One of the most often criticized features of Windows XP and Windows Vista are the constant, work-interrupting balloon messages in the notification area. Usually they pop up when you are in the midst of something that requires your full attention. Often they keep complaining about things you are quite aware of anyway, such as the firewall is turned off, UAC is disabled or updates have to be installed. The perseverance of Windows in these matters is amazing. Only a wife who wants you to take out the trash has comparable staying power.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

balloon-message-vistaUnlike your wife, though, Windows Vista has a "secret" switch that allows you to turn off these gentle reminders. It is a Group Policy setting under User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Start Menu and Taskbar: Turn off all Balloon Notifications. (You can change this setting on your machine using the Local Group Policy Editor, which you can launch by typing gpedit.msc at the Start Search prompt.) Vista Home users have to hack the Registry.

Vista-turn-off-balloon-messages I usually don't disable these balloon tips, however. Every now and then Windows has something important to announce. (This is where the wife analogy ends!) I always feel I am missing something important if I turn these off, so I bear with these annoying balloons and try to ignore them as much as I can.

balloon-notification-flag balloon-message In some ways, it appears that Microsoft took pity on us. In Windows 7, these notification messages have been significantly improved. Most important is that they are not as intrusive as they used to be. Once Windows has managed to show a message, it remains as only tiny flag with a red cross in the notification area. Multiple notifications are united in one message box.

disable-notifcation-messages Even better is that it is now possible to turn off notification messages selectively. If you click on "Change Action Center Settings" in the navigation bar of the Action Center, you can tell Windows 7 what kind of problem messages you want to be notified about in the future. Nine types of messages can be turned off or on separately (see screenshot). Considering that Microsoft hid this notification switch in former Windows versions, this is a remarkable step. Obviously, the company has received many complaints about the talkative character of Windows. Not only stressed husbands will welcome this improvement.

Disclaimer: In principle, I am not against the institution of marriage. 😉

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  1. Leonardo 11 years ago

    I like what's been done with the systray. Particularly with the messaging, as you pointed out, and systray icon hide/show options.

    A lot less hassle than beating the wife, that's for sure.


  2. Michael Pietroforte 11 years ago

    Believe me, beating is no solution. I tried that man times with my computer. 😉


  3. Marcus Lidell 8 years ago

    Hello Michael. Sadly this "solution" of yours for the legendary pop-up box problem doesn't actually work but thanks for trying. I've disabled ALL the options in the Win 7 "Activity Centre" but it takes no notice. Apparently I STILL have a USB device that is "not recognised". Tried a reboot, doesn't make any difference, which is why I'm now on my way out to the garden shed for a felling axe. THAT should fix it! Well done Microsoft - you're going to drive us all completely mad in the end...


  4. Marcus Lidell 8 years ago

    As a postscript to the previous message, I have updated chipset drivers as well, but the message persists, even when NONE of the USB ports are actually in use! Does any other occupant of the asylum have any other method to recommend before I USE the aforementioned axe?! This sort of thing defies all credibility...


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