Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Fix Missing Volume, Battery, or Network Icons in Vista

Tech Paul’s Fix for When Clock, Volume, Battery Power or Network Icons are Missing and/or Grayed Out in Windows Vista

Sometimes, unexpected (and unwanted) changes can happen to our computers that we geeks call ‘glitches’. You install some new program, and some other program you have stops working, for example. Or you uninstall a CD burning program, and find your DVD-RW is now missing. The wonderful world of PC’s!

As a tech, solving ‘glitches’ is my game (it’s what I do), and over the years I have seen a few. One such ‘glitch’ I used to see occasionally in XP, and fairly routinely in Vista, is the “missing volume control” (or “network connection”) which is a handy way to control your sound level.
Today, I will tell you the fix that not only restores the missing icon, but keeps it there.
Better still — I won’t have you mucking around in the Registry.

Simple ones first

Fix It #1)  Press Ctrl+D to bookmark this page and Reboot.
Make sure this isn’t a “temp glitch”. 9 times outer 10 restarting your computer solves your ‘glitch’. If you already tried that, keep reading.

Fix It #2) Normally you can re-enable the icons by right-clicking on the Taskbar, choosing Properties and going to the Notification Area tab — place checks in the checkboxes for the icons you want displayed.
If you already tried that, or the checkboxes are “grayed out”, keep reading.

Fix It #3) Restart explorer.exe

  • Open Task Manager (Ctrl+Shft+Esc)
  • Click the Processes tab
  • Find explorer.exe in the list and click on it (turn it blue), then click “End process” button
  • Restart it. Click File > New Task(Run…) then type in explorer.exe and hit Enter

Alternative: Open Control Panel > Taskbar and Start Menu– place checks in the checkboxes for the icons you want displayed.

Now Let’s Keep The Glitch Gone!

If this problem keeps recurring:

  • Open Control Panel >Sound
  • Double-click on your “Playback device” (aka “speaker”)
  • Click on the Advanced tab
  • Un-check “Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device”

Click “Apply” and then OK.

Okay. That’s it. Your missing icon should be back in its proper place in the Notification Area and should stay there.

Note: When I am called upon to fix this particular problem, I usually (like, 99% of the time) find that the person’s machine is not up-to-date with all the Windows Updates – usually a missing Service Pack. I do not know that there is a direct cause > effect there.. But.
Fact: you want Updates. Install them PLEASE. Pretty please with sugar on top?

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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April 21, 2011 Posted by | anti-spyware, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, Taskbar, tech, troubleshooting, Vista | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Restoring Vista’s “Show Desktop” Launcher Icon

Undoing an accidental delete..

Last week I had a client who had somehow or another deleted some Quick Launch shortcuts, and – now – wanted them back: most notably, the “Show Desktop” icon. (“Quick Launch” are the “shortcuts” [icons] next to the Start button, on the left of your Taskbar.) Turns out they missed the ability to quickly “minimize” all their open windows, and wanted it back.

I told my client that pressing the Windows key  and the D together did the same thing.. but they wanted their icon back anyway. Keyboard shortcuts were not their thing, clicking icons was.
Which is fine with me. Not everyone wants to be an Über Geek (see, Using Your Keyboard Instead Of Your Mouse*.)

It turns out, restoring the “Show Desktop” and “Show Windows Tiled” (aka “Rolodexed”) Quick Launch Shortcuts is a little more complex than simply adding a new shortcut to the Quick Launch area, as these are two “special” features built into Vista. What you have to do is Copy it/them from the Default User Profile, and Paste it into your User Profile.
Fortunately, I do not have to create a step-by-step tutorial (complete with screenshots) for you, as there already is a great one posted on a pretty cool (competitor’s) website, here.

Quote of the day: a friend of Tech – for Everyone sent me a neato item, I would like to share with my readers (I do not know the source).

LIFE’S LESSONS

After a while you learn the difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul.

You learn that love isn’t learning but lending support.

You begin to accept your defeats with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child.

