Tackle a hidden menu bar in OS X

FinderIconXThe OS X Menu bar is the gray strip across the top of your monitor, that holds the apple menu and system and application menus on the left, and the status menus (menu extras) on the right. This bar should be present and active to allow you to control your system and applications; however, there may be instances where it is not showing all the time.

If this occurs, you may see other problems like your screen suddenly shifting to the left or right when you move your cursor towards the edge.

There are several reasons why the system menu bar may be hidden from view:

  1. Full Screen Apps

    If your are using an app that is set to full-screen mode, then the menu bar will be hidden by default. However, if you move your cursor to the top of the screen then the menu bar should appear to give you access to the application and system menus. To clear an app from full-screen view, you can try pressing Control-Command-F (though this sometimes does not work, depending on the app), or you can click the blue opposing arrows button in the menu bar when you place your cursor to the top of the screen to reveal it.

  2. Zoomed screen
    Screen zooming settings in OS X

    These options in the Accessibility system preferences can be used to enable and adjust the screen zooming feature.

    As part of its Accessibility options, OS X includes a screen zooming feature where you can hold the Control key and scroll, or press designated hotkeys to increase the size of items proportionally on screen. If you are slightly zoomed in, then while you may still see most of your screen, the menu bar may be hidden. Therefore try holding the control key and scrolling up and down to see if this changes the zoom level, or disables it.

    The use of the control key in this manner may require you to enable it, so if this shows no effect then go to the Accessibility system preferences, click the Zoom category, and check the appropriate options to toggle zooming on or off.

  3. Activate Mission Control

    Sometimes if the system does not draw the menu properly, then you may see some of its features be shown and be properly accessible, but without a proper background, or perhaps with a text coloring that is not easy to read. If this happens, then you should be able to overcome it by activating a full-screen feature like Mission Control, the screen saver, or a full-screen application.
  4. Log out and back in

    Finally, if the menu bar does not show up properly, try logging out and back into your system. If the background processes such as SystemUIServer that are responsible for managing the menu bar are hanging, then logging out and back in might help clear the hang and have them running properly. When you do this, the system may quit all services like the Dock and Finder, and only show a blank desktop background for a few minutes. Allow the system to stay like this and log out on its own, since at this point it is attempting to quit the hanging background processes. If you see no progress after about 10 or so minutes, then try resetting your system.

9 thoughts on “Tackle a hidden menu bar in OS X

  1. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

    It’s amazing how often this happens. If zooming is turned on it’s easy to invoke it with keyboard shortcuts clicked accidentally. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. terry

    I have this problem and none of the solutions worked for me. The problem first appeared when I closed
    safari and then reopened it. it opened in a small window. I used the blue arrows in the upper lefthand corner to maximize the screen and that is when I lost the menu bar. I can stretch the small box to somewhat fill the screen and keep the menu bar but I cannot stretch the box to cover the bottom task icons, i would like to get my full screen and menu bar back

  3. Sean Sculley

    I discovered the resolution to my problem was not with OS X at all: it was with the monitor. I had to reset the display to “fit screen” and voila, the menu bar appears.

  4. Orcasite

    My problem is with OSX. It insists on removing the menu bar whenever I expand the window to what used to “fullscreen plus menu bar–the old green dot.” Now it’s fullscreen or small window revealing distracting background windows.

    Why the change? More important, how to get rid of it?

  5. Jonathon Lewys

    This behaviour of Yosemite is intensely irritating.
    Using Keyboard Maestro, you can easily create a macro that solves this.

    This is my almost FULL window macro. Some extra code for VLC, which needs to be handled slightly differently.

    Keyboard Maestro does many other things as well as window size manipulation.

    The following code has been reworded for documentation purposes, but the macro actions are the same.

    see: http://forum.keyboardmaestro.com/t/yosemite-use-km-to-revert-default-behavior-of-the-window-zoom-button-green-circle-to-zoom-instead/705/2

    Triggered by any of the following:
    The Hot Key ⌃⌘’ is pressed <<<<trigger instead of green maximise button
    Will execute the following actions:
    Comment ‘This almost full window keeps the title menu bar in place and from disappearing’
    I added the extra test for VLC as it was not showing the progress bar at the bottom, not sure why.

    Set Variable ‘WINDOWPIXELSDOWN’ To Calculation 30
    Set Variable ‘WINDOWPIXELSHORIZ’ To Calculation 4
    Comment ‘If VLC add space at bottom for VLC progress bar’
    If All Conditions Met
    Application ‘VLC’ is at the front
    Execute the Following Actions:
    Display Text Briefly “resize VLC option”
    Select Menu Item in VLC
    Select: Video ⇢ Fit to Screen <<<using menu option to resize

    Otherwise, Execute the Following Actions: <<<ALL other applications e.g. Firefox etc
    Move and Resize Front Window <<ie your current window

    (SCREEN(Main,Left) offset by WINDOWPIXELSHORIZ,
    SCREEN(Main,Top) offset by WINDOWPIXELSDOWN,
    SCREEN(Main,Width) reduced by (2 * WINDOWPIXELSHORIZ) ,
    SCREEN(Main,Height) reduced by (WINDOWPIXELSDOWN + 2)

  6. sidn625

    I accidently hid it while using adobe reader. Now, how do i bring it back for adobe reader?

  7. Ron Lowther

    I had this problem as well but found this solution for users who recently upgraded to OS-X El Capitan.
    — Click the “Apple symbol” in the upper left corner
    — Select “System Preferences”
    — Click on “General”
    — Uncheck “Automatically Hide and show menu bar”

    Cheers, Ron

  8. Stephen Keating

    Just solved the problem, simply open safari, go to top left and click on green icon to either stretch to fullscreen or reduced screen. Choose the reduced screen, then simply move the cursor to the corners of window and stretch to the desired size (just below apple menu bar and just above dock).

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