How-To Geek

Stop the Annoying "There are unused icons on your desktop" Popup Balloon

One of the most irritating “features” in Windows XP is the popup balloon dialog that tells you to clean your desktop. I booted up an old virtual machine a few minutes ago and encountered it again, so I decided to write up how to turn it off.



Right-click on the desktop and choose Properties, and then the Desktop tab, and then the Customize Desktop icon.


Now just uncheck the box for “Run Annoying Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days”


Just one example of a balloon I don’t want in my perfectly windy sky.

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 01/28/08

Comments (65)

  1. eszter

    But mine didn’t say “annoying”, do I still uncheck? JUST KIDDING.:)

    Thanks very much, this really is such an annoying “feature”, am glad to have turned it off now!

  2. Chris Hope

    Wow that’s so easy – thanks! That has to be one of the most annoying things in XP.

  3. TJ

    Wow, thanks. That’s been buggin me for years and I just never had the time to look up how to turn it off. How about something to turn off “This Device Could Run Faster” every time I stick my thumb drive in?

  4. Lisaweb

    Thank YOU! :-)

  5. The Geek


    Send me an email with a screenshot of that one, if you could… I’m not sure which error you are talking about, but I’d be happy to look into it.

  6. Jennifer

    Thank you so much, that was so annoying and now I am rid of it. It is funny how something so annoying can be so simple to avoid. I am forwarding your page to the rest of my friends.
    Keep up the great how to’s!

  7. Ronen

    Thanks alot !!!

  8. Syahid A.

    The simplest thing brings the simplest joy. And damn the ballon is so annoying.

  9. Catto

    Hey Now HTG,
    I am so thankful for this post. I didn’t know that existed. That is a great post.
    Thx 4 the info,

  10. mmr

    I am happy with my unused icons Mr.Windows, stop nagging me!

  11. Roy L Miller

    Thank you for the information. That has been annoying for years.

  12. mmbb

    This is not an option if you’ve permanently disabled desktop themes in XP. Themes? Ick!

    The only available display properties tabs are: screen saver, appearance, settings.

  13. Sabrina

    Thank you so much. I can’t believe I never found that on my own.

  14. George

    Hello, while I was viewing a webpage, which I think it was youtube, I was asked to download a program to be able to view the video, it took me to an antivirus website offering me to buy their product, and ever since than my homepage is that antivirus webside, and every 5 to 10 minutes that website pops-up, how can I fix this problem, it is driving me insane. Thank you

  15. George

    Hello, while I was viewing a webpage, which I think it was youtube, I was asked to download a program to be able to view the video, it took me to an antivirus website offering me to buy their product, and ever since than my homepage is that antivirus webside, and every 5 to 10 minutes that website pops-up, how can I fix this problem, it is driving me insane. Thank you

  16. Michael

    Neat tip. Now that I shut it off, XP SP2 is better than ever. I don’t know why it needs to bother me about such a small thing.

  17. Jon W

    Thanks! Never understood why Microsoft has to torture us with these things but not give any choice about how to disable them.

  18. TiMoGo

    You know, for a computer geek myself, I have looked for how to turn that off several times. Never occured to me it would be that simple!

  19. Big_D

    Thanks man! I was getting so sick of that stupid popup balloon! Makes me wish Engineers would take an active marketing role and find out from US (the end users of products) what is is WE want instead of making that determination for us!

  20. TVR


  21. Joe

    Thanks, but this is not all that “geek”. Couldn’t you give us the way to modify the registry so that we don’t see this again for any new user on the machine? Thanks.

  22. Columbofan

    thanks so much, that bubble really annoys me, along with a few other Windows quirks.

    Is there a definitive list of annoying Windows quirks anywhere?

  23. Rich Mann

    Ahhh…. what relief. This annoying POS has always bothered me. Thanks loads

  24. wo1n


    You got my vote for Nobel Prize in Computer Engineering or something like that!

    Thank you!

  25. t0fu

    another way to do this:

    start-run gpedit.msc

    user config –> admin templates –> desktop –> remove the desktop cleanup wizard –> enabled

  26. Joe

    Thanks, t0fu.

    I wonder if there’s a way to not disable the wizard but toggle the default state of the wizard to “off”. That way, when you clone a bunch of workstations, you haven’t disabled the wizard, but you’ve made it an option folks can turn on if they like that sort of nonsense. (This is another lame innovation like the “personalized menus” in MS Office ’03 and on the start menu.

  27. Roy

    “Just one example of a balloon I don’t want in my perfectly windy sky.”

    A Tori Amos reference! Awesome!

  28. The Geek


    Congrats on being the first person to notice that =) I’ve been a huge fan for years…

  29. Subsistencefarmer

    In case anyone is interested in the registry setting. This is the one for the local machine:

    User Key: [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Desktop\CleanupWiz]
    Value Name: NoRun
    Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value)
    Value Data: (1)

  30. Dave

    Thanks for the simple solution!

    That “feature” in WinXP has been annoying me for years…I finally decided to google it, and voila! your solution. I wonder how much Microsoft paid a guy to design that annoying feature?

