Icons in the Systray


My friend tells me that every icon on my desktop slows my computer, because each icon represents a running program. My argument is that if an icon is a "shortcut", then it doesn't slow the computer. Please explain to both of us.



This question was answered on November 22, 2005. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Your friend had the right idea, just the wrong explanation.

The icons that they were referring to was not the ones on your Desktop, but the ones in the “Systray” located at the bottom right hand corner of the Desktop (next to the clock).

Each of these icons represent a program that is loaded at startup, is running in the background and each one is using up a portion of the available resources in Windows.

The number of icons and what each one does can have a dramatic impact on the performance of your computer, especially at startup.

If you notice that your computer is taking a lot longer to startup than when it was new, this is the most likely cause.

Far too many software programs make it a point during the installation to automatically add themselves to your startup, Desktop and Quick Launch Toolbar (generally located just to the right of the Start button on the Taskbar).

Most folks don’t pay very close attention to the screens during the install and just keep clicking on the “Next” button until the “Finish” button appears.

Virtually every program that intends to install itself into your startup, on your Desktop and/or your Quick Launch bar will give you the option to not do so, but you have to pay attention during the installation.

There is virtually nothing that truly needs to be installed into startup with a few exceptions such as an anti-virus, anti-spyware or firewall program.

Most companies install their software in this manner for "convenience" so that their product will launch when certain activity is detected, such as plugging in a device or pressing a button on a printer or scanner.

While this convenience may seem “neeto” in the beginning, it does not take long to end up with dozens of programs loading at startup and taking valuable resources away from Windows, which results in sluggish response to your mouse clicks and keystrokes and long boot times.

Most experience users have gone a few rounds with a computer that has been overrun with excessive program installations and have learned to play close attention to the various screens during installation so they can avoid the problem before it is installed.

If you find yourself with a computer that is sluggish and has lots of icons down by the clock (you may have to click on the little left arrow to see all the hidden icons) getting rid of the unnecessary programs would be a good idea.

Try floating your mouse over each icon to see if the description gives any clue as to what the program is and what it does.

If you can determine what it is and whether you need it or not, you can then go the Control Panel and click on the Add/Remove Programs icon to uninstall the entire program.

If you need the program, but don’t want it to install at startup, you must look for a “Settings” or “Preferences” option in the actual program to change how it is loaded by Windows.

Whether you do it yourself or consult a professional to get your system cleaned up, become paranoid about everything that gets installed in your system or you may find yourself right back in the same condition!

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on November 22, 2005