Fix for “system icons grayed out in Windows 7”

A week ago, my power, network, and volume icons disappeared from the tray area of Windows 7.  When I chose “Customize notification icons” and then “Turn system icons on or off”, the choices were grayed out like the image to the left.

I tried the Group Policy and registry solutions that I found online, but with no success.

Here’s how I finally fixed it:

  1. Run a Command Prompt as administrator, then “sfc /scannow”
  2. Find the sfc log file at C:\Windows\Logs\CBS\CBS.log and search it for “cannot repair”.

I discovered that 6 .dll files from C:\Windows\system32 were messed up.  I found a nice explanation here as to how to extract the files from the Windows 7 installation DVD using 7-Zip, which I already like for other zipping and unzipping tasks.

Unfortunately, you can’t just copy the files into C:\Windows\system32.  Here’s what I had to do to replace the .dll files:

  1. Extract the files from the installation DVD into a local folder, such as c:\extracted-files
  2. Boot the installation DVD, choose to repair Windows, and get to a Command Prompt
  3. Use the command line to copy the .dll files from c:\extracted-files to c:\windows\system32
  4. Reboot

That did it!  I don’t know how the files were corrupted, but replacing them got the system icons back.

20 thoughts on “Fix for “system icons grayed out in Windows 7”

    1. karl.kranich Post author

      If you have a full backup, you could go back a while and get them from there. Another option might be an identical machine running Windows 7.


  1. Pete

    For me I just went to regedit and deleted iconstreams and pasticonstreams then restarted my PC and the icons were there once again.
    This is just a temp fix, but it works.

  2. George

    Just running “sfc /scannow” repaired my corrupt .dlls (had about 5 from messing with a custom theme). Rebooted and got the icon back. Thanks!

  3. Mohit

    Just to let you know, if you can’t open cbs.log, then copy cbs.log and then open the copied one, as original is used constantly by system I suppose…

  4. Pingback: Speakers/volume icon is gone from the task bar

  5. nogooddogooder – How to back up and restore the registry in Windows

    Click Start.
    In the Start Search field, type regedit.exe and then press Enter.
    If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, type the password, or click Allow.
    Locate and then click the following registry subkey:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\TrayNotify
    In the Details pane, click the IconStreams registry entry.
    On the Edit menu, click Delete, and then click Yes.
    In the Details pane, click the PastIconsStream registry entry.
    On the Edit menu, click Delete, and then click Yes.
    Exit Registry Editor.
    Restart the Explorer.exe process. To do these, follow these steps:
    On the Processes tab in Task Manager, click the explorer.exe process, and then click End Process two times.
    On the File menu, click New Tasks (Run), type explorer, and then click OK.
    Exit Task Manager.
    Once Explorer.exe has restarted, right click on the clock and choose “Customize Notification Icons”.
    Ensure that Power is set to “Show icon and notifications”.
    Click on “Turn system icons on or off”
    Ensure that Power is set to “On”.
    Click on OK and close the Control Panel.

    Hope that helps, have a great day!

    1. karl.kranich Post author

      Sorry that it didn’t work for you. There are tons of other things to try – this is just the one that worked for me.

  6. Dave

    make sure that you run regedit as admin
    and stop and restart explorer.exe
    see instructions from nogooddogooder


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