On the whole, just about everybody who uses it, would say Windows 7 is a great operating system all round and a big improvement over Vista and XP. The visual additions and enhancements to the taskbar is something that helps give Windows 7 a clear edge over it predecessors. Why then, after all the work on these extra visuals, did Microsoft feel the need to take the network activity icon in the system tray, and make it look so bland and lifeless? Although they said it was to make things look less noisy in the tray, I like the old one, because you can see if something like a download has finished in the background, or there’s activity on your network when you think there shouldn’t be. It’s also useful at watching for activity on laptops.
To me, this is one of the minor annoyances of Windows 7 where it wasn’t already broken in XP and Vista as well to some extent, but Microsoft decided to try and fix it anyway. Windows XP’s icon makes it very clear when there is network activity so you don’t have to stare at your router to see what’s going on. Vista’s icon does at least give you the option to right click on the icon and turn icon activity on or off. As you can see from the images below, the network icon seems to have got less useful over time.
One of the first things I did when installing Windows 7 for the first time, was go on a search to try and find something to bring the activity back to the icon. Luckily it didn’t take too long and came across a small utility by iT Samples called Network Activity Indicator. The program is available in both portable and as a setup installer, but it makes sense to use the installer if you plan on it replacing the default icon. Download and install, a few seconds later, you have this, which looks much better:
Network Activity Indicator uses not much more than a Megabyte of memory, and has a couple of other useful features such as a handy right click menu for access to your network, which is something else sadly lacking in Windows 7 when you right click its icon. Quickly checking or editing network adapter settings is only a click or two away now.
Another useful feature is a network statistics window that provides some useful information such as some sent and received statistics and connection errors and timeouts.
A handy tip: If you plan on keeping the icon in the system tray, right click the network activity icon, click Settings, make sure to tick Load at Windows Startup.
If like me, you miss the activity of your network in the system tray while using Windows 7, and would like to see it back, this handy little utility could be what you’re looking for.
Network Activity Indicator is designed for Windows 7 but still works perfectly fine in Vista and XP if you want to have the extra functions on offer over the standard network icons.