have some other programs open it may ask you to close them. Go ahead and do that.

Next you will see the initial Preferences page.

  1. Uncheck all of the boxes below:

Google Account features
[ ] Index and search my Gmail messages
[ ] Save my Google Gadget content and settings

Other settings
[ ] Set Google as my default search engine in Internet Explorer

(“Save my Google content and settings” enables you to display content you have created on multiple computers. That’s pretty cool and we’ll play with it later, but for now just note where it is and leave it unchecked.)

  1. Click Set preferences and continue.
  2. On the Enable Advanced Features page click Disable Advanced Features.

This completes the install. You will notice that a sidebar has appeared on the right side of your screen. Let’s do a bit of clean-up before we dig into the sidebar.

Configure Preferences

  1. On the Google Desktop page in your browser click Desktop Preferences.

There are several pages of preferences here, mostly about how you want Google to index the files on your computer. You may or may not want this functionality. Some people swear by it; others have privacy concerns. I’m agnostic about this debate. It doesn’t matter which you choose since we’re just installing Google Desktop as a stepping stone to get Google Sidebar. Note that it’s not indexing your data for everyone on the internet – just you.

  1. I do recommend reading through all four pages of Preferences and making decisions about what you want Google to index. Since I didn’t install it for the search functionality I unchecked everything I could. In addition, I specified my C: drive under Don’t Search These Items.
  2. The Preference setting that’s important for our purposes is on the Display page. Make sure the Search Box setting is Sidebar.
  3. When you have finished going through the Preferences pages click Save Preferences.

We’re finished with the browser window for now, so you can close it.

Looking ahead

In the next article I’ll describe how to customize the Google Sidebar for your personal advertising campaign. In the meantime I recommend playing around with the gadgets that are already installed in your sidebar to get used to how they work. Start thinking about which ones you want to keep, because you’ll probably want to make room for at least a couple more.

Other articles in the Google Gadget series

  1. Widgets and gadgets and klips (oh my!)
  2. How to install Google Desktop (you are here)
  3. How to use Google Sidebar and Gadgets
  4. How to rotate picture ads with the Google Photos gadget
  5. How to rotate text ads with The Quote gadget

Related articles

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  1. kristalsoldier
    Posted March 17, 2007 at 8:26 pm | Permalink


    Can the Google Sidebar be uninstalled via Add/ Remove Programs on Win XP?


  2. Lynn
    Posted March 18, 2007 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Yes it can. What you’ll see in Add/Remove Programs is Google Desktop. Go ahead and remove that and it will remove the Sidebar as well.