The taskbar has been a standard component of Windows since the days of Windows 95 when it first made its appearance. While it has undergone a few design changes over the years, its basic functionality has remained intact. You can access running applications from there, open the Start menu, and even pin your favorite apps to it.

However, what happens if you find that the icons on the taskbar have gone missing? This can happen sometimes, due to various reasons, such as corrupted system files, issues caused by third-party applications, or even a broken icon cache. Thankfully, there are ways by which you can resolve the problem, and we're going to show you how.

1. Restart Windows Explorer

If you find icons missing on the taskbar, the first thing to do is to restart the File Explorer.

  1. Right-click on the taskbar and click on the 'Task Manager' option. Alternatively, use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc shortcut.
  1. Once the Task Manager opens, you will see all the processes running on your system, including File Explorer. Right-click on it and click on the 'Restart' button.
  1. Restarting the File Explorer will make the taskbar, Start menu, and taskbar disappear and reappear. Hopefully, this should resolve the problem, but if it does not, here's another fix.

2. Enable and Disable the 'Hide the Taskbar' Option

Windows lets you hide the taskbar so that it only appears when you hover the mouse pointer over the area where the taskbar is located. At times, it may cause certain problems, like missing taskbar icons. Enabling and disabling the feature might help bring the icons back.

  1. Open the Settings app and click on the 'Personalization' tab on the left.
  1. On the Personalization page, scroll down and click on the 'Taskbar' option.
  1. The next page lists all taskbar-related actions, but to control how it behaves, scroll down and click on the 'Taskbar Behaviors' option.
  1. When the section expands to reveal more options, click on the 'Automatically Hide The Taskbar' checkbox to enable it. Then click on the checkbox again to disable it.

3. Rebuild the Icon Cache

Windows creates an icon cache where it stores the icons of all applications installed on the system. This helps it load icons for apps quickly, saving time and resources. Sometimes, this cache can get corrupted, which can result in missing or incorrect icons. You can fix this by rebuilding the icon cache.

  1. Open the File Explorer by pressing the Windows + E shortcut key combination.
  2. Click on the 'View' button at the top and then move your cursor to the 'Show' button.
  1. Next, click on the 'Hidden Items' option to view hidden files and folders on the PC.
  1. Navigate to the following address using the File Explorer - C:\Users\%userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Window. Replace 'userprofile' with your username when doing so.
  1. Here, right-click on the 'Explorer' icon and click on the 'Open in Terminal' option.
  1. When the terminal opens up, type dir and press the 'Enter' key. This will show you the contents of the folder, which includes the icon cache.
  1. Next, open the Task Manager and right-click on File Explorer from the list of running processes. Then click on the 'End Task' option.
  1. This will stop the File Explorer, and all desktop elements, including the taskbar, will disappear. Close the Task Manager and ensure only the terminal is running.
  2. Type the command del iconcache* and press the 'Enter' key.
  1. Restart your PC after the command is executed and check whether the problem has been fixed.

4. Delete the Iris Service

The Iris Service is a part of Windows Spotlight and is responsible for features like Microsoft Ads and Bing Wallpaper of the Day. However, it can sometimes cause problems with the taskbar, such as missing icons. Deleting and recreating the service might help fix the issue.

  1. Open the Start menu and type cmd or command prompt. Click on the 'Run As Administrator' option to launch it.
  1. Type this command into the command prompt window reg delete HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\IrisService /f && shutdown -r -t 0 and press the 'Enter' key.
  1. This command will delete the Iris service and your computer will restart. Once it reboots, the missing taskbar icons should be back. In case they are not, try the next fix.

5. Run SFC and DISM Scans

Windows has a built-in utility called System File Checker that searches for corrupt files and repairs them. You can use it to resolve the problem of missing taskbar icons on your PC.

  1. Open the command prompt utility as administrator and then type sfc/scannow before pressing the 'Enter' key.
  1. The scan will take some time to complete. If it finds any corrupt files, it will try to repair them. Once the SFC scan is finished, type DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth and press the 'Enter' key to start the DISM scan.
  1. Follow this with the command DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth and press the 'Enter' key.
  1. Wait until the operation completes before typing in the last command DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth and pressing the 'Enter' key.
  1. Perform a system reboot once the scan is complete.

6. Perform a Clean Boot

Sometimes, third-party applications installed on your Windows 11 PC can interfere with its normal functioning and cause issues like missing taskbar icons. You can identify the cause of the problem by performing a clean boot.

