The following guide walks you through the steps of removing old unused notification icons from Windows 7 and newer versions of the Windows operating system.
If you have used Windows 7 or newer versions of Windows for some time, you may notice eventually that some of the notification icons are from programs and applications that are no longer installed on your computer system.
The customize dialog enables you to select if icons are displayed in the system tray area of the operating system, and which are hidden by default (so that you need to click on the up-arrow icon to display them).
Neither the software program nor the Windows operating system remove notification icons from the operating system automatically when a program is uninstalled.
Remove Old Notification Icons In Windows
While this does not disturb operations, as the dead icons are not displayed to you in the system tray area of the system, it has other consequences.
Old notifications can be a issue because of two reasons: the customize dialog will grow over time with new notification icons added but none removed. It will take longer to customize the system tray icons because of this as you find dead weight in it so that it may take longer to find the notification icons that are still linked to apps installed on Windows.
The second is privacy as the icons will reveal information about programs that have been used on the computer system in the past.
You can open the customize window in Windows with a click on the up arrow in the system tray area and selecting customize from the context menu. You will notice that you can show or hide icons or notifications there, but that there is no option to remove old icons from the menu.
Update: If you are using Windows 8 or 10, you need to right-click on the System Tray area, select Properties from the menu that opens up, and then on customize next to "Notification area" to open that menu.
Removing old Windows notification icons
All icons are cached in the Windows Registry. The easiest way to remove the past notification icons - without software - is therefore to delete the Registry keys that contain the cache.
Here is how you can remove old notification icons from the Windows system tray.
- Press [Windows R], type [regedit] and hit [enter].
- Confirm the UAC prompt if it is displayed.
- Navigate to the Registry key HKCU \Software \Classes \LocalSettings \Software \Microsoft \Windows \CurrentVersion \TrayNotify
- Make a backup of the Registry key by right-clicking on TrayNotify and selecting Export.
- Now delete the following two Registry keys: IconStreams and PastIconsStream
- Open the Windows Task Manager with [Ctrl Shift Esc]
- Terminate the explorer.exe process
- Click on File > New Task Run and enter explorer.exe to reload the explorer process
This removes all icons that are currently not in use from the system tray. Basically, what it does remove all cached items. Notification icons that are still used are cached again, while all old ones are gone for good. Users who prefer a software solution can try Tray Cleaner instead.
Just run the program on your system and click on the clean button when it pops up. This deletes all icons from the notification area that are associated with programs that are no longer installed on the system.