You decide to build your roads on today, for tomorrows ground is too uncertain.

You help someone plant a garden instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

You learn that you have the strength to endure and that you really do have WORTH.

Have a great day, everyone!

What the Internet is all about Department: Some *person* left this as a “comment”..

(Savvy folks avoid ‘dot info’ URL’s. I have only seen one that wasn’t being used by a criminal [though I am sure there’s at least 2 or 3 others that aren’t].)

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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April 19, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, Taskbar, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7

Part 1 of a series

Yesterday I downloaded the official Microsoft beta release of its new operating system — called Windows 7. (Technically, for those of you i7logo nterested in this sort of thing, it is “Build 7000”.) I opted to install the 32-bit version, as I think this will remain the “standard” and most common.
I installed a “clean install”, though I could have “upgraded” an existing Vista install (I recommend ‘clean install’ as a Rule Of Thumb).

Microsoft is calling Windows 7 a whole new OS, and are expecting it to replace replace Vista.. in the same way that Vista is replacing Windows XP. I can tell you that it is not a whole new operating system. I can also tell you that it does not give us the new file system (WinFS) that was originally promised as one of the “three pillars of Vista”.

The install itself: My “clean” install on a freshly formatted volume took just over half an hour, and involved at least two automated reboots. (It may have been three.. but I got up and walked away for a few minutes. I have performed countless Windows installs – literally – and watching one more isn’t my idea of a “good time”.)

Once I clicked “go”, I only had to answer three screens– my time/location, a computer name/user name/passwords (recommended), and did I want to set up a sharing network “HomeGroup“? That last, because it’s new and still unfamiliar, I chose “Not now. Ask me again later.”

My experience matched that of other reviewers: it was by far the fastest, smoothest, easiest Windows installation I’ve ever had. That this is a beta release makes this fact all the more remarkable.

Plus number one.

No device driver issues: I installed Windows 7 on a recent-vintage machine (it came with Vista Home Premium) and I had to install zero, zip, nada, device drivers — and this is a beta! Every device worked out of the gate, so clearly Vista device drivers work well on Windows 7.

Microsoft claims Windows 7 is the most ‘backwards compatible’ OS yet (I guess, maybe they learned from Vista’s release?) and I believe them. A beta.. and no device driver installs??? Amazing.
As a test, I connected to a rather ancient HP DeskJet 970Cse printer over my LAN. Windows 7 found the printer and installed it it with one “Yes” click.

Plus number two.

Once installed: As a Vista user, the change in Vista 7’s GUI (graphical user “interface”) was not that startling to me.. in fact, aside from the desktop and QuickLaunch icons being larger.. and a change to the System Tray/”Notification Area”.. it is Vista. The QuickLaunch now has (even more) shades of Macintosh OS X’s “Dock”.
Yes, it looks more “modern” (and makes XP look absolutely archaic), but is very, very Vista.

One nice change.. I noticed rather quickly that 7 has a Desktop slideshow feature (found because the default – plain, w/a Chinese fighting fish in the center – was quite drab after Vista’s spectacular nature images), and your Desktop can alternate images very much like your screensaver can in older versions of Windows (see Show off your photos with a screensaver slideshow).

The Start button, menus, icons, etc. are (basically) all the same. With the exception of the new networking and media sharing features, this is a zero learning curve change for Vista users, and a very modest one for XP users. If you use Windows, you can use 7, and you won’t have to take a night class or read a For Dummies book to do it.

Plus number three.

Speaking of the Start button..
* In Windows 7, Windows Mail, Windows Calendar, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Contacts are part of Windows Live Essentials.
* Windows 7 removes InkBall and adds online versions of Spades, Backgammon and Checkers.
* It comes with IE 8.
* Programs and applets – like Paint – have been updated, enhanced, and now sport the Microsoft “Ribbon”.. which was introduced in Office 2007.
ms_ribbon

Well, I have only been using Windows 7 for a few hours.. and I will be writing more in this series.. so I’ll stop here for now. So far, I have installed both Call of Duty 5 and the original Call of Duty (patched to 1.4) and played a few rounds of each.
Yup.
They’re a tad faster than on Vista.

