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Beginner: Customize and Tweak Your System Tray Icons in Windows 7

00_notification_area

In Windows 7, the System Tray has become the Notification Area and it allows for more customization than was available in Windows XP. You can choose which icons in the Notification Area are visible and which are hidden.

This article shows you how to show and hide icons by dragging and dropping them and how to manually tweak the Notification Area icons, including showing and hiding program and system icons using the Notification Area Icons panel.

Customizing Your System Tray Icons

The Notification Area is accessible by clicking the up arrow on the taskbar to the right of the click and system icons, as pictured below. If you want an icon to be available without having to click the up arrow, you can drag that icon to the taskbar.

01_dragging_icon_to_system_tray

The icon moves to the notification area of the taskbar and is removed from the popup Notification Area.

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You can also manually customize the Notification Area by clicking the Customize link on the popup.

03_clicking_customize

The Notification Area Icons screen on the Control Panel displays. Programs installed on your system that put an icon in the Notification Area are listed on this screen, even if they are not running at the time. Notice that the program we moved to the visible part of the Notification Area on the taskbar is listed at the top of the list with the Show icon and notifications option selected. This option makes the icon visible at all times on the taskbar.

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To make other icons visible at all times on the taskbar, scroll down in the list until you find the desired program. Select Show icon and notifications from the drop-down list. The Only show notifications option shows an icon in the popup Notification Area only unless it has a message to display. Then, it moves to the visible area. The Hide icon and notifications option hides an icon all the time, even when it has a message to display. Be careful when using this option. You may miss important notifications.

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When you change an option for an icon in the Notification Area, the change is applied immediately. In this example, we chose to make SnagIt and Sizer visible on the taskbar, as well as WinSnap.

06_snagit_and_sizer_moved

Notice that there are three other icons that are visible by default. These are system icons. You can easily show and hide these icons as well. To do this, click the Turn system icons on or off link at the bottom of the Notification Area Icons screen.

07_clicking_turn_system_icons_on_or_off

The System Icons screen displays. Select Off from the drop-down list for each system icon you don’t want to display.

08_turning_system_icons_on_or_off

To return to the Notification Area Icons screen, click OK or click the Customize notifications icons link.

NOTE: We recommend you use the OK button to return to the Notification Area Icons screen. Every time you click on a link to “switch” between the Notification Area Icons screen and the System Icons screen, a new window is actually opened. It is better to close each window you opened by clicking OK.

09_clicking_customize_notification_icons

Notice that the program icons you chose to make visible on the taskbar are moved to the top of the list. These programs display at the top of this list while they are running, if the Show icon and notifications option is selected.

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If you have made changes and want to return to the default Windows settings for the Notification Area Icons, click the Restore default icon behaviors link. The same link is available on the System Icons screen, allowing you to return to the the default settings for the system icons.

11_clicking_restore_default_icon_behaviors

If you want all your Notification Area Icons to be visible on the taskbar, select the Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar check box. All icons in the Notification Area will be visible, no matter how much room they take up on the taskbar.

12_always_show_icon_and_notification_option

Once you customize your Notification Area icons, these settings are persistent. When you restart your computer and start one of the programs you chose to always make visible on the system tray, it minimizes to the visible area on the system tray again.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 09/28/11

Comments (8)

  1. Steve

    “Once you customize your Notification Area icons, these settings are persistent” Unfortunately this has not been the case for me. I have google’s gmail and gcalander notification icons and after I set them to always display, everytime I reboot I have to set them again. What am I missing?

  2. Yoshiyah

    This is a must for me as well. I am so glad that an article was done on this topic. I like having my Anti-Virus/Firewall Suite Always showing while hiding some Task Icons that are not as essential like USB Safely Remove or Valve Steam.

    This article was very helpful.

    Thanks.

  3. MJ

    The Notification Area works great on Windows 7. I keep all the system icons visible and the Safely Eject Media too (less clicks needed), all the others (normally this is only the ESET Smart Security icon) are hidden.

  4. Clever Mind

    FIX: The Taskbar is reset to the default settings when you use the “Automatically Log On” feature in Windows 7 and in Windows Server 2008 R2

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/979155

    “You configure a computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 to automatically log on when you start the computer. When you restart the computer, any customizations that you made to the Taskbar are lost and the Taskbar is reset to its default settings.”

    This problem occurs because of a race condition between Windows Explorer and Taskhost.exe.

    Fix is available from above URL.

  5. Nicholas Scott@Newswire release

    Most of the icons you add to your desktop will be shortcuts, but you can also save files or folders to the desktop. If you delete files or folders that are stored on your desktop, they are moved to the Recycle Bin, where you can permanently delete them. If you delete a shortcut, the shortcut is removed from your desktop, but the file, program, or location that the shortcut links to is not deleted

  6. jim

    Snagit?!?! Use lightshot!

  7. SJKeegs

    What I’d like to know is how to reorder the system tray icons. Win7 remembers the order of the apparently from the point in time when the icon is first recognized. If I grab an icon a move it to a different location, that location is only remembered for the current session. The next time I log on the icons will be in the old location.

  8. Ram Todatry

    Cannot see all the screen-shots or pics or diagrams when you print to a pdf file from your print button.

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