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This has happened a few times now, but I've never taken the time to see if there's a solution to this problem. When explorer.exe crashes (due to, say, opening the Recycle Bin after throwing away a lot of files and killing the hanging Windows Explorer), some icons in the system tray don't show up, even though the programs are running.

Closing and starting the program that the missing icon belongs to (say, Spotify) restores the icon. Does anyone know why this happens, and if there's a way to restore the missing icons without having to restart the programs involved?

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If a program has an option to disable the tray icon, toggling this option will probably work. But I'd recommend that you reboot whenever Explorer crashes, it's the only way to make sure everything is back to normal. – Harry Johnston Nov 6 '11 at 22:07
Harry is right, but you could simply do a Log off and Log On again to solve it as well, which is faster than a full reboot. – Syclone0044 Nov 7 '11 at 1:20
@Scyclone0044: you're so right. +1 – Harry Johnston Nov 7 '11 at 20:38

When the program starts up is usually the time that it registers itself with Explorer (and puts its icon in the system tray) and I believe that while running a program can update its icon reasonably often but if they do not request an update or re-register themselves after a crash then they will not appear again.

I would expect that the programs that reappear after an explorer crash are written by developers whose machines were unstable in a similar way to yours or chances are they update their icon regularly by design and so circumvent the problem you are experiencing.

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It's curious though, almost all applications that I'm running do the right thing. – Sverre Rabbelier Nov 7 '11 at 8:30
The key word there is "almost". Most applications now cater for these kinds of problems but it's not mandatory and not all applications will do it... – Mokubai Nov 7 '11 at 19:01

It seems there are specific steps to restore your system tray. If you close and restart Explorer properly, your system tray icons will return. I never expected by system tray items to fully return after a crash, but it seems to work! :)

  • Click Start Menu
  • Hold down Shift + Ctrl
  • Right-click on blank area of the long rectangular Start Menu
  • Select Exit Explorer

Your task bar is now gone.

  • Ctrl + Shift + Esc to get to the Task Manager
  • File > New Task (Run...)
  • explorer.exe

You should see all your system tray icons return.

Source: Close and Restart Explorer.exe

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