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Clean Up Past Notification Icons in Windows Vista

A very useful feature in Windows is the ability to automatically hide system tray icons when they are not in use. The problem is that over time, Explorer caches a list of every single icon that it’s ever seen, and your list might grow to hundreds of items that Explorer knows about.

The other issue is that Explorer keeps these items in memory somewhere, so it’s also causing bloat, but we can completely reset this list with a little tricky registry editing and recycling Explorer. Note that this will remove any settings you had set for the icons.

To get to the dialog we are talking about, right-click on the Taskbar and choose Properties, then choose the Notification Area tab, and click the Customize button.

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Just look at all the items in the list… I don’t even have some of those applications installed anymore.

Open up regedit.exe through the start menu search box, and then browse down to this registry key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\TrayNotify

Now you will see two entries in the list: IconStreams and PastIconsStream. Select both of them and delete them. (You may want to make a backup with the export function before you do this)

image 

Now we’ll need to recycle Explorer.exe by opening up task manager (You can use Ctrl+Shift+Esc), selecting explorer.exe in the list and choosing End Process.

image

Now go to the File menu, choose New Task and type in explorer into the open box. Hit enter, and explorer should restart itself.

image

Now your Customize Notification Icons dialog should show you a very clean list of items, but note that any settings you had will be reset to default.  

image

Note that some icons might disappear entirely until you reboot your computer. Also, if the Volume/Power/Network icons aren’t able to be selected in the taskbar properties dialog, you should be able to close it and re-open it and they will work again, but you might have to select them again.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/16/07

Comments (103)

  1. Wayne London

    Thanks for this. Just the other day I was wondering about this. Why were there things here that I got rid of? Now they’re gone. Wayne

  2. Yariv

    How can I do it on Windows XP?

    thanks.

  3. Bob

    Since this is a user registry setting, you shouldn’t have to reboot
    the system to get back missing icons. Just logoff and log back on
    to restore them.

  4. The Geek

    Good point Bob!

    I’m so used to writing “reboot” and “windows” in the same sentence :-)

  5. fergie

    i bought a system that came with vista pre-installed,been the geek i am made a mess of creating back up files can u help me .i can sem to be able to create a set whatever i do

  6. Doug Nelson

    Any way to automate this? Like have it run monthly?

  7. ola dim

    Good question from Doug Nelson. I have been using this method since XP, and to date, I am yet to see any of the so-called tweaking softwares on the market that has this. Ah well…

  8. Kathy

    Do tell how we can do this with XP…do not find the path as noted for Vista. Thank you.

  9. Digo

    For Windows XP go to these keys and do the same things as mentioned above:

    Windows XP – Click Start > Run > Regedit
    Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\TrayNotify
    Delete the IconStreams and PastIconsStream values.
    Open Task Manager, click Processes tab, click Explorer.exe, then click End Process.
    Still in Task Manager, click File, click New Task, type explorer, then click OK

  10. The Geek

    Thanks Digo!

  11. Kathy

    Thanks very much, I had figured it out shortly after. Great tip and fantastic site.

  12. Kathy

    Ok, now I’m able to do with Vista and XP but when computer reboots, the notifications come back. How do I present this from happening? I see your note regarding the default setting, but not sure how to change that.

  13. Bill Bryson

    You guys are the best! I used your instructions to clean up all those annoying leftover icons in my Vista notification area. I also put your site in my favorites list; I’m sure you’ll come in handy in the future :-)

  14. prasanna

    Cleaning up the notification Area worked good. Thanks. Now here’s one for you – when I am in Windows Explorer and I’m dragging a file or folder to another destination, Vista Home Premium creates a very large blowup of the icon, making it hard for me to see my destination. How do I get rid of this huge graphic or make it much smaller so that I can see what I’m doing?

  15. cscott

    i don’t think this is the same problem as described in the comments above. from time to time my entire task bar disappears. i don’t have the box checked that makes it hide so i’m not sure what is happening here. i don’t know if while i’m typing i’m hitting something making this happen…it’s driving me crazy. the only way to restore the bar is to reboot. please advise.

