Chrome got rid of the downloads bar: here's how to defy the cruel whims of Google and get it back

Google CEO Sundar Pichai at the Cloud Next '18 event in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who I hold personally responsible for the extra time it took me to find this photo of Google CEO Sundar Pichai after I downloaded it with Chrome. (Image credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Even good UI changes are met with hostility from belligerent software users who liked things the way they were, so I won't claim to know whether or not the choice to move Chrome's downloads list from a bar at the bottom of the screen to a tray at the top right is good UX design or not. I'll just meet it with hostility.

Until today, I was living in a dreamlike state of delusion over the loss of Chrome's download bar. I tilted my head at its absence every time I downloaded something, but rather than believing that some cruel Silicon Valley fiend would really move my downloads from the place they've been since before I even started using Chrome—so, for decades—I shook it off, found the file in Explorer, and left the mystery for another day.

@garrynewman: Chrome moving the downloads to the top right has ruined my entire life

(Image credit: Garry Newman)

It wasn't until I saw a tweet from Rust creator Garry Newman that I really comprehended the situation. "Chrome moving the downloads to the top right has ruined my entire life," he wrote.

The update happened on August 2, and makes Chrome more like Firefox and Edge, which also display recent downloads in a tray that sits minimized to the right of the address bar at the top of the screen. I guess download trays that run along the bottom of the browser and display file names in big, obvious boxes are old-fashioned. What's cool now, apparently, is hunting among all your Extension icons to find the downward-pointing arrow behind which hides the .zip file you want to open, or the .jpg whose directory you want to navigate to.

Not in my house! 

I changed it back, and you can, too. Here's how get the Chrome download bar back:

  1. Enter chrome://flags into the Chrome address bar, which will take you to its "experimental" feature settings
  2. Find "Enable download bubble" and set it to "Disabled"
  3. Relaunch Chrome

Do that, and your downloads will once again appear side-by-side in little boxes in a thick bar that, now that I look at it again, does seem pretty old-fashioned. Just how I like it.

There's no guarantee that the option to disable the new UI will stick around, so maybe someday I'll be forced to go on without my cozy shelf full of .rar files and .jpgs and files that I thought were .jpgs but were actually .webps. And maybe that's the day I finally log off.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.