How To Fix Notification Area Icons Missing, Duplicated Or Unused In Windows 7

Windows 7 lets you choose which icons appear in the Notification Area (formerly known as System Tray) – you can hide some of them to stop the taskbar from becoming too cluttered.

To choose the display settings for each program icon you press the little triangle next to the Notification Area then choose ‘Customize…’ to open the Notification Area Icons window.

Here you can change the behavior of each program icon to show, hide or only show notifications. This process works well at first but, after a time, you may notice a few problems:

  • The list includes every program icon you ever loaded which can quickly add up to a daunting number to sort through – uninstalled and unused programs still show up in the list
  • The list may include duplicate icons e.g. for a Portable program like Network Activity Indicator (see my review here) you will see a separate program icon for each and every file location you run the program from
  • Some programs may become associated with the wrong icon – or their icon may just disappear completely
  • Some System Icons (e.g. Clock, Volume, Network, Power, Action Center) may disappear from the Notification Area

How To Fix Missing System Icons

Click on the little triangle next to the Notification area and select ‘Customize’ to open the Notification Area Icons window. Click on ‘Turn system icons on or off’ to open the System Icons window as shown below:

notification area

Make sure that the Behaviors of all the System Icons you want displayed are set to ‘On’ then press OK to return to the full icons list as shown below:

notification area icons

Look for the system icon you want to display (e.g. Volume) and select the desired Behaviors e.g. ‘Show icon and notifications’ if you want it to be displayed all the time then press OK to finish.

The procedure above should work for system icons which had been set to ‘Off’. However, there are other reasons they may not display correctly i.e. if the full notification area icons list is corrupt.

If they still don’t appear, proceed to the next section to repair and refresh the full list to fix this issue.

How To Fix Notification Area Icons Missing, Duplicated Or Unused

All the icon entries are stored in 2 registry keys – we can delete these keys and force Windows to recreate the icon list from scratch. This will replace missing entries and erase duplicate or unused icons – it should also fix missing system icons that were not fixed by the previous method.

Note: after this fix you will have to select your desired Behavior for each icon in the list again (your previous choices will have been deleted), depending on whether you want them to be displayed or not.

Click the Start Orb then type regedit into the Search box and press Enter to open the Registry Editor – accept the UAC confirmation box if it appears.

Navigate down the left hand panel to the following folder:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\TrayNotify

Recommended: Backup this TrayNotify folder first – right click it and choose ‘Export’ to open the Export window. Choose a location to save the file (e.g. the desktop) and type in a file name (e.g. tray) then press Save to export (backup) the whole folder.

  • In the right hand panel of the Registry Editor, hold down the CTRL key then click on IconStreams and PastIconsStream to select both keys then let go of CTRL as shown below:

registry editor notification icons

  • Now that both keys are selected, right click one of them and select Delete – a confirmation warning box appears as shown below:

registry editor notification area confirmation

  • Press Yes to confirm the deletion of both keys and then close the Registry Editor.

Now we need to make Windows recreate those deleted keys with new, up to date and correct versions of the Notification Area icons.

  • First, save any unsaved work and close any open programs. Next, right click an empty space on the Taskbar and select ‘Start Task Manager’.
  • Select the Processes tab and browse down to the explorer.exe entry – select it then press the ‘End Process’ button. A confirmation message appears as shown below – press ‘End process’ to close Explorer:

task manager end explorer.exe

The taskbar and desktop disappear temporarily – we now need to start Explorer again:

  • In Task Manager, select File then New Task (Run…) from the menu bar to open the New Task window
  • Type explorer.exe into the Open box and press OK to restart Explorer:

restart explorer.exe

The taskbar and desktop should reappear and the Notification Area Icons list should now be up to date and showing the correct icons.

Open the Notification Area Icons window as shown earlier and select your desired Behaviors for all current icons, depending on whether you want them to be displayed or not.

You can delete the exported registry file backup (if you saved one earlier) after you have restarted the computer and are happy that the new icon list is performing correctly.

5 thoughts on “How To Fix Notification Area Icons Missing, Duplicated Or Unused In Windows 7”

  1. It worked fine for a longtime problem of mine, I could not access the sound controls anymore through the icon tray for instance, this has fixed it , thanks a lot

  2. I have followed the stated procedure to eliminate duplicate Notification Area Icons, and it did work. However, the one in question (AIM), keeps coming back. What causes that, and how do I prevent that from happening?

    • @XanMan – if it is set to load automatically at startup it will always appear in the list. AIM probably relates to the AOL Instant Messenger so you could uninstall that plugin/program from your installed programs (via Control Panel) to remove it if you no longer use it.

      After it has been uninstalled, restart then repeat the procedure above to refresh the list and it should no longer appear.

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