  16. Jeremy

    worked like a charm.

    great stuff i am extremely greatful

  17. steve knutson

    now my explorer crashes evertime i try to access anything on my desktop.

  18. mvail

    Amazing. Thanks so much

  19. Aditya

    Thanks Geek
    Awesome stuff!!

  20. Simon Yoong

    thanks a lot, it helped. appreciate this.

  21. Niklas

    This works for me too but it is not permanent. Even after the first reboot I see the same thing. My problem is quite intermittent, i.e. it does not happen on every reboot. I have tried fiddling with the power settings (adaptive display OFF) but it still reappears. It is driving me nuts!

    I am using Vista Ultimate on a DELL Vostro 1400.

  22. KB

    THANK YOU. Worked perfectly! First time I’ve visited this site, but won’t be the last.

  23. Brian Goulet

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH…..Worked Great!!!

  24. sbw07

    This only works for me if I close Windows Explorer as The Geek said to; using Task Manager.
    However if I try to use the hidden trick to close Explorer explained elsewhere by The Geek – Ctrl+Shift+
    right-click in empty space of the start menu – the notifications are not erased.

  25. sg9

    Thanks!

    I was missing BOTH my Volume and my Network icons.
    Your technique worked like a charm.

  26. stargate

    Thanks – worked perfect !

  27. Natalie

    Genius!

  28. noy

    hey guys my problem is still the same. my taskbar and icons keeps on appearing and disappearing. ive done different solutions and still nothing happens. what do you think is the problem? thanks!

  29. Michele

    Thanks for the easy to follow steps! It worked! Thanks so much!

  30. Steve Schwab

    Thanks very much. An annoying problem solved by your easy to follow instructions.

  31. Ben

    Thanks for your help, really easy little guide that solved my problem!

  32. thesun

    very nice function. thanks for posting this tip on cleaning up those icons.

  33. Ellie

    Thank you so much! This problem has been driving me crazy for weeks. Your instructions were easy to follow and the screen captures were very helpful.

  34. John

    How do i permanently remove the icons from starting up and sucking memory?

  35. Zhizara

    My computer will not allow me to open “Classes” to get to the hot keys.

  36. Marcel Anthony

    Well done offering us this easy and well explained method of cleaning up this iconic mess.
    Thanx a zillion from the The Hague :-)

  37. xashira

    that helped me with the issue. thnx a ton.

  38. MURTI

    i found this and it worked unfaulty (on xp)

    “I had the exact same problem, and while I cannot be absolutely certain that what I found relates to your situation, I think that it might. What I found was that there seems to be a bug in Windows XP, and that for some inexplicable reason, Universal Plug and Play can cause icons to disappear from the system tray.

    There are two places where you can manage the presence or absence of UPnP in Windows XP:

    First, Control Panel, Add or Remove Programs, select Add/Remove Windows Components (on the left), then click on ?Networking Services? and ?Details?. You will see ?UPnP User Interface? listed. (this seems to be the setting that is relevant to this issue).

    The second place is in the Windows Firewall, in the Exceptions Tab (you must first have allowed Exceptions in the general tab).

    I have no idea why there is an interaction between UPnP and the icons in the system tray, but when I removed UPnP from Control Panel Add/Remove Windows Components, on my system the problem disappeared.

    After I originally found this last November, other people reported a similar connection. My original report of this link (between UPnP and disappearing system tray icons) was in a now-expired Microsoft Newsgroup article from last November, which is no longer directly available, but this link will bring up the message thread.

    Hope that this helps.”

  39. andrew

    i did this one but when i restart the computer the issue re-occurs; but if I shut it down and turn it back on it will show in the taskbar…

    how do i resolve this?

  40. Rome

    Thanks Geek… It was great! :)

  41. Rich Emmerson

    Thank you very much. My volume, network, and power icons had all gone awol, and now they’re back! What ever the advertisers pay you, it should be more.

  42. Stephen Yavorsky

    My “Customize” button was greyed out (within Taskbar and Start Menu properties/ Notification Area), so I could not proceed according to your next instructions. So how do I first re-activate the “customize” button, so that I can continue from there?

    Thanks.

