A forum user recently posted a screenshot of his desktop in the forum asking for help to determine what is the running program in system tray. The oddity of it is moving the mouse cursor to the icon or clicking on it has no reaction. The forum members have been trying very hard to guess the running program by looking at the icon which is not easy. If I had an icon in system tray that doesn’t respond to anything, I’d be trying to figure out myself what is that and hope that it’s not a virus or some kind of fake antivirus (spyware).
If you boot up Windows and the icon appears immediately, chances are it is one of the startup programs which you can disable at MSCONFIG. It is easy to determine what process is that if you had only 5 or less icons but what if you have a whole line icons at system tray like the image below?
Fortunately I manage to find 2 ways on how to determine what are icons at your Windows System Tray.
At first I tried the famous Process Explorer from Microsoft but I couldn’t find a way to show if the running process is at system tray or not. Then I tried another powerful task manager called Anvir which I’ve previously mentioned before. If you go to the process tab, it will list all running processes. All you need to do is to move your mouse cursor over to the process and a popup will appear showing you if there’s a tray icon available for the process.
Using AnVir Task Manager to find out what is the tray icon works but it requires manual work. The second and more easier way would be using a simple dos tool called Windows System Tray Scan Utility. This command-line utility for Windows will tell you which programs have inserted themselves into your “system tray”. It generates a list of PIDs, the program’s location, and the number of visible and hidden icons for each program that has inserted itself into your system tray. You have to launch SysTrayScanCmd.exe in command prompt or else it will just flash and close by itself. To run SysTrayScanCmd.exe in command prompt, go to Start > Run > type CMD and click OK. Switch to the directory where SysTrayScanCmd.exe is located by using the CD command and then type SysTrayScanCmd.exe.
I’ve tested SysTrayScan on Windows XP and Vista (32-bit) and it works without problems. Not sure on 64-bit version of Windows though. SysTrayScan is free, small (only 108KB in size) and portable which is nice to have it on my USB flash drive.
Here’s something that probably most of you didn’t know. We all know that the whole bar stretching at the bottom of the screen is called a Taskbar. It consists of the Start button, quick launch, running programs, the clock and etc. As for the area where the tiny icons and the clock are, people usually call it “tray” or “system tray” which is WRONG! The official name for that area is actually called the Notification Area. If you bring up the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties from Control Panel, you will see that there is a “notification area” settings to hide/show the clock and show/hide inactive icons.
Raymond Chen, a writer at Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Blogs thinks that the reason people started calling it the “system tray” is that on Win95 there was a program called “systray.exe” that displayed some icons in the notification area: volume control, PCMCIA (as it was then called) status, battery meter. If you killed systray.exe, you lost those notification icons. So people thought, “Ah, systray must be the component that manages those icons, and I bet its name is ‘system tray’.”
No wrong calling the notification area system tray because everyone knows it but what would you feel if everybody started calling you by the wrong name?