The following information is provided in the hopes that you find it useful. The questions and answers here are those which I’ve been asked most often by desktop users. If there’s an answer or information that you’re looking for but don’t see it addressed here please feel free to email it to me and I’ll respond to your question and then post it here.


What is the tool tray?

  • The tool tray is the area of your desktop where the clock appears in the lower right-hand corner of the desktop. You’ll likely also notice a number of other smaller icons in there. They represent programs that are running in the background; usually as services. Return to Top

What is the Windows Task bar?

  • The Windows Task Bar is that bar that, in it’s default configuration, runs across the bottom of the desktop. The Start Menu START button is located to the extreme left of what is referred to as the Task Bar. When you have applications running on your desktop there will be items referencing those applications on the task bar. If you click on one of those items it brings focus to the application. Focus meaning the application now has priority and you can interact with that application. Return to Top

Why do Computer Techs speak in tech-babble?

  • That’s a condition due in large part because of what they’re exposed to most of the time. Endless reading of technical manuals, trade publications and the like. In order to stay current with the latest technologies and the best way to service our clients we’re constantly training and learning, so we tend to pick up the jargon and it becomes familiar and natural. We don’t do it to try and confuse you, its just a side-affect of our industry; Occupational hazard. If you’re not sure what is being said stop our technicians and demand they use plain english. Most do still remember the language. Return to Top

What does it mean to give a program focus?

  • Lets say you’ve got two or three applications running on your desktop. In reality all three programs exist in memory, but only one application at any one time is actually active and has focus. The application with focus means that is the application that is ready to receive user input. The condition of an application having focus is indicated by the title bar of the application. The title bar of the application is that colored bar that runs across the top of the application window where the application title appears. An application with focus has the vibrantly colored title bar, whereas the application without focus has a dulled color on it’s title bar. This can only be observed if the application windows open on your desktop are not all maximized. To give a program focus is to select the application window with your mouse by clicking on the title bar, by by toggling through the applications currently running on your desktop by using the ALT-TAB key combination to select a particular application window. Return to Top

What is an Active Process Icon?

  • An Active Process Icon are those objects which appear in your tool tray, such as the clock. Another common active process icon is that of your anti-virus application. In case you’re only able to see the clock and one or two others its because the Windows XP and Vista default tool tray setting is to hide so called in active processes. I say so called because if they’re in your tool tray they are most definitely active and consuming system resources such as memory and CPU cycles. (CPU cycles means that it’s using your Central Processor to perform tasks along with all other programs and processes on your computer.) You can un-hide them by performing the following process:
    1. right click on the task bar and choose properties
    2. de-select the check-box labeled hide inactive icons
    3. click OK.
  • This action will cause all the items in your tool tray to be visible.
  • NOTE: The more items that appear in the tool tray the busier your CPU is and the less resources you have available to for the tasks at hand. Such as that report you’re working so very hard on. In short some of those processes you see running down there aren’t actually necessary and can be turned off. That last statement does NOT include your anti-virus program. Return to Top

I have a lot of icons in my tool tray. How does this affect my computer’s performance?

  • As I mentioned above the more icons in your tool tray means the more background processes that are running on your computer, which translates to a much busier CPU and less RAM for applications that you need to run to get your work done. The final result is the more icons in your tool tray to slower your system will run, but this is not the only cause of a slow computer, but it does help to limit the number of background processes to only those that are essential for your computer.Examples for Essential background processes:
    1. Anti-virus program
    2. clock
    3. touch-pad monitor (laptops only)
    4. Network connection (default is for this icon to be hidden)
    5. Mouse control program (if you’re using a third party mouse such as Logitec software for this device is loaded onto the system. This is not essential, but is helpful for this to be running.)
  • Examples of Non-Essential background processes:
    1. HP or other printer automatic update or management packages
    2. Quicktime quickstart process
    3. Adobe Automatic Update and quickstart process
    4. iTunes quickstart and automatic update process
  • Return to Top

What are background processes and are they important?

  • Background processes are those processes and services that run in the background whose presence is unseen by the user as they’re working on their desktop. While some are designed specifically to have a small footprint (meaning little impact on over all system performance) most background processes and services that are installed by third party software such as HP Printer Management software, Adobe software and even Microsoft Office software, are for the most part non-essential services and processes. The only reason they exist is to cause the application to appear to start very quickly. What they actually do is automatically load the program (start the program as though a user is starting it from a desktop shortcut), into main memory so when the user calls for it it appears faster than it normally would. In the real world this serves no practical purpose other than to consume computer resources.
  • In the case of HP Printer Management software most of this is for automatic updates to occur, however it’s been my personal experience that what is being updated is the management software itself and has nothing at all to do with the more important pieces of the HP Printer installation such as the driver itself. The end result of this is a slower computer and often times problems with the computer since the updates almost always cause problems with other programs on the computer.There are quite a few background processes that can be safely turned off thus releasing and freeing up computer resources for applications that are being used to perform tasks and actually get work done. Return to Top

What is Junk-ware?

  • Junk-ware is a term given to so called value-added software that is pre-loaded onto computers at the manufacturer such as Dell, Acer, HP and others. Basically, software vendors make agreements with computer manufacturers to bundle their software or pre-load their software onto the computers in the hopes that the end user will purchase the software. Not a bad practice for computers aimed at home users, however on business class machines this is the bane of most network administrators since all this stuff has to be removed before the computer can be deployed and put into service. Left on the machine the Junk-ware is not only a distraction but also consumes system resources and hinders productivity. Return to Top

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