Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Fix Missing Volume, Battery, or Network Icons in Vista

Tech Paul’s Fix for When Clock, Volume, Battery Power or Network Icons are Missing and/or Grayed Out in Windows Vista

Sometimes, unexpected (and unwanted) changes can happen to our computers that we geeks call ‘glitches’. You install some new program, and some other program you have stops working, for example. Or you uninstall a CD burning program, and find your DVD-RW is now missing. The wonderful world of PC’s!

As a tech, solving ‘glitches’ is my game (it’s what I do), and over the years I have seen a few. One such ‘glitch’ I used to see occasionally in XP, and fairly routinely in Vista, is the “missing volume control” (or “network connection”) which is a handy way to control your sound level.
Today, I will tell you the fix that not only restores the missing icon, but keeps it there.
Better still — I won’t have you mucking around in the Registry.

Simple ones first

Fix It #1)  Press Ctrl+D to bookmark this page and Reboot.
Make sure this isn’t a “temp glitch”. 9 times outer 10 restarting your computer solves your ‘glitch’. If you already tried that, keep reading.

Fix It #2) Normally you can re-enable the icons by right-clicking on the Taskbar, choosing Properties and going to the Notification Area tab — place checks in the checkboxes for the icons you want displayed.
If you already tried that, or the checkboxes are “grayed out”, keep reading.

Fix It #3) Restart explorer.exe

  • Open Task Manager (Ctrl+Shft+Esc)
  • Click the Processes tab
  • Find explorer.exe in the list and click on it (turn it blue), then click “End process” button
  • Restart it. Click File > New Task(Run…) then type in explorer.exe and hit Enter

Alternative: Open Control Panel > Taskbar and Start Menu– place checks in the checkboxes for the icons you want displayed.

Now Let’s Keep The Glitch Gone!

If this problem keeps recurring:

  • Open Control Panel >Sound
  • Double-click on your “Playback device” (aka “speaker”)
  • Click on the Advanced tab
  • Un-check “Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device”

Click “Apply” and then OK.

Okay. That’s it. Your missing icon should be back in its proper place in the Notification Area and should stay there.

Note: When I am called upon to fix this particular problem, I usually (like, 99% of the time) find that the person’s machine is not up-to-date with all the Windows Updates – usually a missing Service Pack. I do not know that there is a direct cause > effect there.. But.
Fact: you want Updates. Install them PLEASE. Pretty please with sugar on top?

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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April 21, 2011 - Posted by | anti-spyware, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, Taskbar, tech, troubleshooting, Vista | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. tried to follow fix#3 got to point 3 theres no end task button-it said end (and something else) so I clicked that, now my toolbar has dissappeared I can’t click on restart or anything. I hope I can still use my computer!


    Comment by michelle | April 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. Hey hey its done all ok again thank you so much. X


    Comment by michelle | April 21, 2011 | Reply

    • michelle,
      You’re right: it says “End process”, not “End task”. I’ll fix the article – thank you.


      Comment by techpaul | April 21, 2011 | Reply

  3. i love you, thanks!


    Comment by Anonymous | November 27, 2012 | Reply

    • Sir or Ms,
      I’m glad I could help out.


      Comment by techpaul | November 27, 2012 | Reply

  4. Thank you so very much! Your directions are brilliant! I have Windows Vista and a Dell XPS Laptop. I had lost my “sound” icon in the taskbar and it had been “greyed out” thus I could not check it to add back to the taskbar. Your Fix it #3 worked perfectly to enable me to re-add the sound icon to the taskbar (and now I have locked the taskbar). THANK YOU SO MUCH! I am so very grateful for your wonderful help!


    Comment by Peggy Chatfield | January 10, 2013 | Reply

    • Peggy Chatfield,
      I appreciate your taking the time to let me know you found my efforts here helpful.


      Comment by techpaul | January 10, 2013 | Reply

  5. OHMYGOOOS THANK YOU SO MUUCHHH !!!! my icons where like ‘grayed out’ it was really annoying !


    Comment by Anonymous | February 28, 2013 | Reply

    • Sir or Ms,
      Thank you for taking the time to let me know you found the article helpful.


      Comment by techpaul | February 28, 2013 | Reply

  6. Easy to follow directions and worked perfectly. Thanks!


    Comment by Anonymous | July 13, 2013 | Reply

    • Sir or Ms,
      Thank you for taking the time to let me know I helped out.


      Comment by techpaul | July 13, 2013 | Reply

  7. None of this worked for me. And the problem still persists.


    Comment by neal | August 6, 2014 | Reply

    • neal,
      If these mathods failed, Microsoft has issued a “Fix it” solution you should try, here
      (Scroll down a bit to the “Fix it for me” section)


      Comment by techpaul | August 6, 2014 | Reply

      • tried that, didn’t work.


        Comment by neal | August 6, 2014 | Reply

        • neal,
          Are you using Vista?

          First, double-check and make sure the icons are set to show. Right-click on a blank section of the Task bar, and click on Properties. Click on the Notification Area tab, and place checks in the appropriate checkboxes. Uncheck “Hide inactive icons”, click Apply, then OK.

          Then click on the Start button, and “Log off”. Then log back in to your user account.

          If all these methods fail, you can try using System Restore to go back to a time when your icons were visible. (You might also download Malwarebytes Antimalware to scan for malware). Good luck.


          Comment by techpaul | August 6, 2014 | Reply

  8. Hello Paul,

    Restarting Explorer (#3) did the trick for the grayed-out battery power icon on my Gateway laptop running Vista. Great tip, in seconds neatly solves an intermittent glitch that I used to have to go through a (long) restart to fix.

    For what it’s worth, this old Vista (SP2) machine is kept up to date with all the latest security & reliability patches, but this glitch can still be occasionally stimulated if the laptop doesn’t transition out of the hibernate state cleanly. Note: By filling the machine with RAM & running ReadyBoost on a 4GB SD card this laptop is still responsive & doesn’t get in the way of day-to-day use on the internet…but a shutdown/restart cycle takes a long time, and is a real patience-tester.

    In English, this machine is in heavy rotation, is carried around in a shop all day, sometimes plugged in, sometimes on battery. By using the sleep & hibernation modes, I’m able to go a week or two at a time before having to perform a Restart. (and the associated wait.) Depending on the situation, sometimes I have to switch from performance-oriented to power-saving mode, so I need access to the battery power icon…so when this glitch would occur (maybe once every 30 hibernate cycles?) this would force a shutdown/restart to clear.

    Given the above, your Fix It tip #3 is perfect! I have other (newer) computers, but I prefer to keep this old warrior running in order to give me worry-free, responsive access to the internet in a busy, computer-unfriendly work environment.

    Cheers —



    Comment by Dave | October 22, 2014 | Reply

    • Dave,
      A quick keyboard shortcut, Windows key + X, brings up the Mobility Center window, which gives you Power Options — would have saved you the reboots.. but a fix is always better than a workaround.

      (And, btw, you were describing me also. And yes, mine’s a Gateway too.)


      Comment by techpaul | October 22, 2014 | Reply

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