Not many Windows users know about the operating system's Custom Notifications window, what kind of information it holds, or how it is accessed at all.
Microsoft describes Custom Notifications as a way in Windows to display active and urgent notifications. These icons show if you have new mail for instance, when the burning program requests you to insert a DVD into a drive, or when a network or Internet connection cannot be established.
The real problem that arises is that past icons are kept there as well, which means that users with access to the local system can access these information. This can lead to privacy issues as past notification icons reveal information about programs that have been run or installed on the system in the past. While this may not sound like a big deal to many users, it can certainly reveal sensitive information such as when encryption software was used in the past.
Custom Notifications can be accessed by right-clicking the taskbar and choosing Properties from the menu. Click on the Customize button next to the Hide inactive icons entry to see all active and past entries in there - you may be surprised about the amount of icons listed there.
Microsoft does not offer an elegant way to clean past Custom Notifications items which is why I would recommend the Tray Cleaner program which you can use to remove all past icons from the notification area. To do so, simply run the program after you have downloaded and installed it, and click on the clean icon to remove the notification icons. Note that the program itself is portable after installation, so that you can move it to an USB flash drive or burn it to DVD without losing any functionality.
It is recommended to run the program regularly to remove information from the customize notifications listing in Windows. The program should work in all recent versions of the Windows operating system.
Update: The way to open the custom notifications window has changed in newer versions of Windows. You need to click on the small white arrow icon in the system tray area of the taskbar and select customize from the options to open it.
Here you find listed all current and past programs that are displaying notification icons on the system, or that have done so in the past. Like in previous versions of Windows, you can only change an icon's behavior but not disable it or delete it from the menu.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.