How to Remove Icons from the Menu Bar in Mac OS X

Jan 5, 2012 - 15 Comments

Remove menu bar icons

If your Mac menu bar is starting to resemble an icon farm, remember that you can remove items from the menu bar by holding down the Command key and dragging items out of the menu. The icon will disappear into a puff of dust, the same way an icon from the Dock or sidebar disappear.

Some menu icons can’t be removed this way and a command drag won’t do anything. Usually these icons are their own applications, like Flux, DesktopUtility, DayO, etc, and instead need to be quit directly from the menu bar item itself. Spotlight is also stubborn but can be hidden as well, although that’s generally only recommended if you don’t use the Command+Spacebar shortcut for the search service.

For the stubborn app menu bar icons that can’t be dragged out like this or don’t have an option directly within their own pull-down menu, you may need to explore their individual application settings. Usually they are easy to find, but sometimes they can be buried within the apps preferences or settings in unlikely places, but generally looking for something along the lines of “Hide menu bar icon” will get you what you’re looking for.

On a related note, instead of dragging icons out of the menu bar, items can also be dragged around within the menu bar to rearrange them by holding down the command key. In that case, just command+drag them to a new location to swap around icon placement.

More and more applications are using menu bar items as placeholders or for easy access to their functions, plus there’s a lot of genuinely useful menu bar items. That’s all fine and dandy but the menu bar can quickly become cluttered and start to resemble a Windows-like disaster if you let things get out of control. My general rule is that if it doesn’t get frequent use, pull it out of the menu, you probably won’t miss it.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

15 Comments

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  1. Jim says:

    This reminds me of a rant I went off on back in 2009 ( http://www.thegraphicmac.com/rant-osx-menubar-madness ) about OS X’s menubar. It still drives me crazy.

    And unfortunately, Command + Drag doesn’t move 3rd-party menubar icons around anymore.

  2. Vijay Kumar says:

    Thanks for the wonderful tip.
    One related question, how do I put something that I frequently use on the menu bar?

  3. Eric Woehler says:

    I seem to recall reading about some software that organises your menu bar items – I don’t recall the name, but from memory, it created a single menu bar item under which all other menu bar items were located (or something similar)? I have had a quick search this morning and don’t have it on my archive of software, nor can I find it in my browser history. Perhaps someone else knows of this software?

  4. EdHarris says:

    This reminds of the original Mac and the parade of INIT icons across the screen as the Mac started up.

  5. theDaniel says:

    This feature has been since the beginning on Mac OS X.

    In Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) the icons in the Finder window sidebar can no longer dragged out. You have to right/control-click and choose ‘remove from sidebar’ Window-ish style. Apple continuing the “Windowing” of the Mac. Task bar coming in OS X 10.8?

    • Lewis says:

      I fail to see why Mac users are so anti-right click, I’m a Mac user, but the right click is incredibly useful (and I might add a bloody damn sight more intuitive than the Ctrl+Click crap you long-term Apple fanboys like… how the hell is that intuitive mice got more buttons for a reason!)

      If you actually think about why they may made the changes you might’ve realised its to stop people accidentally throwing icons away and wondering where they’ve gone.

      Believe it or not Microsoft do actually have some good ideas and Apple also has some bad ones. By taking the best ideas from each other we may actually end up with an operating system that is intuitive, logical and not trying to be a show-pony for what is primarily a filing system and utilities management.

  6. Adrian Moore says:

    You can manually remove those stubborn items, by using Activity monitor to locate redundant linked files.

    Some menu items end up it Library–>PrivilegedHelperTools

  7. Cloudane says:

    It’s gotten worse with Mountain Lion, which added 2 more icons!

    Along with iStat Menus (which I genuinely like to use/watch) it’s a right old mess up there.

    Once you’ve dragged one off though, how do you get it back if you need it later?

  8. Audrey Carney says:

    Hi,
    I cannot command click icons out of the top right; doing that wont grab the icon.

  9. RDnMSN says:

    How do I remove the “notification” icon in the toolbar. Have Safari 6.0.1 on OS X Mountain Lion. I don’t want other reading my mail through there.

  10. kjv007 says:

    how to put it back? :)

  11. Art says:

    After removing a program I got stuck with an unwanted icon. I got writ of it by installing the program again and removing the icon from menu bar from the program’s own preferenses before removing the program again.

  12. [...] don’t forget, you can easily remove system menu bar items by command+dragging them out of the menubar, but for third party apps like [...]

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