How can I permanently get rid of Systray Icons that get put there when software is installed? MSCONFIG sometimes gets rid of
them until the first time you run the software, then it’s back again. Just takes up room in the background.
Oh how I wish I had an easy answer for you.
Well, I do. The easy answer is: you can’t.
However, you can make things better, but it’s a somewhat complicated process.
Here’s the area of the task bar that we’re talking about:
The notification area, or ‘tray’ in Windows Vista
The notification area, or ‘tray’ in Windows 7
The “tray”, or more officially the “notification area” is typically the right most portion of the task bar that contains various icons placed there by various programs so as to notify you of important things as you use your system.
Of course what’s “important” is up for debate, as is the need for every application in the world to put something in the notification area at all. It can get very full, and very frustrating, very quickly.
There are three general solutions.
Don’t run the software that places the icon in the tray.
It’s important to realize that each icon in the tray represents a running process of some sort on your computer. In a sense, a cluttered tray is an indication that you have a lot of software running on your machine; software that in my experience often doesn’t need to run at all – at least not constantly.
There are several problems. What should you allow to run and what should you disable will vary from machine to machine. It’s all based on what software you’re running, what you use and what you need.
For those you elect to disable, how to prevent these from running will vary from application to application. Sometimes it’s an auto-start MSConfig entry, sometimes it’s an option in another application, sometimes it requires more in-depth configuration changes in system services.
Most annoying are those applications which, when updated or reinstalled, insist on placing themselves back in the tray, at which point you’ll again need to take whatever steps you took to turn it off.
Turn off an option to display in the tray.
Sometimes the application being run actually has an option to display in the tray or not. In the examples above, items like the speaker icon for volume control, or the network icon for network activity are actually choices I’ve made in the respective sound or network control panel applications. They can just as easily be turned off.
The downside: not all applications that appear in the tray support this kind of configurability. Some, like in the prior step, will reset it should they be updated or reinstalled.
But I’ll admit that I’ve come to really appreciate applications that allow me to choose, and then continue to respect that choice.
Let Windows Hide Inactive Icons (and configure it).
I’ll admit, I’m a control freak. I turn off “hide inactive icons”, in part, because I want to see what’s on my machine, and in part because it always seems like the icon I want to interact with is hidden. However, it is one way of controlling the clutter a little.
All versions of Windows allow you to control to some degree which items are automatically hidden.
In Windows XP: right click on the Start button, click on Properties, click on the Taskbar tab, make sure that Hide inactive icons is checked, and then click on Customize…
In Windows Vista: right click on the Windows “orb” (aka the old Start button), click on Properties, click on the Notification Area tab, make sure that Hide inactive icons is checked, and then click on Customize…
In Windows 7: right click on the Windows “orb” (aka the old Start button), click on Properties, click on the Taskbar tab, click on the Notification Area’s Customize… button
Unfortunately, there’s really no easy way to deal with all the icons at once, or truly control exactly what happens with each and every one there.
But at least this is a start.
Finally, I do have to say this: many icons in the tray are useful, and there on purpose. Not all can be turned off, and not all should be. Quite often the programs that they represent are programs that you want. And sometimes it’s just more effort than it’s worth to try and figure out all the details for that little bit of screen real estate.