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

Tina Sieber 07-02-2012

turn off desktop notificationsWhen you are working on a computer, it takes a fair bit of will power to resist the attempt to multitask 3 Ways To Stop Multitasking & Stay Focused To Be More Efficient & Productive [Windows] At MakeUseOf we have written countless articles on how to multitask. As it turns out, however, multitasking messes with your brain. Research shows that people who multitask a lot are "more susceptible to interference from... Read More . 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


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

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 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.

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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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  1. Kelly
    May 17, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    I would like to get rid of the pop-up that shows up when you scroll over the list of emails. It is an info window that shows Received, Size, and Catagories of that specific email your mouse is scrolling over. I'm not talking about the preview-pane.
    Can that little pop-up be disabled?

  2. vivi
    March 30, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    My dropbox incoming sounds was driving me crazy.....thank you so much for the info. ***** stars :)

  3. Khurram Shahzad
    February 18, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    One Window pop ups again & again for every program that users who installed Skype , installed following aps also , for every program this window is apearing please advise what to do

  4. TimoR
    February 9, 2016 at 4:54 am

    Skype doesn't have any setup to disable its notifications as to who is online and who is not.
    Is there any way to disable *all* Skype notifications in the OS level with Fedora (since they don't give any *useful* options by themselves I would rather disabled everything from Skype)?

  5. Dmitry
    May 8, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Thanks for the tips!

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

  6. PC Hiccups
    February 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    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
      May 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      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.