How to Customize the Windows 7 Notification Area (System Tray)


If you have been annoyed by the clutter of icons that always seems to be in the Windows notification area (system tray), there is relief in Windows 7. Microsoft added a way to remove some system icons or to hide icons that are not in regular use. If you’d like to tidy up your notification area, here is the procedure:

Customize notification area

  1. In the notification area of the taskbar, find the small upward-pointing triangle and click it. Alternatively use this two-step keyboard shortcut: Windows key+B, Enter
  2. A small window (shown on the right) will open. Click “Customize”.
  3. A dialog box with a list of notification area entries will open. An example is shown in the figure below.
  4. Each entry has a drop-down menu on its right where you can select from three choices:  “Show icon and notifications” or “Hide icon and notifications” or “Only show notifications”.
  5. After making your selections, click “OK”.

For those who don’t mind a little typing, there is an alternate route that leads directly to step 3 above. Type “notification” (without quotes) in the Start search bar and click “Notification area icons” in the list that appears. This will open the dialog box below and you can proceed to step 4 above.

Configure notification area

If you want to be entirely rid of some of the system icons, click “Turn system icons on or off” in the dialog box. The new dialog shown below will open. Make your selection of “on” or “off” and click “OK”.

If you make changes and then wish you hadn’t, you can click “Restore default icon behaviors” and then click “OK”.

Turn system icons on or off

How to Remove Old Windows 7 Notification Area  Icons

Are you having trouble removing a program icon from the notification area of the taskbar even after the program has been uninstalled? Old program icons can be deleted by editing the Windows Registry or with software.

If you are familiar with editing the Registry (see this article), here is the procedure for clearing the tray icon cache where the program icons are stored:

  1. Back up the Registry before you do anything else
  2. Open the Registry Editor
  3. Navigate to this Registry key: HKCU \Software \Classes \LocalSettings \Software \Microsoft \Windows \CurrentVersion \TrayNotify
  4. In the right side pane of Regedit, delete the value IconStreams
  5. Also in the right side pane, delete the  value PastIconsStream
  6. Log off and back on for the Registry edit to take effect. Alternatively stop and restart Explorer.exe if you are familiar with that process.

If you are not used to Registry editing, there are software possibilities. CCleaner has a function to clean the tray icon cache. It is labeled Tray Notification Cache and is in the Windows advanced section. You may have to run CCleaner as administrator.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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