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Something that I have wondered about, I notice that despite changing the order of running some of my applications, even stopping and restarting them or even between reboots.....they seem to occupy the same display position in my system icon tray.

So I am curious as to what is determining the display order in Windows?

Can it be changed? If so, how.


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up vote 10 down vote accepted

The tray icon's order isn't determined by their load timing or anything like that, at least not in Windows 7 and up.

Since Windows 7, you can drag tray icons around to change the order yourself. You can even decide which one to always show and which to always hide by right-clicking the taskbar, going into Properties and then, under Notification area, click Customize.

In the same panel, you can also choose to completely hide system icons like network, volume and battery.

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Very interesting! Based on my observations, it obviously saves something and this information seems to validate what I am seeing. – mdpc Dec 17 '12 at 22:12

I had a look with Sysinternals Process Monitor (filtering on "tray") in Windows 8. When you move an icon in the systray, this registry key gets updated:

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

Specifically, these values in that key get updated: LastAdvertisement, UserStartTime, PastIconsStream, IconStreams.

I'm guessing the icon order is stored in the IconStreams value.

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Nice detective work! – mdpc Dec 17 '12 at 22:43

My (admittedly limited) understanding is that the order is determined by startup order.

I don't believe that there is any way to change the order.

Oops, just realised that you can MANUALLY change the order! Just drag and drop!!

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Well, if I subsequently kill of the program and restart it, the same system tray icon appears in the same place. Also, I note that should I disable the startup and manually startup the process, it will again magically appear in that same slot. – mdpc Dec 17 '12 at 22:03
Wow COOL! Never noticed that before ... I think that I had tried to do that several years ago and was not successful. – mdpc Dec 17 '12 at 22:07
So somewhere there MUST be a record of the order - though I'm not sure whether it saves the order after a reboot. – Julian Knight Dec 17 '12 at 22:10
In my experience....seems to. – mdpc Dec 17 '12 at 22:14
Nice - I guess B) Honestly, I rarely pay much attention to them. – Julian Knight Dec 17 '12 at 22:16

The order they appear in is caused by the order they finish loading in... so it's generally the same every time.

Windows doesn't allow you to change this yourself. However, there may be programs available for it, but they may not be free.


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This article seems to indicate something opposite of what I am seeing. – mdpc Dec 17 '12 at 22:06
Yes, I think that the actual order is complex due to just WHEN they add the icon and this is likely to change somewhat between loads if several things are starting in parallel. – Julian Knight Dec 17 '12 at 22:12

I want my notification area icons to appear in exactly the same order every time I boot up without having to manually rearrange them every time.

Here is what works and sticks:
1. Click the show hidden icons arrow, and then customize. 2. Any time you change an attribute of an icon, it moves to the top of the list, which moves it to the far left in the notification area. 3. Decide which icon you want on the far right, change an attribute, and it moves to the far left.
4. Do this repeatedly for the icons you want in the second to far right, third to far right, and so on. 5. I've rebooted many times and the icon order stays the same.

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This seems a lot of work for something that can simply by done through the UI. You can also just drag and drop the icons in the order you want them in. – Ramhound Jun 9 '15 at 17:35

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