Windows 10 has always included the Windows Defender antivirus, but many Windows users didn’t notice it was even there. To make it more obvious, Windows 10’s Anniversary Update adds a Windows Defender icon to the notification area on your taskbar.

The shield-shaped Windows Defender icon appears even if you’ve installed and are using another antivirus program, since you can now use Windows Defender alongside another antivirus. But you can dismiss that icon and clean up your system tray if you don’t want the clutter.

Yes, Windows Defender Will Still Work Normally

RELATED: What's the Best Antivirus for Windows 10 and 11? (Is Microsoft Defender Good Enough?)

Getting rid of the icon won’t stop Windows Defender from functioning. Windows Defender will still be running in the background, and you can still access it normally from Settings > System & Security > Windows Defender > Open Windows Defender or by launching the “Windows Defender” application from your Start menu. If it detects malware, you’ll still see a notification, too.

The only difference is that the icon will get out of the way and Windows Defender will go back to running silently in the background. Or, if you’ve installed another antivirus and haven’t enabled “limited periodic scanning”, Windows Defender won’t do anything at all unless you uninstall the other antivirus.

How to Remove the Windows Defender Icon

You can’t simply right-click the Defender icon and close it, nor can you open the Windows Defender interface and find an option to hide or unhide the icon.

Instead, the tray icon is produced by another program that launches when you sign into your PC. You can disable this autostart program from the Task Manager. To access it, right-click your taskbar and select “Start Task Manager” or press Ctrl+Alt+Del on your keyboard.

Click the “More Details” button, then click the Startup tab. Locate the “Windows Defender notification icon” option in the list, right-click it, and select “Disable”.

This will disable the Windows Defender tray icon, and it won’t automatically start whenever you log in. You can sign out and then sign back in–or restart your computer–and the icon will be gone, though Windows Defender will still run.

To get rid of the tray icon without signing out of your Windows user account, you can close the process manually. Click over to the “Processes” tab in the Task Manager and find the “Windows Defender notification icon” process in the list. Right-click it and select “End Task”. The Windows Defender tray icon will immediately vanish.

How to Restore the Windows Defender Icon

If you decide you want the tray icon in the future, you can restore it. Just head back to the Task Manager, click the Startup tab, locate the disabled “Windows Defender notification icon” program, right-click it and select “Enable”.

The next time you sign out and sign back in–or restart your computer–the tray icon will appear.

To get the tray icon back without signing out first, you can just launch the process manually. Press Windows+R on your keyboard to open the Run dialog. Type or copy and paste following command into the Run dialog and press Enter:

"C:\Program Files\Windows Defender\MSASCuil.exe"

The program will launch, and the icon will appear in your notification area immediately.

This process gets rid of the icon completely. You can also just move the tray icon into that little up arrow to the left of your notification area. Just drag-and-drop the shield icon onto that little arrow to hide it from your taskbar.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
Read Full Bio »