Manage And Tidy The Windows 7 System Tray

Chris Hoffman 17-08-2012

windows 7 system trayEvery Windows user has seen the Windows system tray (also known as the notification area) become cluttered over time. We’ve covered disabling distracting desktop notifications 5 Distracting Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off [Windows] When 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... Read More in the past, but what if the icons themselves are the problem? With Windows 7, Microsoft has included a variety of tools that put you in control over which icons appear.


If your system tray is cluttered with applications you never use and don’t need, you may want to uninstall some of them or prevent them from running in the background — perhaps by disabling the “auto-start” or “minimize to tray” options in the program itself. However, you may want an application running but not want its icon sitting in your taskbar The 4 Neat Tricks You Can Do With The Windows 7 Taskbar The Windows 7 taskbar is quite swanky looking, but it also packs a wallop in terms of functionality. Sure, anyone can activate an application by clicking its icon. But do you know what happens when... Read More all day – that’s when these tricks can come in handy.

Drag & Drop System Tray Icons

The quickest way to tidy your system tray is with drag and drop. Click a system tray icon, hold down the left mouse button, and drag it to the arrow next to the system tray. Drop it into the little window that appears and it will be hidden from your taskbar.

windows 7 system tray

System tray icons you put here continue to run in the background, but they don’t take up any space on your taskbar. Click the up arrow to access the icons and use them normally.

You can also rearrange the order of the icons in your system tray by dragging and dropping them. To restore a hidden icon, just drag and drop it from the hidden icons window back onto your taskbar.


Customize Notification Area Icons

To customize the notification area icons further, click the up arrow by the system tray on your taskbar and click the Customize link. You can also press the Windows Key 25 Cool Windows 7 Keyboard Tricks That Will Impress Your Friends Read More and B at the same time, then press Enter to reveal the hidden system tray icons.

windows 7 tray icons

The Notification Area Icons control panel allows you to configure the behavior of each icon individually. Each icon has three available settings:

  • Show icon and notifications: The icon will always appear.
  • Only show notifications: The icon will be hidden in normal use. When the icon displays a notification bubble, it will temporarily appear so you can see the notification.
  • Hide icon and notifications: The icon will never appear. Windows will prevent the icon from showing notification bubbles.

windows 7 tray icons


To revert these settings to the default, click the Restore default icon behaviors link at the bottom of the window.

You can also disable the icon-hiding behavior entirely, if you like – check the Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar check box and Windows will show all running system tray icons on your taskbar.

windows 7 tray icons

Turn System Icons On or Off

Windows includes some of its own system tray icons, known as “system icons.” You can control these by clicking the Turn system icons on or off link at the bottom of the notification area icons window.


Each included icon can be turned off to hide it from your system tray entirely – it won’t even appear in the hidden notification area icons window. You can disable the volume, network, power, and Windows action center Should You Pay More Attention to Windows Software Error Reports? [Geeks Weigh In] Windows tracks every application crash and freeze on your system. It records detailed information about the crashes and even tries to provide a solution to each error report, helping you fix problems. With that in... Read More icons here.

You can also disable the clock from here — if you do, the clock on your taskbar will disappear.

 windows system tray

Remove Old System Tray Icons

If you’ve used your Windows system for a while, you may notice that icons for old, uninstalled programs A Spring Cleaning Checklist For Your PC Part 2: Delete Junk & Free Wasted Space [Windows] Regular PC maintenance is often neglected, leading to lost hard drive space and a bloated operating system that runs increasingly slower. To avoid a dreaded Windows re-installation, you should perform a thorough cleanup at least... Read More appear in the Notification Area Icons control panel window.


To get rid of these outdated icons, run CCleaner Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Over the last two years, CCleaner has changed quite a bit in terms of version numbers...up now to version 3.10 at the time of this writing. While visually the program actually hasn't changed much (it's... Read More (download it here) and tell it to clear your Tray Notifications Cache. You’ll have to log in and out after clearing this data.

windows 7 system tray

If you’re a geek that’s familiar with the Windows registry Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More , you can also clear this data manually. Launch the registry editor and navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\TrayNotify key. Delete the IconsStream and PastIconsStream values in the right pane. Finally, you’ll have to log out and log back in (or restart Explorer.exe) for your changes to take effect.

For more information on Windows 7, download our free Ultimate Windows 7 Guide The Windows 7: Ultimate Guide If you are afraid to upgrade from Vista or XP because you feel it is completely different to what you are used to, you should read this new guide. Read More .

Do you have any more questions about tidying up your system tray, or any helpful tips to share? Leave a below!

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Windows 7.

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  1. zaharka
    February 23, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    All that is fine, however it still does not answer the question of how to stop the settings from changing every time the computer is rebooted. set the icon to show icon and notifications, reboot and it goes right back to show notifications only. My computer started doing this after I did a windows update, and now my system restore isn't working right either

  2. Piet Deje
    November 26, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Thanks. It helps...

  3. Andru
    August 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks for the tips!

  4. Silviu Despa
    August 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you for this! I always had these problems!

  5. Rigoberto Garcia
    August 19, 2012 at 3:57 am

    Great tips Chris. Thanks...

  6. erickhbhn
    August 18, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for share ! Great Tips !

  7. GrrGrrr
    August 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    it was a nice read, thanks

  8. kwesi
    August 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Geat share but in a nut shell here is how you can tidy up the system tray in windows 7:
    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”.

    You can check out more on the topic at: [Broken URL Removed]

    • Chris Hoffman
      August 27, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Basically, sure. But you'd be surprised how many novice computers benefit from screenshots and detailed tutorials!

  9. Larry Johnson
    August 18, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Thanks I cleaned up a bit. :)

  10. Shakirah Faleh Lai
    August 18, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Just use Ccleaner to clean everything every week.

    • Chris Hoffman
      August 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      CCleaner doesn't remove installed programs, though!

      • Shakirah Faleh Lai
        August 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

        Yeah, use another software to do that.

        • Chris Hoffman
          August 28, 2012 at 1:11 am

          Actually, now that I think of it, I suppose CCleaner does have an integrated software uninstaller...

  11. jun naluan
    August 18, 2012 at 12:07 am

    tanx for the tips

  12. Julia
    August 17, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I use the little "Tray Cleaner" (version 1.60, portable) once in a while. Cleans up left-overs of uninstalled programs. Small and efficient.

    • Chris Hoffman
      August 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Ah, that might work too -- CCleaner works if you already have it installed, though!

  13. Mike DeGeorge
    August 17, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    I appreciated the one about turning system icons on or off. Well, I actually appreciated them all :P but that one came in handy just now. Didn't see that option before. Thank you! :D