5 Distracting Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off [Windows]

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turn off desktop notificationsWhen you are working on a computer, it takes a fair bit of will power to resist the attempt to multitask. But even if you manage to restrain yourself, many programs manage to throw in distracting notifications that will divert your attention. Especially after setting up a new computer or re-installing, it can be a pain to track down the common offenders and turn off annoying focus killers.

In this article I will list the most common programs, what type of notifications they put out, and how you can disable them.

Windows System Tray / Notification Area

Generally, you can individually turn off desktop notifications for any programs or services represented in the Windows system tray. Right-click the task-bar and select Properties. Under Notification area click the Customize… button. This will open the respective Control Panel window with a list of icons for any program or service that was ever registered in the notification area.

To turn off the notifications for a specific item, find it in the list, and select Hide icon and notifications from the drop-down menu to its right.

turn off desktop notifications

Skype

As far as I’m concerned, Skype is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to annoying notifications. Whenever someone comes online or goes offline, a little message pops up to share the event with you. Haven’t we all seen this obtrusive little notification jump on top of full screen videos or public presentations?

disable desktop notifications

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To manage your Skype notifications, click through to > Tools > Options… and switch to the Notifications side tab. Under Notification settings you will find a list of Windows tray notifications which you can check or uncheck.

disable desktop notifications

While you are at it, you can also jump to the Alerts & messages section and turn off the unwelcome Help and Skype tips as well as Promotions.

disable desktop notifications

Thunderbird

Thunderbird is a great desktop email client, but when it comes to notifications, there is room for improvement. It has been a long time since I started from scratch with it, but as far as I remember, the default setting is to show a system tray alert and play a sound.

turn off desktop notifications

To stop this impertinence, go to > Tools > Options… In the General tab under When new message arrives you can uncheck the boxes to Show an alert and Play a sound. If you were a fan of incoming email notifications, you could also customize them to include the subject and sender or play a favorite sound. But seriously, who wants that?

turn off desktop notifications

Google Talk

When I recently re-installed my computer, I suddenly received all these new email messages and had no idea where they came from, especially since they were turned off in Thunderbird. Finally it dawned on me, that the source was Google Talk.

As with the previous programs, you can easily turn these notifications off if you know where to find them. Click Settings in the top right of Google Talk, then navigate to the Notifications tab and uncheck Show notification for New email.

turn off desktop notifications

Windows Balloon Tips

Windows is set up to deal with DAUs (dumbest assumable users). Consequently, it likes to pop up messages about things the average user either doesn’t care about or already knows. These unhelpful notifications are called balloon tips.

windows 7 balloon tip

To disable balloon tips, go to the Start menu and search for Group Policy. Open the result Edit group policy, then navigate to > User Configuration > Administrative Tasks > Start Menu and Taskbar. In the list find the entry Turn off all balloon notifications and double-click it.

edit group policy in windows 7

If you enable this settings, no notification balloons will be shown to the user.” Hence, to disable the balloon notifications, you have to select Enabled for this setting. To enable the balloon tips, select Disabled or set it to Not Configured.

turn off desktop notifications

You can also disable or enable balloon tips with a registry hack. A registry fix for either enabling or disabling the tips, which will save you messing around with the registry itself, is available from SevenForums.

Do you frequently have to write essays or do you enjoy undisturbed creative writing? Check out OmmWriter, which I have reviewed here – Meet Your Writing Deadlines In A Distraction-Free Writing Environment With OmmWriter.

What do you find most distracting when you work on your computer and are there any notifications you have struggled to get rid of?

Image credits: Kitch Bain

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Comments (3)
  • Dmitry

    Thanks for the tips!

    Is there a way to disable apps flashing (blinking) when something happened in them though?

  • PC Hiccups

    Really nice article, 

    Yes, when you want to work – one doesn’t want that many pop-ups that can frustrates one while working.

    This is actually a simple article, but still people don’t disable the things that frustrates one.

    Well done.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, this is very true. I agree with ALL of your points… Skype is definitely the worst offender. Definitely. But now I have disabled it, I’m fine! Thank you very much for these tips, and great work on compiling the article.

      Signed,
      Anonymous

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.