  43. Georgina

    I have Vista Business on my machine and noticed that the path to the TrayNotify key is different. I found it at:- HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\TrayNotify

  44. Eva Chan

    Awesome, I have these problems since I got my laptop, glad I can find the solution here, Thank you!

  45. wguru

    Related issue of mine was that most every icon as seen in my’ Vista’s “customize” pane (for tray icons) was the wrong icon, absolutely MS weird (eg; while actual icons in the tray were correct in every respect, those icons seen in the customize pane were all fouled up, SpyBot for WMP, Symantec for Privacy Mantra, etc., etc., etc.). TweakUI needs this one for sure.

  46. guy

    oh my main man you solved my problem thank you very much. ive been trying to remove this icons like forever. again thanks i love you man

  47. Robert

    Thanks mate, it was just what i needed! Cheers!

  48. Ali

    Thx bro that solved my problem….:D cheerzz :)

  49. Eric

    I don’t have a directory called TrayNotify under CurrentVersion. Is there a problem with my PC or is it just not showing or something?

  50. suki

    this one helped me to get rid of the things.thanku dude.

  51. Mahesh

    Thanx.. I needed this!!

  52. Tan

    I tried to perform these steps but this didn’t resolve the issue…….can u help me out with something else…..

  53. pranay

    there is no tray notify..what to do?

  54. WalterPaschukat

    Hi there,

    had this problem with missing network, power and audio icons in the tray after the SP2 installation on Vista Home premium – your advice worked perfectly, thanks :)

  55. Arun

    you solved my problem thank you very much

  56. Karan

    thanks!!!!
    it worked!

  57. cannonball

    Worked for me!

  58. ryan

    Thank you so much… this worked, your awesome.

  59. Dennis

    Awesome! :)

  60. jai

    thank you: it’s worked for me also

  61. David

    Hey thnx bro, worked awesomely…

    thnx agen

  62. shawn

    thanx bro

  63. EFR

    Thanks so much. I have been fighting this for months. The previous advice I had was to fix through Group Policies Editor – gpedit.msc – disabling the hide icon for power, volume and network. It worked for a while, but then they disappeared. Hope this one works for a while.

  64. SJP

    This problem has been driving me crazy!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the excellent instructions on the fix!!!

  65. Jake

    Thanls soo much, took me soo long to figure this out lol

  66. abby

    It doesn’t work for me I am using a HP pavilion on vista home platform and even after clearing the past icons and the other thing on the registry and then kill and task the explorer, it does not work. HELPP I don’t know the power status of my com, and when I need to charge it nor my network status. Its been a thorn in my flesh.

  67. David

    THANK YOU!!!!!

    Spent almost an hour trying to fix this, the dell support website was useless (as usual), and every other site I found had very confusing instructions that you pretty well had to be a programmer to understand. Followed these steps, took 2 minutes, and it worked perfctly

  68. Lucas

    Thank you for this simple and effective process. I had to sift through a lot of #### to find this! Thank you again.,
    Lucas

  69. David

    Why do we have to do these things. This is a bug and Microsoft should fix it so we shouldn’t have to research and fix these problems every time they occur in Vista and Win7 (still)!

  70. Dale

    Thank you, for this fix on repairing the battery icon that when missing after the January updates ran…mine was gone, too. Your solution was successful and the power/battery icon is back on the toolbar.

  71. Griff

    Thanks man! that was a solid fix and the screen shots and explanation was unreal!!!

  72. Robert Rutkowski

    Dude, the places you describe above don’t even exist in the registry. Under current version, is ‘deployment’. There is no ‘tray notify’ under current version and I’d be glad to provide a screen shot if you’d like. I another article a dude calims this is somewhere else and wherever it was, that didn’t exist either.
    Let me know if you want a screen shot or snippet.

  73. carrie

    Many thanks, worked perfectly :-))))

  74. Michael

    Worked wonders, thank you.

  75. Sara

    This did not work at all. I’ve tried it several times, but every time I reboot, the icons are still grayed out, and I cannot click on them. Is there another way to solve this problem?

