78. Dig deep to fix system
By Mark Alberstat
System running a bit slower these days? Did you install those new programs
you received for Christmas and your computer hasn't quite been the
Chances are you have programs running in memory that you don't need, and
they are affecting the performance of your computer. Icons on your Windows
desktop are not the problem. These are, for the most part, simply
shortcuts to the programs and are merely quick ways to start your most
commonly used applications.
However, down in the right-hand corner next to the clock, you will see a
line of small icons. These are programs that are running in the background
system This area of your computer screen is called the system tray. To see
all of the programs running in the background, you may have to touch the
arrows next to the few that may be showing to unhide the others. This
little auto-hide feature helps to unclutter your system tray but also
gives the unknowing computer user a false sense of what is truly going on
with his or her computer.
Although many of today's computer problems are jokingly blamed on Bill
Gates, the programs running in your system tray have to be blamed on the
user who installed them on the machine. During installation, almost all
programs will ask users whether they want the program installed in the
system tray. Unfortunately, most users in their rush to install their
latest program will rush through the installation, hitting Next and
Continue blindly without fully understanding or reading the associated
Programs are installed in the system tray as a convenience to the user and
to keep the computer always checking whether an associated piece of
equipment, such as a camera, is plugged into the system. Although there
are advantages to having programs always on alert like this, the general
overhead on your computer's system is not worth the expediency.
There are only a few programs that should run at startup. Your always
up-to-date anti-virus application should start up and, if you use them,
anti-spyware and firewall applications should also be running in your
To see what programs are in your system tray, hover your mouse over the
icon. You should get a small explanation of the program. You should then
be able to click on the icon and within that program go into its
properties or settings. Somewhere in this menu system you will find a line
about putting this program in the system tray or starting it upon startup.
Uncheck this menu item if you don't think this program needs to be running
at all times. You may even find some programs that you no longer use and
can uninstall them completely from your system.
Once uninstalled, or when the system tray option is turned off, your
computer's sluggish behaviour could well be a thing of the past.
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Originally published 19 February 2006