Sound or volume tray icon missing in Windows Vista?

Is your sound icon suddenly missing from your Windows Vista system tray!? It was there just a little while ago, but now it’s gone! For some strange reason, many Vista users have to deal with missing volume and network icons on a regular basis!

Even after I upgraded to Windows Vista SP1, my volume icon and network connections icon will just disappear from the system tray. The funny thing is that if you go to the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog and click on the Notification Area tab, the volume, network, and power icons are all grayed out!

notoficatoin area icons missing

So basically all of my icons in the notification area are missing! Great! So how can you get your volume and network icons back into the system tray? Unfortunately, if the options to check them are grayed out like above in the Notification Area tab, then you have to hack the registry. First, make sure to backup the registry in case something goes wrong.

Now open the registry editor by going to Start and typing in regedit into the Instant Search box. Go to the Edit menu and click on Find. Search for “IconStreams” and click OK.

After a few moments, you’ll see the following key with two entries on the right hand side: IconStreams and PastIconStream. You want to right-click on both of those and delete them.

icon streams

In case you can’t find those two keys for some reason, the full registry path to IconStreams is:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\TrayNotify

Once you delete those two keys from the registry, restart your computer. Usually, all your icons will come back automatically, but if they don’t, just go to the Notification Area tab under Start Menu properties and check off the icons you want to have appear again.

sound icon missing vista

Unfortunately, this problem of the missing icons in Vista happens to me over and over, even after deleting the registry keys. I’m not really sure of any other way to permanently fix the problem, so if you know of another method, please post a comment and enlighten us all! Enjoy!

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  1. XSilvenX says:

    Didn't work for me…might work for some of you but it's surely not 100%

  2. chrissyadams says:

    i can't find my volume icon. i did a update for windows and when i restarted my computer the icon was gone. i followed your instructions concerning the IconStream and PastIconStream but when i went into the registry the default setting was the only one there so what do i do next?

  3. Owen says:

    You could try just restarting the system without editing the registry. Even logging off and logging back on would work.

  4. IkeySnigglefritz says:

    I fixed mine without a regedit by doing this…

    Navigate to Control Panel / Sound

    Select appropriate speaker/headphone and choose Properties

    Advanced tab – deselect "Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device"

  5. Tony says:

    Works a treat for me.

    Instead of restarting after making the reg fix, just end the process explorer.exe within Task Manager under the Processes tab, then under the Applications tab, create a new task, explorer.exe. Saves a few minutes and the hassle of restarting

  6. Nina says:

    You do not even need to restart the whole computer or log off and on.

    Simply open the task-manager, terminate the process "explorer.exe" and then restart "explorer.exe". This works, because the tray-problem is an explorer issue.

  7. Jenny says:

    Nina's suggestion totally works! First I was pretty freaked out when everything except the task manager was wiped out after I ended explorer.exe, but all you have to do when this happens is to go to File in the task manager window, select New Task, and then type in "explorer.exe", click OK, and everything will go back to normal, including the volume icon.

  8. Faffee says:

    Nina/Jenny-

    Ur absolutely correct! Worked like a charm… :)

  9. tsealy says:

    This works great for a good long time and it's easy to redo when necessary. Thanks to the author of this help!

  10. Shell says:

    Worked great along with ending explorer.exe process and starting a new task. Thank you!

  11. Elly says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! After experiencing a very scary crash (blue screen and all) after attempting a regedit following the method given on several forums to the letter, I'm very relieved the real solution is so simple!

  12. Annunaak says:

    A simple reboot worked for me too…

  13. Tomasz says:

    MIcrosoft issued automated fix for the missing system icons in the taskbar: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/945011 .

  14. Thnx for my icon & the reboot workaround.

  15. sandy_dan22 says:

    Thanks I manage to resolve the missing sound icon issue! God Bless! keep it up

  16. liz says:

    Thank-you so much. It worked like a charm :) Got my volume icon back!

  17. andiga says:

    Wahhhh super Nina and Jenny. Works so smooth, got my sound icon back in Vista! Tks a million, Gabriel!

