Windows 7 has a number of great and useful features that make it the best Windows operating system to date in the eyes of many people. One of the areas of improvement over Vista and XP is the way Windows 7 handles the icons and programs in the system tray notification area. As you know, this part of the task bar is a special area for programs that have started with Windows, currently running programs and system functions to display small icons giving you quick access to those programs or features and supplying various snippets of useful information.
Like previous Windows versions, Windows 7 has an option to hide icons that are not currently in use or ones you don’t necessarily want displayed by means of an arrow that hides them and clicking on it can show those that are hidden. Clicking Customize inside the hidden icons box brings up another window that will present you with the Notification Area Icons window. This window will show all icons currently in the system tray and allows you to choose whether to show them all the time which puts them in the main tray area, only show notifications which hides them in the hidden icons box, or completely hide them altogether. The problem with the Notification Area Icons window is that a number of icons from software you no longer use or might have uninstalled could still be listed along with the current in use ones. This is also true for portable applications or single executables. If you are someone like me and is constantly evaluating and installing software, this window can get pretty cluttered with icons that no longer have a place on the system. For instance, I have 40 icons in my Notification Area Icons window at the moment, 19 of which are completely useless and from software that has long ago left the system and therefore no longer needed. The problem is these icons cannot be removed through the notification window and although will not show up in your tray, could still do with being removed to keep things clean and orderly.
A small and simple utility called Notification Area Cleaner allows you to remove the redundant notification area icons that still appear in the list making it easier to read and navigate. The program is portable, less than 130K unzipped and comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Simply run the utility, click the Clean button and you’re done.
The more observant among you will notice in the utility window that what the program does is simply delete some registry entries and stops and restarts the Explorer process which is actually all that’s needed. You can’t selectively delete the unused icons, the whole registry keys have to be removed. The keys to be removed if you want to do it manually are:
TrayNotify and delete the IconStreams value
TrayNotify and delete the PastIconsStream value
Explorer.exe then has to be killed and restarted through a Task Manager, rebooting does not have the same effect and usually doesn’t work.
Those of you who have CCleaner installed have this option in the Advanced section of the cleaner. The Tray Notification Cache option when ticked will also pop up a dialog box telling you the Explorer.exe process needs to be restarted after clicking Run Cleaner and closing the program.
The only downside doing this is any customizations you have for which icons to show and which to hide will also be reset, so you will have to reconfigure them. Notification Area Cleaner is only a small tool which does a simple task of clearing out the unused icons and saves you the hassle of editing the registry or playing around with the Explorer process yourself.