Smokey's Security Weblog

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Windows Vista Disappearing System Tray Icons Quick Fix

How-to for fixing missing icons in the Windows Vista system tray:

1. Back up the Registry by creating a restore point.
2. Go to Start > Run (or Windows-key + “R”), type in “regedit” and hit “OK”.
3. Navigate to the key “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion \TrayNotify”.
4. Delete the values “IconStreams” and “PastIconsStream”.
5. Open up the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), go to the “Processes” tab, select “explorer.exe” and click “End Process”.
6. Open the “Applications” tab and click “New Task…” at the bottom-right of the window.
7. In the message box that pops up type in “explorer.exe” and hit “OK”.
8. Explorer.exe will reload, and the missing icons should now be back in the system-tray where they belong.

Enjoy yourself! 😉


July 5, 2008 - Posted by | Advisories, Downloads, Friends, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Thnks a ton for ur help..It works well


    Comment by Ashwin | July 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. Awesome. Most People’s response to dissapearing Task Bar is that you should go to task settings and unhide it……LOL i have been facing this problem since the last 9 months. everytime the only solution i get is to format my computer after it happens. It usually Happens after a few updates. Mostly SP1 (though not so sure). The Problem is Mocrosoft is sleeping over this matter and has no patch to resolve this. I have just Applied the solution you provided me 30 minutes ago and it seems for the first time since it started hapenning i can use the computer for more than 10 minutes without having to C.A.D. and restart explorer. AWESOME I should Say

    Comment by Hasan | July 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. Thank you tons for your help. This will be me new favorite website.

    Comment by Rezin Secrest | July 31, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hey, the problem has started reoccuring. i’ve been doing this explorer restart thing now for over a year no permenant help????

    Comment by Hasan | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  5. Thank You very much ! its good to have good people like you.

    Comment by blue november | August 13, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks for the advise on this problem. I’ve been fighting this disappearing icon problem for months. I hope that this will give me a solution. At least, when I do lose them I know how to get them back again. Thanks again!

    Comment by John | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  7. Hello, in my case the standard icons like volume, network, power and sidebar are always shown. My problem are the rest of the application icons that disappear. I tried your advice, but it did not work.
    Can you help me with that?

    Comment by Matt | September 14, 2008 | Reply

  8. Does this happen all the time or sometimes?

    Comment by Smokey | September 14, 2008 | Reply

  9. It started to happen yesterday, but since then all the time since now.

    Comment by Matt | September 14, 2008 | Reply

  10. Please shut down your PC, wait 20 seconds and start up your PC. Normally the missing icons should reappear.

    Comment by Smokey | September 14, 2008 | Reply

  11. Even this did not work. I now recovered the system as it was two days ago and now it works again. Do you have any clues what could be responsible for that?
    Thanks anyway

    Comment by Matt | September 14, 2008 | Reply

  12. Several problems can be the reason for disappeared taskbar icons, it is hard to say which one is the real cause. I found an interesting article and solutions about the subject, will add it to my “Windows Vista Disappearing System Tray Icons Quick Fix” post.

    Comment by Smokey | September 14, 2008 | Reply

  13. Easy direction with great success, thank you for your service, I’m sure I’ll be back. Thanks again!


    Comment by Jim | October 6, 2008 | Reply

  14. I tried this and still had no luck getting back missing icons. Four out of six of the icons are in the taskbar, but I am still missing the internet connection icon and the sound control icon. Of course these are the two I use the most. Let me know if you have any idea what else I can do, this is rather frustrating. Thanks!

    Comment by Abbee | October 17, 2008 | Reply

  15. this as great, thanx man

    Comment by rony | November 23, 2008 | Reply

  16. I have recently encountered the “disappearing” icons (power, sound and network). I discovered that it corresponded to the time when I upgraded WinZip. So, the QuickZip icon was appearing on the taskbar. And, according to some other web page, sometimes other applications bump the Windows icons – which is unusual because, usually MS is the one pushing everything out of the way! LOL

    But, I was able to solve this by going into WinZip as an Administrator and turning off the option to show the QuickZip icon on the taskbar. And, I hid some of the other applications’ icons using the “Customize” opition on the Notifications tab (in Taskbar Properties.)

    But, I will copy/paste this solution for the future. You never know with MS Vista. I have been running with it for 14 months with few problems. I just started getting this disappearing icons thing.

    Comment by Ken | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  17. This was so yummy.

    Comment by Kiran | November 29, 2008 | Reply

  18. Thanks for your help. I talked my sister through her Vista disappearing taskbar problem easily with your instructions.

    Comment by VibrioCocci | December 3, 2008 | Reply

  19. To restore your Volume control buttons, etc. in your Task Bar/System tray, try this:

    Right Click on the Task Bar
    Click “Start Menu” Tab. Select “Classic Start Menu”.
    Select Notification Area” Tab. Now you should be able to put a check mark in the Volume, Power, etc. boxes.

