Cleaning the Windows 98 system tray

When your system tray is cluttered, it means applications are running, degrading performance. Brien Posey shows you how to get rid of the clutter.

Have you noticed more and more icons appearing next to the clock on your Windows 98 taskbar? If so, it’s because mini-applications are constantly running in the background. Such applications seriously degrade system performance because the system must devote precious processor cycles to them. In this Daily Feature, I’ll explain how to remove such applications from the system tray.

Before I begin, it’s worth taking a look at what types of applications run in the system tray. On my personal system, there are quite a few icons. As you can see in Figure A, the first three icons, working from left to right, are the Task Scheduler, Norton AntiVirus, and the Windows volume control. All of these applications are standard and aren’t really considered to be a nuisance. The next icon is for America Online, which is annoying, because I’m not even an AOL subscriber. Finally, there’s an icon for a screen saver that I never use, an icon for the Microsoft Messenger Service, an icon for the Sony memory stick floppy disk adapter, a Real Player icon, and finally, an icon for the Microsoft Cordless Phone System. Of these icons, I want to remove the AOL and the screen saver icons.

Figure A
The system tray contains icons that represent programs running in the background.

You can remove system tray icons manually through the Windows registry. As always, when working with the registry, you should exercise extreme caution. Making a mistake in the registry can destroy Windows and/or your applications. Therefore, make sure that you have a good backup before attempting this technique.

Begin by opening the Registry Editor. As a safety precaution, Microsoft didn’t create an icon for the Registry Editor. To run it, click the Start button and select the Run command from the Start menu. Then, enter the command REGEDIT at the Run prompt.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply access a System Tray section of the registry to remove programs from the system tray. The instructions to display an icon on the system tray are coded within the individual applications themselves. However, keep in mind that the icons are merely representations of other programs that are running automatically when the system starts.

Navigate through the registry to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE | SOFTWARE | Microsoft | Windows | CurrentVersion | Run. Beneath this registry key, you’ll see many of the programs that are set up to run on startup, including the system tray itself. You can see an example of this in Figure B.

Figure B
The registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE | SOFTWARE | Microsoft | Windows | CurrentVersion | Run contains a list of programs that run at startup.

If you don’t want to have any programs running in the system tray, you can remove the system tray entry from the Run key. To remove programs from the system tray, delete their entries from the Run key. Keep in mind that many of the programs are listed there for a reason, so be careful what you delete. If you can’t find the program that you need to remove, Windows may be running it as a service. All of the same rules apply to removing services as to removing programs. You can look through the registry for the list of services at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE | SOFTWARE | Microsoft | Windows | CurrentVersion | RunServices.

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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