  18. ashruii says:

    If you don't want to restart your computer after deleting the icon streams just open task manager (ctrl+shift+esc), go to processes and end explorer. Then just run a new task, type in 'explorer.exe' and you should have your missing icons back! (:

  19. paul says:

    excellent help. it worked to perfection and I got my sound icon back. brilliant

  20. torrobinson says:

    IkeySnigglefritz's suggestion worked perfectly, and I didn't have to mess with the registry.

    Thanks!

  21. adalberto says:

    thank you so much, it helped me get my volume icon back!!

  22. Spironic says:

    I tried this on XP and it also works! Thank you so much, I was looking for the appropriate registry entry EVERYWHERE!

    Note, though, that the registry path on XP is a bit different. It's:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerTrayNotify

    Then just delete IconStreams and PastIconStream just like on vista, then restart (or kill explorer.exe and run it again).

  23. Pegsbutterball says:

    Thank you, thank you thank you! It was making me crazy!

  24. oldeyes says:

    task manager works great,just right click on your task bar, select task manager then proceed as Nina has suggested.you may then retype exp ex back in the same way it was in before the delete and all is well. Great suggestion Nina thank you

  25. pipsqueak says:

    this has happened to me several times – i just take the battery out & put it back in several minutes later, hey presto, volume icon back again! easy!

  26. remibourgarel says:

    it worked thx ! Instead of rebooting your computer you can reboot only the explorer.exe process :

    ctrl alt supp -> process 'explorer.exe' -> right click -> end process -> file -> new task -> 'explorer' -> OK

  27. ClaireD13 says:

    Your awesome! Thank you- I got my sound icon back!

  28. VaDonna says:

    Thank You!!!! Oh my goodness… I stressed for two days trying to figure out how to restore my Icons. This was awesome help. You all are great!

  29. sana says:

    the explorer thing was very helpful…thank you so much for posting it…:)

  30. ar.m says:

    sweet! Got my volume icon back in the system tray!

  31. Sango says:

    Thanks so much everyone! I freaked out when my sound icon vanished, but the explorer.exe thing did the trick.

  32. olenmcguire says:

    I have done all those things to get my sound icon back to the system tray. It comes on some of the time so I've found that if you keep touching your volume button on the keyboard as soon as the task bar appears, it will always show your sound icon.

  33. Dianna says:

    Thanks. Used the Task manager option and the sound button reappeared.

  34. Farlon says:

    Finally I found the fix. It worked!! Thanks for the help!!

  35. Mish says:

    Thanks Nina … i terminated the process “explorer.exe” but didn't know how to restart "explorer.exe". So i shut down and restart, —> control panel —> sound and was able to get my volume icon as well as my network icon back too.

  36. Judy says:

    For Nina Said — Thank you! Perfect solution and you're right — no more rebooting to recover the missing icons!

  37. elaine says:

    This worked great for me thanks for posting this info

  38. angelia says:

    Thank you for the help! It worked.

  39. David says:

    I've had this problem and followed a simple instruction. Right click on the Taskbar, click the Notification area and then tick Volume. Simple, after days of trying to sort it out. So Easy.

    People seem to be looking for an icon, but it's Volume you need to click.

  40. drziman says:

    Thank you so much, nina and jenny, this worked perfectly and quickly!!!

  41. Candice says:

    @Nina. Thank you. It worked.

  42. shanewarren56 says:

    Worked on the first try for me! Great advice!

  43. Rosemary says:

    Thanks so much. I was so frustrated with the sound icon missing. This totally worked!

  44. CD says:

    Worked so perfectly!!

    And it made me feel really high-tech, like I was Chloe on 24 or something. :D

  45. Smiffy says:

    i'm not a computer geek, all i did when i lost my volume control was a system restore to a couple of days before i lost the icon and it was back. No rebooting or stopping proccesses etc. Very easy even for me. It works for other things as well, any problems its always worth restoring to an ealier date when everything was fine.

  46. njenkinson says:

    Tony, Nina, Jenny: THANKS! Got my Power icon back.

  47. fuzzmaniac says:

    I also found that my volume/network icons disappear after certain updates are installed. IkeySnigglefritz's solution fixed this issue in a split second. There's no need for registry edits or reboots.

  48. Richard says:

    I tried this, but my Vol button is grayed out and can not move from "off" to "on" – any ideas.

