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You have Java 6 Update 5 and Java 6 Update 7 is the current version. Once Java determines there is an update, it will display the update icon/ballon after every login. This is a known issue we are working on for a future release. ( http://bugs.sun.com/bugdatabase/view_bug.do?bug_id=6656017 Java AutoUpdate: Frequency of update available balloon)
I need more information about: clicking on the icon disappears and does not appear to do anything.
Are you clicking on the ballon or the icon in the Notification area?
When the icon is visible, please try right clicking on the icon and clicking Install.
Could it be the icon is disappearing because inactive icons are hidden?
The workaround is to go to java.com and install Java 6 Update 7 from there.
Thanks in advance for additional information,