    Hope this helps.

    (perhaps once you have these icons back, you can go back in at a later session and de-select Classic Start Menu if you don’t care for it).

    Comment by kalalu | December 15, 2008 | Reply

  20. Worked fine i did a restart and it held BUT as soon as I did a complete shutdown and powered back up same problem. It seems not to hold the registry deletions. Any one else have this problem?

    Comment by P | December 31, 2008 | Reply

  21. yeah wonderful post, great help!

    thank u a lot!


    Comment by betterworldforus | April 2, 2009 | Reply

  22. Thank you! Great instructions! I like the way you write the instructions which is I call the “WD-40 instructions” style.

    Always start with a verb and not to exceed 10 to 15 steps. If that accomplishes the job, then they are great instructions. Your instructions did help me recover my icons.

    Comment by kleanchap | April 8, 2009 | Reply

  23. Just ran Vista SP2. Rebooted a few times already but the run key programs’ icons were not popping in the tray- though the programs themselves were actually running. After running the steps the icons are back (no reboot needed). I’m am stylin’ and profilin’ now. THANKS!!!

    Comment by Walker Boh | June 22, 2009 | Reply

  24. Super! Works perfectly. Thanks for your help!!

    Comment by Ang | August 15, 2009 | Reply

  25. Thanks it worked great. Ha and it made me look pretty smart infront of the fam too!

    Comment by Alan | August 18, 2009 | Reply

  26. WOW, you guy’s are good. I don’t know a lot about computers, and I have been told never mess with the registry but I followed your directions and it was a piece of cake.
    Thanks Frank

    Comment by Frank Armstrong | October 20, 2009 | Reply

    • Pleased we could help you 🙂

      Comment by Smokey | October 20, 2009 | Reply

  27. On Oct 20 I wrote you and thanked you for your help in restoring the volume control. I did not realize at that writing that when I put the computer into a full shut down that the volume meter would disappear. I have reset the reg. twice and went through a shut down and each time the volume control disappeared. Can you suggest any fix to this problem?


    Comment by Frank Armstrong | October 23, 2009 | Reply

    • Please try just this part of the fix:

      5. Open up the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), go to the “Processes” tab, select “explorer.exe” and click “End Process”.
      6. Open the “Applications” tab and click “New Task…” at the bottom-right of the window.
      7. In the message box that pops up type in “explorer.exe” and hit “OK”.
      8. Explorer.exe will reload, and the missing icon should now be back in the system-tray where it belong.

      Comment by Smokey | October 24, 2009 | Reply

  28. worked like a charm. i am very grateful. thanks smokey! (and i will always do my best to prevent forest fires.) bob

    Comment by Bob Tess | March 3, 2010 | Reply

    • I am pleased the fix solved your problem. I am even more pleased you will prevent forest fires, all people should do that! 🙂

      Comment by Smokey | March 3, 2010 | Reply

  29. Great answer… it works with Windows 7 too!!! Thanks a lot!!!!

    Comment by Nic k | April 3, 2010 | Reply

  30. Thank you!

    Comment by Craig | August 19, 2010 | Reply

  31. Thank you!!! Worked perfectly.

    Comment by Kei | September 11, 2010 | Reply

  32. I saved this to my favorites when I first had this problem about two years ago. I lose icons about twice a year. Is there any word on what causes this?

    Comment by Katie | December 7, 2010 | Reply

    • The cause of this problem is not known, but it’s almost certainly a bug in the OS.

      Comment by Smokey | December 10, 2010 | Reply

  33. Didn’t work as I wish it would’ve some icons appeared, some didn’t and other went missing…

    Comment by Gugu | January 9, 2011 | Reply

  34. The conclusion I’ve reached is there’s no one complete solution. But see (4) – this helps.

    Here are some pointers I found from some searching:
    1. In part it’s a Windows issue. In XP, someone found it was a timing problem, particularly with automatic login (no prompt). Fixes were produced for shell32.dll. These have not been done for Vista onwards as far as I’ve found.
    2. Some found that delaying the launch of apps helped in this case. (This won’t solve the loss of icons in the case of an explorer crash & recovery).
    3. In part it’s an application issue. Related to explorer crash and reload – some apps’ tray icons disappear – some don’t. It depends on whether the author has included a particular piece of code to refresh the tray icon or not.
    4. Some 3rd party programs have attempted to address this issue. Most of these are restricted to XP or earlier. One I’ve found that does help with some (but not all) apps is Tray Wizard (freeware).
    Some 5 icons that previously disappeared if I closed explorer.exe using hte task manager reappeared if I had Tray Wizard running. A side effect of Tray wizard is a ‘blinking’ tray notification area during log-on – or when an icon is added, for example. One icon is still missing though.

    Comment by David | January 7, 2012 | Reply

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