How to Use the Windows 8 Taskbar's Notification Area - dummies

How to Use the Windows 8 Taskbar’s Notification Area

By Andy Rathbone

Like a crafty card player, the taskbar comes with a few tips and tricks. For example, here’s the lowdown on the icons near the taskbar’s right edge, known as the notification area.


Different items appear in the notification area depending on your PC and programs, but you’ll probably encounter some of these:

  • 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.)

  • 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 Change Date and Time Settings.

  • Windows Media Center Recording: The glowing red circle means Windows Media Center, available separately as an add-on, is currently recording something off the television.

  • Media Center Guide Listings: Media Center is downloading the latest TV listings.

  • 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.

  • Action Center: Windows wants you to do something, be it to click a permission window, install an antivirus program, check your last backup, or perform some other important task.

  • 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.

  • Wireless Network: Your PC is wirelessly connected to the Internet or other network. When all five bars show, you have a very strong signal.

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


  • Windows Problem Reporting: When Windows runs into trouble, this icon appears; click it to see possible solutions.

  • Windows Automatic Updates: This icon appears when Windows downloads updates, usually small programs designed to fix your PC, from Microsoft’s website at Windows Update.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Explorer: Older PCs come with two types of USB ports: fast and slow. This icon means you’ve plugged a speedy gadget into your slow port. Try unplugging it and plugging it into a different port. (The USB ports on a desktop computer’s back side are often the faster ones.)

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

  • 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 out.