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!

Comments [76]

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

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

  4. 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. 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. 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. 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. Nina/Jenny-

    Ur absolutely correct! Worked like a charm… :)

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

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

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

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

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

  15. 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! (:

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

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


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

  19. 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:


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

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

  21. task manager works great,just right click on your task bar, select task manager then proceed as Nina has 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

  22. 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!

  23. 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

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

  25. 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!

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

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

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

  29. 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.

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

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

  32. 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.

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

  34. This worked great for me thanks for posting this info

  35. 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.

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

  37. Worked on the first try for me! Great advice!

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

  39. Worked so perfectly!!

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

  40. 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.

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

  42. 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.

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

  44. It worked for me, thank you so much!

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

  46. Nina's answer works perfectly.


    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.

  47. 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.

  48. dude you’re awesome! Fixed my sound problem.

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

  50. 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!

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

  52. 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.

  53. 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)

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

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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

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

  59. 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!!

  60. Worked like a charm – thanks

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

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

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

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

    Awesome & Thanks !!

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

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