  31. Joe

    Thanks for this great tip. You should write a book. Something like “Get BG to leave us alone so we can get something done already”

    Best Regards…

  32. jeff

    there are unused icon on your desktop
    the desktop cleanup wiard can help u clean up your desktop. click this balloon to start the wizard

  33. Neil

    Me too. Excellent / thanks.

    Long live XP.

  34. Fred

    Thanks. P.S. Where can I get the localization files that make it say “Run Annoying Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days”? :-)

  35. Rich Mann

    This has been just what I was looking for. I was so tired of that thing nagging me. Thanks

  36. sansay

    yep… just another annoying microsoftisms…. But I think the worst one is still the one that appears after Windows has just downloaded an update. Then a message reminding you to update will appear every 10 f… minutes! There’s gotta be some pretty pervert people working at Microsoft to design things like that. I know what I am talking about: I am a software engineer. Anyway, I am so glad I don’t work for MS!

  37. Tonio

    Finally I got rid of this annoying nonsense. Thank you so much

  38. bill

    thanks to you and to google to find your useful help

  39. Norman

    Thanks for keeping the “How to get rid of unused icon balloon” posted.

  40. Dee Bee

    Thanks. I was about to change to a Mac. Gates may be the richest man in the world but he is not the smartest. Microsoft has a bunch of sadists on staff.

  41. Dan

    Thanks. It’s annoyed me for years. I finally decided to do something about it.

  42. Thanks

    Thanks…the other day the balloon popped up, and didnt let me unclick the icons first… I only HAD 3 icons on the desktop! So it left the trashcan and put a really stupid ‘unused icons link’ FOLDER ICON in the corner (which was dumber than keeping unused icons on the desktop…sooo much more attractive, the lame folder icon…)as far as I know the ‘links’ didnt work but I deleted the stupid folder and it really did remove my icons…only the Trash was left! So I restored to an earier time (Pity, since before that it was one of the rare days Id gotten it to not freeze up), clicked on each icon SEVERAL times and the ballooon still tried to appear the next day…apparently it doesnt know the difference between 1 and 60 days? I knew there was a way to turn it off, but couldnt find it anymore until I found your answer in a search page. So Thanks!!!

  43. Kuei

    I always wanted to know how to turn this off. It always reminded me of my mother telling me to clean up my room.

  44. Jay

    Thank you!!! Microsoft should just implement a “this is annoying me” button on their stupid pop ups.

  45. Jay

    Thank you!!

  46. Bright

    You know, that is something I have never bothered to figure out and then Googled to see if anyone else was annoyed with it – – It is old news, but good for me and those I will contact who likewise see the silliness in that balloon!! :)

  47. Penelope

    Thank you. So simple and yet so calming. I shall now search your site for more wizzo de-stressing modifications. In fact you could make it a new tab – less is more is my motto.

  48. Tim

    Thanks for the tip. The funny thing is, if it really only appeared every 60 days it wouldn’t be annoying. But I was getting this message every time I reboot.

  49. Me

    Hooray! It’s gone forever now! Thank you!

  50. Norman

    I kinda miss it now.

  51. MJ

    Thank-you, HowToGeek!!! I am now just a little more geeky today!

  52. john

    Dear HowToGeek

    Do you think you could write a whole essay on all the shtoopid features introduced by MS and Google and the rest of the control-obsessed, telling us how to get rid of them. I would pay for it. :-)

  53. dave

    thanks sooooo much

  54. yin


  55. Jim

    Thanks! You rock! Your info was the first match that came up on Google. Followed your instructions and it works perfectly! Well done.

  56. golddus

    Thanks, thanks, thanks

  57. Eric

    Many thanks for that one. It’s been a pain in the backside for years.

  58. john


  59. pb

    many thanks to mr Geek for solving me from the annoying idiocy. It kept claiming icons not being used that I actually did use…..

  60. Joe

    Thank you!

  61. Mikko

    Thank you! This was a very useful writeup!

  62. Doug

    WoW !!! even after 3years you helped a very quick fix. Not even MS knew how to do it….that’s sad.

  63. texasjack

    This is intriguing.

    In about 6 years of using WinXP, I have NEVER even seen this annoying pop-up…until just 10 minutes ago.

    And, I have NEVER changed the setting in the Customize Desktop option…until just now.

    I don’t do auto-updating and the last driver update I did anyway was almost 6 months ago.
    Nor have I installed any new programs within the last 3 months.

    The only think I’ve done lately is changed the CPU to an Phenom X3 and have been running 4GB (2x2GB modules) of RAM instead of the normal 6GB (3x2GB modules)…I was doing some benchmarking. That was all about 3 weeks ago.

    I did have one system lock-up while I was trying some overclock settings at that time. I would assume it was something that occurred as a result of that which changed the state of this flag. It may have affected other registry settings as well, so I’ll have to be on the look-out.

  64. Horacio lopez

    Thank you very helpful

  65. IsleShire

    The pop up has never really been annoying to me. But that is because of drugs I take. Legal drugs. But I knew deep down inside beyond the drug line that if I were not on drugs it would be really annoying. So I got rid of it thanks to you.

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