  76. Stace

    Works for windows7 as well. Just use alt&tab to switch back to task manager when you end the explorer process in task manager :) Very happy…… Yippppeeeeeee

  77. SONJA

    Until now I wuld have never done anything that had the word ‘REGISTRY’ in it. Now with your help I am not a ‘SCARE-D-CAT’ ….as much. My notification area is so clean now, its SCAREee.

  78. mike

    Worked like a dream dude, I thought the battery notification icon would disappear …..like… forever.

  79. Caito Gabetta

    Had tried lots of different thinks….. Nothing had worked…
    This was terrific. Thanks very much for the posting, it definitely SAVED me.
    Keep on saving people…..
    And as I could see on the comments you have been saving lots of dudes….

  80. pamela

    need help with my laptop i can not get it to run in normal mode it will work in safe mode my laptop is gateway

  81. huda

    you are great!!!thank you alot

  82. sunny

    (You may want to make a backup with the export function before you do this).I didnt get this point….Can anyone explain it..what to & how to take a backup??? thanx

  83. abumuadth

    Thanks a Million . I followed your instructions precisely and I got my power notification icon back !!!
    couldn’t be more perfect . Thanks .

  84. HappyPersonNow

    Thank you soo much. I leave the computer for a few hours and come back to get on and the volume was not working. I found out that the icon was no longer there, the box to bring it back greyed out, and the volume on mute no less. but your reseting the “icon streams” worked wonderfully. thanks a billion. :)

  85. sam

    i did this a while back, worked fine, but now im trying to do it again and the icon stream files in my reg. are gone. is there a fix… thanks in advance…

  86. Stephanie

    thanks! been trying to remove those annoying icons for the past month. xD

  87. Zoe

    amazing! thankyou

  88. bud 6670

    it worked for me too, thanks a bunch

  89. Enzo

    It worked for me too. Thanks

  90. BBrown

    Windows XP Trying to use this fix solution and The path you describe doesn’t even exist in the registry. Under current version, is there is no ‘tray notify’ under current version

  91. cptwetleg

    everything went well until the next move was “new task run” pressed enter,”" explorer” did not start instead windows opened a file location that had nothing to do with “explorer” also after deleating “explorer” my computer shut down showing warning notifications, I restarted normally still task manager again opened up a file location with no “explorer” file. when I clicked on file-new task (run). now it`s system restore,

  92. Penn

    Thanks..it worked like a dream. No rebooting or signing out or in.. The icons just reappeared. Of course, I first checked that all my files were still in the System32 folder. :)

  93. Gav

    Thanks man. I have Windows 7 and when trying to open the ‘customize notification area icons’ explorer was crashing. Deleted the reg keys in your article and it’s now refreshed and working fine. Cheers.

  94. Oek-Oek

    working on windows 7…???

  95. Linda

    OMG Thank you so much! It took me from over a dozen icons down to the 5 I usually use. Yay!

  96. Josh

    Wow this worked great for me. I don’t know if this is connected, but I started my computer in safe mode and then restarted it regularly and some icons went missing. Your fix helped perfectly. And for the record I am totally tech challenged so great instructions as well!!

  97. Randee

    It work great . thanks!!!

  98. Sandeep

    IconStreams,PastIconsStreamIsNotShowingInRegistry

  99. Jive Turkey

    Thanks. It works on Windows 7 too!

  100. nicoroxasiii

    thank you geek for the help!

  101. antero

    I got it. but my notification area had´nt that junk files! good job guys!

  102. Patti

    Did not work for me -

    I’m having one of these troubleshooting issues with this in which I want to just throw the laptop out the window….

    WINDOWS OSs are just AWFUL!!!!!!

    So clunky – I’m tired of spending extraordinary amounts of time troubleshooting…..

    I can’t wait until I can afford a Mac…..

    I wrote the developer of the program from hell and I await his response…

  103. Patti

    In fairness to the developer of BatteryCare – I didn’t want to leave my last post hanging…..

    His program could very well work perfectly for others – I never used it, wanted to uninstall and ran into problems – it could very well be my system and not the program but that’s part of troubleshooting isn’t it…..

    I received a lightening fast response from him too in answer to my email and he’s been very helpful….

    That’s it! Thanks!

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