Windows 10 is a lot friendlier than its predecessor, but once you become familiar with two new space-wasting items on the Windows 10 taskbar, you can safely remove them while still taking full advantage of the features they represent. Here’s how.
Note: This is a completely rewritten and updated version of a tip I wrote for Windows 10 Technical Preview 2.
As configured by default, the Windows 10 taskbar includes two major new items: a Cortana search box (just Search, if you have not configured Cortana or if this feature is not supported in your location) and a Task View icon. You can see them on the left, next to the Start button.
That may not seem too bad on a clean install. But if you start pinning or using apps, the taskbar can fill up quickly, both with buttons representing pinned and open apps and windows, and with system try icons (to the right).
Here’s how you can clean up this mess.
Configure Cortana as an icon. The taskbar-based search box is there as a visual cue to remind users that they can search—and, with Cortana—ask questions, set reminders, and perform other tasks—at any time. But you don’t actually need the search box to search. If you tap WINKEY and start typing, you’ll get exactly the same search experience. And if you want to perform a voice search—normally accessed by clicking the microphone icon in the search box, just type WINKEY + C. To configure Cortana as an icon, right-click the taskbar and choose Cortana and then Show Cortana Icon from the pop-up menu that appears.
Remove Cortana from the taskbar. Even as icon, Cortana is superfluous. You can still tap WINKEY and start typing to search, and you can still type WINKEY + C to start a voice search. So just get rid of the icon too: right-click the taskbar and choose Cortana and then Hidden from the pop-up menu that appears.
Remove Task View from the taskbar. The Task View button is in the Windows 10 taskbar because only 6 percent of users use the ALT + TAB multitasking keyboard shortcut: this button provides access to a thumbnail view of all of your open apps and windows, and also lets you create a new virtual desktop. But you don’t need it: you can access Task View with WINKEY + TAB. (And as I describe in Master Multitasking Keyboard Shortcuts, it’s easy to work with virtual desktops without this button too.) So just remove it: right-click the taskbar and deselect Show Task View Button.
Hide app icons in the system tray. As you install the desktop applications you use every day, you’ll find that many of them place often-unnecessary icons in the system tray. Some of these will provide a mechanism for hiding or removing these icons—try right-clicking each and looking for this option—but you can also just hide them using Windows, freeing up space on your taskbar. There are two ways to do this: you can drag individual icons into the hidden area (by the caret at the left) or you can go nuclear: open Settings (WINKEY + I), and navigate to System, Notifications & Actions, and then select the link “Select which icons appear on the taskbar.” Here, you can really hide the icons you never want to see.
Hide system icons. While I don’t actually recommend doing this, you can also hide the white system icons that appear in the system tray; these are the items—the clock, volume control, network status, power options, input indicator, location indicator, and Action Center icon—that come with Windows 10. To examine your options, open Settings (WINKEY + I), and navigate to System, Notifications & Actions, and then select the link “Turn system icons on or off.”)
When you’re done configuring this, you should have a nicely-tailored taskbar with plenty of room for more apps. Enjoy!