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Windows tries to manage the taskbar icons for you in a way that sometimes causes some to go missing.

On my taskbar, I had a volume icon, which disappeared when I clicked on it. How do I get it back? The volume is at 100.

Actually, taskbar icons - or more correctly, notification area icons - are by default managed by Windows in such a way that what it thinks are less frequently used icons are sometimes hidden.

We'll look both at how to get at the icons, how to take control of the icons, and perhaps most important of all, tell Windows to stop messing with the icons.

The notification area

The right-most part of the Windows taskbar is referred to as the notification area. The idea is that running programs can place icons there to notify you of important statuses or events.

Windows 7 Notification Area

If there are a large number of active icons, the notification area is by default configured to only show some and often only some of the time.

The small triangle at the beginning of the notification area is actually an indicator that there are more and when clicked, it causes them to appear in a popup window:

Additional Windows 7 notification area icons

And even though it says customize ... that's not really the customize that we want.

Controlling notification area icons

Right-click somewhere else in an empty area of the taskbar and click Properties:

Taskbar Properties, highlighting the notification area customize button

Click the Customize... button.

Notification area control panel

In the resulting control panel for the notification area, you can control at an individual level what you want each notification area icon to do:

  • Always show the icon and its notifications

  • Always hide the icon and its notifications

  • Show only the notifications that an icon might generate

Select for each as you will.

My approach is different.

All icons, all the time

Near the bottom of that control panel window, you'll see an option: "Always show all icons and notifications in the taskbar."

I click that.

It's a one-click way to simply turn everything on. That way, I know that I'm not missing anything and I have a full picture of what's trying to notify me or not.

Vista and XP

Vista's controls for the notification area are similar, but in a different location. Right-click the task bar, click Properties, and then click the Notification Area tab:

Notifaction area properties in Vista

In Windows XP, things are slightly different yet again. Right-click the taskbar, click Properties:

Notification area configuration options in Windows XP

If "Hide inactive icons" is checked, you can then click Customize... to further control what is and is not shown.

Article C4981 - November 12, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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14 Comments
Duane Ferguson
November 12, 2011 8:00 PM

This 'feature' often causes problems for Help Desk staff, as users are unable to locate icons needed to activate some remote desktop connections (as well as volume controls and other useful tools). I make a habit of clicking the 'always show all icons...' option. It makes no sense to provide user toolls - and then hide them.

Mike
November 13, 2011 1:53 AM

The link Customize... in the little popup that appears when you click the triangle to the left of the notification area leads to the same window as the customize... button in the taskbar properties dialog, at least on Windows 7.

Apparently not all Windows 7's. Smile I got a slightly different and less powerful version on my demo Win 7 machine. But, if it looks like what's pictured in the article, go for it.
Leo
13-Nov-2011
Ravi Agrawal
November 15, 2011 9:29 AM

I don't know what OS the OP is using but I think Leo, you have probably forgotten to mention one more thing i.e. that the volume icon may have inadvertantly be turned off. So even if Windows is set to show all icons, the volume icon may still not be visible.

The same can be turned on under Multimedia (or sound) applet settings in Control Panel.

I think a previous article of yours mentions how to do that.

I am writing this comment from my mobile phone, so unable to post any links or perform searches with respect to the same.

This is from another true appreciator of your simply wonderful written content.

Thanks and take care.

Ravi.

Tony
November 15, 2011 10:09 AM

Just to add to the comment by Ravi. Under both Home and Professional versions of XP there is an item in the Control Panel called Sounds and Audio Devices. Clicking on that reveals a tick box which if UNticked removes the icon from the Notification Area.
Also... I have found several Audio DRIVERS that do or have something similar!? So maybe these should also be reviewed via the Control Panel.
Cannot comment on Vista or W7?
Tony

Glenn P.
November 15, 2011 1:34 PM

Hey Leo -- Tony's right.

Quickest way for the Original Poster to check in Windows XP Pro, is to first click Start, then click Run, and then type MMSYS.CPL into the resulting "Open:" dialog, and click "OK".

In the resulting Sounds and Audio Devices Properties  page that then pops up, make sure that the checkbox marked Place volume icon in the taskbar  (in the middle of the Volume  tab sheet) is checked.

Hope this helps!

Theresa
November 15, 2011 2:01 PM

hi, I had an auto fill on my toolbar that disappeared and I'm unable to locate it. This has happened before...not having to fill out forms really makes life easier!! you are an absolute necessity to computer people!!! Thanks Theresa

Martin
November 15, 2011 5:22 PM

Leo, you are a life saver. You have forever solved the mystery of the missing icons on my XP system. In the past I have always been able to restore the icons but it was a hassle. You have made the process very simple.

I do have one question. When I reviewed the list of programs for the notification area, I found several programs listed that had been removed from my system a long time ago. How do I remove those programs from my notification area.

thanks!!!!!

Mark J
November 16, 2011 12:09 AM

@Martin
If they are in the notification area, they are still running on your computer. I'd check in Add/Remove programs and try uninstalling them again. If that doesn't work I'd try Revo uninstaller.
Revo Uninstaller - Uninstall Things That Won't

Jeanette Gonzales
November 16, 2011 11:50 AM

Leo, I am running Firefox browser, O S Windows X P and I do not have a small triangle in my notification
area or a small arrow that you can "click" to increase the print size as I once had using IE, even after following your diagram for Windows X P, also when I clicked on "Customize" in the diagram I get no response. Why is this
Thanks for all your help.

Mike
November 16, 2011 5:11 PM

Check out the following link for some other suggestions for XP and Vista: http://www.ehow.com/how_4667764_volume-control-windows-system-tray.html. Couple of years ago, I know I was able to restore the volume icon on my old XP machine by downloading a registry fix linked to that site @ http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/xp_tweaks.htm.

Ian Roberts
November 18, 2011 1:22 PM

Your response to the request for help with a missing volume icon didn't go far enough. It didn't address the question of what to do next when your suggestions didn't apply/didn't work, which is my situation.
Any more ideas?

Donna
November 20, 2011 5:13 PM

I have tried all of the suggestions, but am unable to turn on the volume control. The box where one does that is grayed out and I am not able to change it from off to on. The volume works fine, the icon is simply missing and I am not able to turn it on.

Bruce Snider
November 22, 2011 7:03 PM

(Windows XP) EVERY time I start Windows, the volume icon is gone from the notifications area of the task bar. I have to open the control panel > Sounds and Audio devices. Then I un-check the Show Volume Control box, then "Apply" then I re-check the box and click "Apply" and the icon is back. Every - Single - Time. Darned annoying.

Ed Weston
November 22, 2011 8:59 PM

Thanks, I chose all icons, all the time. I am still getting used to W7, and take delight in learning these gems that help me regain control of Windows, which wants to do more and more thinking for you, with each new version.

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