How to Set and Respond to Notifications in Windows 8.1

The desktop side of Windows 8.1 allows all sorts of notifications: blinking taskbar tiles, balloon messages over the system time (in the lower-right corner, dire-looking icons in the system notification area, near the system time), or dialog boxes that appear out of nowhere. However, the tiled full-screen side is very conservative and much more effective because of it.

These new notifications — the things that can happen when Windows or one of the tiled, full-screen apps wants your attention — fall into three broad categories:

  • They can put rectangular notices, usually gray, in the upper-right edge of your screen, with a few lines of text. Typically the notifications say things like Tap or choose what happens when you insert a USB drive, or Turn sharing on or off.

    These notifications are toaster notifications (or sometimes just toast), and they’re a core part of Windows on the tiled side of Windows 8.1. It’s a fabulous name because they pop up, just like toast, but on their sides.

  • They can show toaster notifications on the lock screen. This is considered direr than simply showing the notifications on tiled apps or the desktop. Why? Because the apps that create lock screen notifications may need to run, even when Windows is sleeping. And that leads to battery drainage.

  • They can play sounds.

Windows lets you disable all notifications rather easily, or you can pick and choose which apps can send notifications and which just have to stifle their utterances.

Here’s how to disable all notifications:

  1. Swipe from the right or hover your mouse in the upper-right corner to bring up the Charms bar, and then at the bottom, choose the Settings charm.

    The Settings pane appears.

  2. At the bottom of the Settings pane, tap or click the Notifications icon.

    From there you can hide all notifications, of all kinds — noisy ones, flashy ones, drab “you’re toast” notifications, whatever — for 1, 3, or 8 hours.

Windows also lets you disable specific kinds of notifications or notifications from select apps.

If you want to permanently disable notifications from just one application — say, you aren’t a big fan of Messaging and you definitely don’t want to see its notifications — here’s how to do it:

  1. Swipe from the right or hover your mouse in the upper-right corner to bring up the Charms bar, and then at the bottom, choose the Settings charm.

  2. At the bottom of the Start Settings pane, tap or click the Change PC Settings link, then on the left, click or tap on Search and Apps.

    The Search and Apps setting screen appears.

  3. Select Notifications on the left.

  4. Switch off the specific kind of notification that you don’t want to see or, if you only want to silence a particular app, switch it off at the bottom.

    You’re done. There’s no Apply or OK button to tap or click.

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