  1. Open the Start menu and type System Configuration and press the 'Enter' key or click on the utility to open it.
  1. The System Configuration utility has the 'General' tab open when it starts. Click on the 'Services' tab.
  1. Next, click on the 'Hide All Microsoft Services' button at the bottom. Doing this will make only your third-party services visible.
  1. Once all Microsoft services are hidden, click on the 'Disable All' button on the right to disable all third-party services.
  1. Click on the 'Startup' tab at the top and then on the 'Open Task Manager' option.
  1. When the Task Manager opens up, go to the 'Startup apps' tab.
  1. This tab lists all the applications that launch when your PC starts. Right-click on each app and click on the 'Disable' option to disable them all one by one.
  1. Restart your computer and check whether the taskbar icons are back. If they are, some third-party application was the cause of the problem. Launch the Task Manager again and try enabling a few apps at a time and rebooting your PC until the icons vanish again.

    This will help you narrow down and identify which application is causing the problem so it can be removed or updated as needed.

7. Uninstall the Latest Windows Update

Windows updates are meant to add features or fix bugs in the OS, but can sometimes end up creating issues of their own. You can try uninstalling the latest update and see if that helps resolve the problem.

  1. Open the Settings app and click on the 'Windows Update' section on the left.
  1. On the Windows Update page, click on the 'Update History' button.
  1. The next page lists all recent Windows updates. Click on the 'Uninstall Updates' button near the bottom.
  1. Windows will show you the updates that you can uninstall. Click on the 'Uninstall' button next to the most recent one. Once it is removed, restart your computer to see whether the taskbar icons have reappeared.

8. Repair Windows Apps

Corrupt Windows applications are another possible cause of missing taskbar icons on Windows 11. Here is how you can try to fix them and get rid of the problem.

Note: We recommend disconnecting and removing all peripheral devices connected to the PC before trying out this method. Also, disable any third-party antivirus program if you have it installed.
  1. Open the Start menu and type 'Powershell'. Click on the 'Run As Administrator' option to open it.
  1. Copy the command, Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost | foreach {Add-AppxPackage -register "$($_. InstallLocation)\appxmanifest.xml" -DisableDevelopmentMode} paste it into the Powershell window, and press the 'Enter' key.
  1. Follow it with this command, Get-AppXPackage | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_. InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"} and press the 'Enter' key.
  1. Restart your computer to see if repairing Windows apps helped solve the problem.

9. Create a New Local Administrator Account

The problem of missing taskbar icons may occur if the account you are signed into has become corrupt. To check this out, create a new local administrator account and see whether that account also has the same problem.

  1. Open the Settings page and click on the 'Accounts' tab on the left side.
  1. On the Accounts page, scroll down and click on the 'Other Users' option.
  1. To create a new user, click on the 'Add account' button on the top right.
  1. In the pop-up that appears, click on the 'I don't have this person's sign-in information' option to set up a local account.
  1. On the next page, click on the 'Add a user without a Microsoft account' option.
  1. You will now have to enter the username and password for the new local administrator account and answer some security questions. Once you are done, click on the 'Next' button.
  1. To log in to the account you just set up, open the Start menu and click on your user icon. You will see a few options, including the new account name.
  1. Click on the account name to log in and enter the password when prompted. After logging in, check whether the taskbar icons are present for that account. If they are, you can transfer your files to that account and use it as your primary account.

10. Restart Windows Components

You can force Windows to restart certain background processes that are related to the taskbar, which can help restore the taskbar icons.

  1. Open the Task Manager by right-clicking on the taskbar and clicking on the 'Task Manager' option.
  2. Click on the hamburger menu icon shaped like three dashes on top of another at the top to expand the navigation menu.
  1. Click on the 'Details' tab to view the details of all active services.
  1. On the right side, right-click on the 'SearchIndexer.exe' process and click on the 'End Task' option.
  1. Do the same for 'SearchHost.exe', 'ShellExperienceHost.exe', and 'RuntimeBroker.exe'. Then click on the Processes tab on the left.
  1. Click on Windows Explorer on the right side and click on the 'Restart Task' at the top.

11. Delete Taskbar Icons

Another solution to the missing taskbar icons on Windows 11 is deleting the icons so Windows can recreate them.

  1. Open Notepad on your PC and paste this command into it:
DEL /F /S /Q /A "%AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar\*"
REG DELETE HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Taskband /F
taskkill /f /im explorer.exe
start explorer.exe
  1. Now save the file with any name while changing the 'Save As Type' option at the bottom to 'All Files'. Also, make sure to add the extension .bat at the end. For instance, you can save it as 'Taskbar.bat'.
  1. Now go to the location where you saved the file, right-click on it, and click on the option 'Run As Administrator'. A command prompt window will appear and disappear, and your taskbar icons should also start reappearing.

    In case they don't, try rebooting your computer.

These were some of the most effective methods that can help you restore your missing taskbar icons on Windows 11. We've mentioned solutions that are easy even for beginners and can help you avoid going through the hassle of reinstalling the entire OS. Besides these, you can consider other options, like updating your PC by installing the latest Windows updates, which can sometimes fix bugs responsible for the issue.