Make Sense of Taskbar Icons in Windows 10 - dummies

Make Sense of Taskbar Icons in Windows 10

By Andy Rathbone

Like a crafty card player, the Windows 10 taskbar comes with a few tips and tricks. For example, here’s the lowdown on the icons near the taskbar’s right edge, shown here, known as the Action Center. Different items appear in the Action Center depending on your PC and programs, but you’ll probably encounter some of these:

Click the arrow to see the taskbar's hidden icons.
Click the arrow to see the taskbar’s hidden icons.

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  • Minimize Windows: This small strip hidden against the taskbar’s far-right edge instantly minimizes all open windows when you click it. (Click it again to put the windows back in place.)

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  • Time/Date: Click the time and date to fetch a handy monthly calendar and clock. If you want to change the time or date or even add a second time zone, click the Time/Date area and choose Adjust Date/Time.

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  • Location: Your computer is currently sharing your location with an app, often seen when checking maps or other location-specific apps.

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  • Bluetooth: Click this to see your options for connecting wirelessly with Bluetooth, commonly used with mice, keyboards, and speakers.

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  • Safely Remove Hardware: Before unplugging a storage device, be it a tiny flash drive, a portable music player, or a portable hard drive, click here. That tells Windows to prepare the gadget for unplugging.

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  • Action Center: Click this to fetch the Action Center, which keeps you up-to-date on your e-mails and appointments, as well as your computer’s performance.

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  • Wired Network: This appears when you’re connected to the Internet or other PCs through a wired network. Not connected? A red X appears over the icon.

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  • Wireless Network: This appears when your PC is wirelessly connected to the Internet or other network. The more waves you see on the icon, the more powerful your wireless signal.

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  • Volume: Click or tap this ever-so-handy little speaker icon to adjust your PC’s volume, as shown here. (Or double-click the word Mixer to bring up a mixing panel. Mixers let you adjust separate volume levels for each program, so you can keep Media Player’s volume louder than your other programs’ annoying beeps.)

    Slide the lever to adjust the volume.
    Slide the lever to adjust the volume.

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  • Task Manager: Coveted by computer technicians, this little program can end misbehaving programs, monitor background tasks, monitor performance, and do other stuff of techie dreams.

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  • Windows Host Process: This dismally named icon delivers an even worse message: Your newly plugged-in gadget won’t work, be it your printer, scanner, music player, or other item. Try unplugging the device, running its installation software again, and plugging it back in.

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  • USB: Click this before unplugging a USB drive, so Windows knows to stop using it.

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  • OneDrive: When your computer is synchronizing its files with OneDrive (your Internet storage space), a moving line travels beneath this icon.

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  • Power, Outlet: This shows that your laptop or tablet is plugged into an electrical outlet and is charging its battery.

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  • Power, Battery: Your laptop or tablet is running on batteries only. (Rest your mouse pointer over the icon to see how much power remains.)

  • Arrow: Sometimes the taskbar hides things. If you see a tiny upward-pointing arrow at the start of the taskbar’s notification area, click it to see a few hidden icons slide up and out.

You can pick and choose which notification icons should always be visible by clicking the Start button, choosing Settings, clicking the System icon, and choosing Notifications & Actions from the right pane. On the left, click Select Which Icons Appear on the Taskbar. A new window appears, with sliding on/off toggles for all of the icons.