As you may know from our "Meaning of MSE icons" tutorial, Microsoft Security Essentials uses different icon colors to indicate issues, and different icons to indicate program status (updating virus definition files, scanning in progress, etc.) In this tutorial, we'll show you how to make your MSE icon always visible or always hidden in the system tray / notification area of the taskbar. Note that there isn't anything special about the MSE icon. To remove Microsoft Security Essentials from the taskbar, you simply set its icon to "
always hidden": this is how you would control showing or hiding any taskbar icon. But in MSE's case, the icon and its color convey important messages about the security of your PC, so it's worth showing it all the time! In the top left screenshot, MSE has been disabled.
Tip: if the MSE icon is missing from the system tray (not even showing among the taskbar's hidden icons in the notification area), Microsoft Security Essentials is probably not running. Once installed, MSE runs all the time, unless another antivirus program has taken over, or unless Windows Updates has turned if off to update it. If
explorer.exehas crashed, icons may not have been all restored.
Quick Steps to show the MSE icon in the taskbar:
Just like other Windows programs, Microsoft Security Essentials' icon may appear or disappear as the application needs to attract your attention (overdue virus scan, program disabled during an update, etc.) To show it all the time, click on the taskbar's arrow button and click "Customize". When the Control Panel screen opens, scroll until you see "
Microsoft Security Client User Interface":
By default, to keep your system tray (notification area) uncluttered, most programs are set to "Only show notifications": with that setting, the MSE icon (and other apps') is hidden much of the time. It will appear whenever a notification is warranted, and disappear once the callout bubble fades away.
To always hide the MSE icon, select "Hide icon and notifications": we don't recommend removing MSE from the taskbar, since it means that you'll miss any important message it might otherwise display.
Also, with the icon always hidden, you won't notice when it turns orange (the sign that a manual virus scan is overdue). Likewise, and more important, you won't see when it is red, which is a sign of problem!
If you don't keep the default, we recommend that you choose to "Show icon and notification": that option means that you'll have about 20 pixels used up in your Windows taskbar, but you'll always know that MSE is running, and that you are protected! (That's the setting we use for all security software.) Click OK to save your new settings once you are done.
In Windows Vista, right-click on an empty area of the taskbar, and choose Properties (if there are too many windows opened, right-click on the start button and choose Properties). In the dialog that opens, select the "Notification Area" tab if needed, and click on the Customize button:
Next to the MSE icon (which by default in Vista reads PC status: protected), click on the dropdown menu and choose your preferred value: "Show" keeps it always visible, "Hide" always hides it, and "Hide when inactive" only shows it when important messages need your attention. Click OK to apply.
In Windows XP, right-click on the taskbar and choose "Properties": in the popup window that opens, click on the Customize button next to "
Hide inactive icons".
In the dialog that opens, find the MSE icon and choose the icon behavior you want in the dropdown menu: Always show, Always hide, or Hide when inactive. Here too (despite the caution note below), we recommend that you stick with the first (best) or last setting. Click OK when you are done:
Important: it is no longer safe to use Windows XP, since it no gets active support from Microsoft (no more Windows Updates, and no virus definition files after early 2015). Besides, as a general rule, each version of Windows tends to be more secure than its predecessor. That's why the MSE icon always appears orange in the taskbar, soon to be completely inactive in securing your PC.
As you probably already know, MSE is not available as a download for Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10.
That's because the program is now called "Windows Defender", and ships bundled with the operating system. It always runs in the background (unless you install another antivirus software that disables it), and no longer shows an icon in the taskbar's notification area.