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Is your Mac’s menu bar a mess? Organize & remove your icons

Is your Mac\'s menu bar a mess? Organize & remove your icons

Although it doesn’t seem like it at first glance, Mac OS X’s menu bar is surprisingly flexible. With that said, screen resolution still limits the number of icons that can fit comfortably before things get a little cramped.

Every Mac user’s menu bar looks different. Some have the Spotlight icon, clock, WiFi networks, Bluetooth devices, volume controls, etc. Others include the battery indicator, Spaces, Time Machine, languages… the list goes on and those are just the ones from Apple! Never mind the countless menu bar add-ons you can download and install from third party software developers. That sure is a lot of functionality packed into such a tiny area, but the main point to remember is that sucker can fill up quickly and get out of hand if you’re not careful. 

Having a jam-packed menu bar is not only bad for OCD neat-freaks like myself; it can also slow down your system in general — especially during startup. I remember it taking me quite a while to figure this out as a new Mac user, but it’s ridiculously easy to remove these icons. Press and hold Command on your keyboard, click on your unwanted menu bar item, and drag it down away from the top of the screen. Once you let go, it’s gone! Holding down Command as you click and drag icons also enables you to reposition them within the menu bar if you’re just looking to move icons left or right.

Now that you know how to clean up your Mac’s menu bar by deleting icons or moving them around, there is one other thing worth mentioning. The next time you restart your computer, a few of them might come back from the dead. Don’t worry, you’re not seeing apparitions — they’ve probably been added to your user profile’s startup items. To fix this, venture into System Preferences and open the Accounts pane. Select your username from the list on the left and click on the Login Items tab.

Remove Mac login items

Here you will find a (hopefully somewhat short) list of applications that are currently set to run automatically every time you log in to your Mac. Track down the ones belonging to the zombie icons you no longer want in your menu bar and remove them by pressing the minus (-) button. Be aware this does not uninstall the applications, but rather prevents them from opening without your explicit command.

Despite all the effort to dump excess icons from the menu bar, I wouldn’t recommend going crazy and removing everything just for the sake of saving a few seconds at startup. The Apple-provided ones are generally good to have available, as are a few others from third party developers. Only get rid of the ones you rarely or never use and you’ll be in good shape.

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14 Comments Have Been Posted (Leave Your Response)

yay! This was the first thing I actually was able to do right after reading the article! Ha ha.
The extra one’s weren’t bothering me yet, but they would have eventually.

This doesn’t work for icons that are grey’d out. I have uninstalled a printer program and it didn’t take the icon with it. I tried to reinstall it so to try uninstalling it again, but it just made another one appear! What is another way to get rid of the icons in the menu bar that are grey’d out?

Doesn’t work. I can only move the menu bar icons that came with the Mac, not 3rd party apps…

does not work with third party apps.

Try this: Type out your login item list in TextEdit so you
don’t forget what’s there. Identify the names of the ones in your
menu bar (above) and write a note next to your TextEdit list so
there’s no confusion. Remove those items by hitting the minus
button below the list of login items. Using your list, dd them
again in the order you would want them to show up. The ones you add
back will show up closer to the right of the menu bar. Log out Log
back in You should be set. Troubleshoot where necessary, you have
all the tools now.

This works well for removing and organizing. But somehow my spotlight icon got removed from the menu bar and I desperately need it back, how do I do that?

I accidentally removed the battery logo.
I don’t know how to bring it back??
Pleasseee help

I accidentally removed the date logo.
I don’t know how to bring it back??
Pleasseee help

I have lost some Menu icons I like to have in my Administrator Account, however, they are still up there in one of my User Accounts. What can I do to get them back?

Does anyone know how to cause an event to occur if a particular icon appears in the menu bar (or changes status its status)?

I use Lotus Notes to handle my work-related email. Lotus puts an icon in the menu bar when mail is waiting on the server to be picked up. When I leave my computer for an extended period I want to activate a watchdog to send my phone a text msg when email arrives. This daemon process would watch the menu bar and react to the appearance of that particular icon; said “reaction” being the initiation of a shell script.

Growl would seem to be a candidate, but not quite right.

Any ideas? Many thanks in advance —

To replace the battery icon, go to System prefs, select “energy saver” and make sure “show battery status in menu bar” is checked.

thx, i was trying to set date and time icons back to the menu bar, and i found it in system prefs too !

Seriously. This article is slightly a fail. You start by saying that the Mac menu bar is flexible. So, to organise my icons, I need to disable my applications from starting up at start-up. Seriously! I need all my applications.

I wish Apple would copy Windows in packing status bar icons in a drop-up menu.

Some applications are behind tool bar items. How do I get them back wherethey belong?