Prevent slowdowns, clean up system tray

Your new computer was absolutely lightning-fast when you first brought it home. Now it’s slow. What’s happening and how do you fix it?

The problem lies in how your system manages resources and programs. The largest memory thief on your computer is your system tray. The system tray is the section of your screen nearest the clock, in the bottom right corner. This is where programs install helper applications, reminders, proprietary control panels and other sub-applications. More often than not, these need not be running in your system tray all the time. You can invoke them as you require them.

To determine what you need and what you don’t, find out what is actually running in the system tray. To do this, first right-click your start button, left-click properties and then select the taskbar tab at the top.

Remove the check mark for Hide Inactive icons, select Apply, click OK. Windows XP hides the icons in your system tray that are inactive by default. You will notice this by a small arrow pointing to the left. Once you have made that change, you should see a whole new set of icons that were previously hidden. These icons are the culprits of your system’s reduced speed.

To further investigate what all these icons are and what they do, you may use a number of programs that will analyze your system’s start-up properties. Windows XP and Windows Vista include a utility called MSCONFIG (Click Start, Run, type MSCONFIG and click OK – or on Vista Click Start then type msconfig in the search area and click it when it appears in the menu above). Windows 2000 does not include this utility. You will have to use a 3rd party program to perform this task such as Mike Lin’s Start Up Control Panel.

The other option is you can copy the MSCONFIG file from an XP machine and copy it into the System 32 folder which can be found in the WinNT folder on a Windows 2000 machine. Once you have opened MSCONFIG, navigate to the last tab called Start Up. This will then list all the programs that are running.

You can then selectively decide which programs are essential and which are not.

Please be cautious, as you can seriously impact and potentially render your installation of Windows inoperable.

To help identify what the actual programs are, you can search Google for keywords that include Windows XP start-up programs.

If you are familiar with running Windows in safe mode (pressing F8 at boot time to invoke the Windows boot menu), you can experiment with some of the start-up programs, and if you cause a problem, boot to safe mode to undo your changes. also has a number of programs that can help you tweak and optimize your start-up programs.