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How to identify taskbar icons on Windows 10

Taskbar icons, whether they’re for pinned apps, or apps that are currently open on your desktop are easy to identify. You can click the icon, and it will open the app it is for.

If you have an icon on the taskbar that is empty, has an icon you do not recognize, or that you do not remember pinning or opening, there are a few different things you can do to identify it.

Identify taskbar icons

Hover & right-click

Assuming the icon won’t open any app i.e., it is dead or unresponsive, there are two simple things you can do to identify it.

  1. Hover the mouse cursor over the icon and wait a few seconds. A tool-tip will appear showing you the name of the app that the icon is for.
  2. If the tool-tip doesn’t show up, you can right-click the icon and the context menu will show you the name of the app that the icon is for.

View Taskbar shortcuts

If the tool-tip never shows up and the context menu for the app is empty, try the following.

  1. If the app is not pinned to the taskbar, right-click it and select Pin to taskbar from the context menu.
  2. Open File Explorer and paste the following in the location bar. Tap Enter.
%AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar
  1. In the folder that opens, you will be able to see all items that are pinned to the taskbar.
  2. Go through them to see which icon isn’t visible on the taskbar but listed in the folder. By process of elimination, you should be able to identify the unknown icon.

Check Command Line processes

It is possible that you have a batch script running on your PC and the icon belongs to it.

  1. Right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager from the context menu.
  2. On the task manager, go to the Processes tab.
  3. Go through the list of running processes and look for anything that is running with cmd or Command Prompt. Do not consider the items under Windows Processes but look at all the others.
  4. If you find something running, select it and click the End Task button at the bottom right.

Conclusion

Taskbar icons normally tend to ‘disappear’ or are corrupted when an app is not uninstalled correctly, or when you attempt to back up and restore the taskbar layout. These icons are often residuals of pinned shortcuts that no longer exist and Windows 10 doesn’t know what to do with them.

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