  49. NavyBlueSpot says:

    It worked for me, thank you so much!

  50. Sandra says:

    This is the only thing that has worked! Thank you!!!!!!

  51. Denrean says:

    Nina's answer works perfectly.

    Re-quote:

    You do not even need to restart the whole computer or log off and on.

    Simply open the task-manager, terminate the process “explorer.exe” and then restart “explorer.exe”. This works, because the tray-problem is an explorer issue.

  52. Sher says:

    I found an easier way (that worked for me): right-click on empty area of lower task bar; click on "unlock the taskbar", then right-click again & click on "properties" —- then you'll be able to click on the Vol. button.

  53. stephanie says:

    dude you’re awesome! Fixed my sound problem.

  54. anniekerr says:

    This has been driving me crazy!! Thanks – worked perfectly for me!

  55. CallMeCJ says:

    Legend, that worked like a charm.

  56. Angel says:

    My volume was greyed out in that area so I could not click it to turn it on. I followed the directions on this page and it worked. I had rebooted my computer and then right clicked on the task bar and nothing was greyed out. I was sooooooooo happy!

  57. Angel says:

    Yay it worked. The selections are no longer greyed out and I am able to turn the volume icon back on. Thanks!

  58. Easog says:

    Thanks.

    My missing volume, networks and safely remove hardware icons were returned by a combination of the regedit fix, followed by the task manager restart, followed by selecting the volume option in the notification area.

    If the regedt fix doesn’t work on its own don’t forget the notification area.

  59. ABRIN says:

    Simpler Solution: Open task manager, under Processes select explorer.exe, then click End Process. CLick On the Applications Tab, click on New Task and type explorer. Missing Icons (sound/network) will appear again :-) (No hacking registry and no rebooting)

  60. Dhin says:

    worked fine with vista – spend nearly 2 hrs before getting this search page. Thanks, -12-21-11

  61. Meg says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Aseem. After following your very clear instructions and a reboot. I was finally able to go back into the taskbar start menu properties notification area and click on the volume and Network system icons to enable them again. Thanks also for putting in the whole address to locate the icon stream as I didn't have success using just the 'find' keys. I have searched for quite a few hours to find a solution to this problem on the net before finding your site, and most others only mentioned clicking on the volume and network system icons ……that would be easy if they weren't already grayed out, and the only other solution they gave was to unlock the toolbar (which of course was already unlocked)! Thanks for making it so easy for even a novice user such as myself to fix the issue.

  62. Sally says:

    Great. It works. Thank you!

  63. Amy says:

    Nina & Jenny’s comments worked great. The volume icon did not reappear immediately, but I opened the Properties task bar (place cursor over blank area of task bar, right click, “Properties”, “Notification Area” tab, check the box next to “Volume” which should no longer be ghosted) and re-checked the “Volume” box.

  64. Rachel says:

    thank you!

  65. Bob says:

    Works great for me! Many thanks :D

  66. Ray says:

    You are a genius mate. I have had this problem for ages, I can recover the volume icon by doing system restore but this time that didn’t work either.

    Your method worked first time, many thanks for that, much appreciated.

    Ray. Rotorua NZ

  67. Jenelle says:

    This is fantastic! It worked…easy as pie. Thanks a lot.

  68. KhanX says:

    It is amazing, u just need to go to task manager, end task “explorer.exe” , DONT PANIC :P , just go to new task and then thpe “explorer.exe” , DONE!!

  69. rachel solomon says:

    Worked like a charm – thanks

  70. Jenny says:

    Thank you so much! Easy instructions. Worked like a charm.

  71. nixpot says:

    omg, thank you so much. I love you. xx

  72. Candy says:

    worked great! thanks so much!

  73. Jimmy says:

    Nina, Jenny’s and Amy’s worked. Thanks a lot! I had to do what Amy did too.

  74. Bu33ing says:

    Deleting the two registry settings worked along with killing and restarting explorer.exe.

    Awesome & Thanks !!

  75. lisa says:

    Pressing the volume button on my keyboard advice worked as it activated the greyed out volume/network on the taskbar.

  76. Joseph says:

    Awesome, worked for me!

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