How to show or hide Windows Defender tray icon in Windows 10

In Windows 10, it is possible to make the Windows Defender notification area (system tray) icon visible. If you are a Windows Insider, it might already be visible in your installation. In this article, we will see how you can show or hide the Windows Defender tray icon in Windows 10.


If you are running Windows 10 version 1607 'Anniversary Update', you can save your time and avoid Registry editing. See the following article:

How to disable Windows Defender tray icon in Windows 10 Anniversary Update

If you are running Windows 10 Creators Update 1709 or above, use the instructions in the article

Disable Windows Defender Security Center Tray Icon

When enabled, it looks like this:

windows 10 defender tray icon enableWhen you right click the icon, it provides only one option - to open Windows Defender:

windows 10 defender tray icon context menuYou can use this icon for instant access to Windows Defender or to just indicate its status. The icon shows if Defender is enabled or disabled.

How to show Windows Defender tray icon in Windows 10

Follow these steps to show the icon:

  1. Open Registry Editor.
  2. Go to the following Registry key:

    Tip: You can access any desired Registry key with one click.

  3. Here create a new string value named "Windows Defender". Set to the following value:
    "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MSASCui.exe"-runkey

    windows 10 defender tray icon show

  4. Reboot Windows 10 or sign out and login back to your user account.

You are done here.

How to hide Windows Defender tray icon in Windows 10

To hide the Windows Defender tray icon in Windows 10, you need to do the following:

  1. Open Registry Editor.
  2. Go to the following Registry key:
  3. Delete all values which point to the file "Program Files\Windows Defender\MSASCui.exe".
  4. Now, go to the following Registry key:

    Tip: You can switch between HKEY_CURRENT_USER and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE subkeys quickly using the new feature of the Registry Editor in Windows 10 as described here: Windows 10 updates the Registry Editor.

  5. Again, delete all values which point to the file "Program Files\Windows Defender\MSASCui.exe".

Why some users have Windows Defender tray icon enabled by default and others not

In Windows 10, those Windows Insiders who are installing new builds via Windows Update often have the Defender tray icon visible. Some previously released builds of Windows 10 had the appropriate value in the Registry in the Run key. However, for many users the Windows Defender line in the Registry looks like this:

"%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MSASCui.exe" -hide -runkey

The "-hide" switch is preventing the tray icon from being visible, so those users never see it!

Those who perform a clean install like myself do not have the Windows Defender Registry value in the Run section, so they also have no tray icon. This is the default behavior for a clean install of Windows 10.

Thanks to my friend Cody Warmbo who discovered this behavior and inspired me to write the article.

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Author: Sergey Tkachenko

Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

17 thoughts on “How to show or hide Windows Defender tray icon in Windows 10”

  1. why my windwos defender is not opening at startup? the icon i traybar only shows when i open the windows defender manualy. is it normal that windows defender do not start and run at startup?

  2. Thanks for the information. Just to clarify. If I have done a clean window 10 install and haven’t changed anything in terms of windows defender I can leave it without the icon in the tray as it is always running anyway?

    Whenever I check the settings, windows defender is turned on and when I open it the icon appears as well but rest assured I don’t actually have to have it showing all the time?

    Many thanks!

  3. A lot of articles say to SHOW the icon add…

    “%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MSASCui.exe”-hide

    This works when I try it so I am not sure what -hide or -runkey actually means. You may not need to add any command line arguments at all.

    I suspect when you add this key, a second instance of Windows Defender may be launched. I hope not.

  4. I think MSASCui.exe is the User Interface. So the -hide switch would be correct…launch the User Interface and hide it. The tray icon still shows.

  5. When I check the tick box for the ability to enable or disable Windows Defender tray icon, the program asks me to logout. When I do so, the Windows Defender icon appears, but when I shut down the PC, next time I log in the icon disappears and the tick box in the program is unchecked. I did it again and again, but there is no change. I also created the string value directly with regedit, but although it is in the registry, it doesn’t seem to work. I run Windows 10 10586 64bit. Any suggestions?

  6. You can display the Windows Defender icon in the system tray without editing the registry.
    1. Press the windows key and r keys and type shell:startup
    2. In the startup folder add Windows Defender as a shortcut inside.
    3. Right click the new shortcut and click properties.
    4. In the Target box, add -hide to the end of the targeted file. Should end up like this “C:\Program Files\Windows Defender\MSASCui.exe” -Hide.
    5. This way, when the computer restarts, windows defender icon will be displayed in system tray while the main program window will be hidden.

  7. Funny…if this is a joke.
    Right click on task bar and click “task manager”, go to “startup” tab, disable “windows defender notification icon”, it’s gone by the next reboot

  8. In the Win 10 Creator’s Update (version 1703 build 15063.138) this tweak doesn’t seem effective. The MSASCuiL.exe still runs even after unchecking the box with WinAero Tweaker.

    Is this a known problem and work in progress for the next version?



  9. With 1709 update, it doesn’t matter if I use runkey or hide parameter, while it will add the icon to the taskbar, Windows Defender Security Center will open up at each boot up. Quite annoying.

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