Plus number four…

Part 2 — Transferring Your User Account To Windows 7
Part 3 – Improvements over Vista?

Today’s free download: So.. you want to download the Windows 7 beta too? Click here.

Today’s free link: Mark Russinovich: Inside Windows 7 How has Windows evolved, as a general purpose operating system and at the lowest levels, in Windows 7? Who better to talk to than Technical Fellow and Windows Kernel guru Mark Russinovich? Here, Mark enlightens us on the new kernel constructs in Windows 7.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 11, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, News, PC, software, System Tray, Taskbar, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How To Turn Off "Recent Documents"

Folks, today a ‘quick tip’- The Windows Start menu can show you a list of the files you have recently opened, which is a handy shortcut for returning to works-in-progress. This feature is called “My Recent Documents” and you can quickly and easily turn it on or off.

Tip of the day: Customize your Start menu to show your most recently opened files or, if you’re a ‘minimalist’ and want a leaner, cleaner Start Menu, do the opposite of [un-check] these steps to disable the Recent Documents feature).

Step 1:Right-click on a blank area of your Taskbar, and select “Properies” from the context menu.

Step 2: Select the Start Menu tab, and click on the “Customize” button.

Step 3: Select the “Advanced” tab, and Place a check in the checkbox labeled “List my most recently opened documents.” Now click “OK”, and “OK” again.
That’s it. You’re done. Now when you click on the Start Button, you will see the last things you were working on, and can quickly launch them by clicking their icon.

For Vista: Vista users can do this too, and actually have a little more control..

.. but the steps are the same. Select the “Start Menu” tab, and place the checks.

Today’s free link: TweakUI, a Microsoft “Power Toy”, is an applet for XP that allows for a remarkable amount of, well, “tweaking” of Windows’ behavior and appearance. “This PowerToy gives you access to system settings that are not exposed in the Windows XP default user interface, including mouse settings, Explorer settings, Taskbar settings, and more.”

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 14, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, performance, Taskbar, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, XP | , | 6 Comments

Reader questions answered

Today I will answer some questions posted by readers (that you may find useful, too) in the “Q’s and there A’s” format.

Q: taskbar has been disabled by the administrator what to do ?
A: (I have to assume here that we’re talking about the adjustable options found in Taskbar’s Properties.) All modern operating systems allow for multiple users, and the assignment of privilege levels to each user. It is quite often a good idea to restrict what users can do do on a machine, such as guests and the machine is a kiosk.
In corporate environments, schools, and libraries (where multiple machines are in use), it is typical for a single machine “image” to be used, and for all the “adjustable” (think “personalize”) options to be disabled by the Administrator. While this makes for boring uniformity, it greatly reduces the time and cost of maintaining those machines, and restoring them after a serious crash.. they just remount the “image”.
I suppose you could ask the IT department for temporary permission and make your “tweak”, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope for approval.
It may help to keep in mind that it’s their machine, and there are very good reasons for them to “lock it down”.

(I have written an article on creating limited [privilege] User Accounts for your children to use. This may be something you’d like to explore; if so, click here.)

Q: I have too many things running on my taskbar – Vinyl Deck, Spybot, Micro Innovations Internet Access Keyboard, Mouse, launch Keyboard properties, and Quicktime. How do it get these off? I believe they are slowing down my computer.
A: Sounds like you may want to manage which programs launch at startup (boot), and stop the unnecessary (non-essential) ones from loading. My advice for doing that is here: https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/manage-startup-programs-in-vista/ (It contains links to How To’s for older versions of Windows as well.)
But, I must also add that, if those mentioned are the sum total of your “too many” list, I doubt they’d noticibly slow down your machine, and I’d look for other causes as well… such as spyware.

Today’s free link: A great CD/DVD/Blu-ray authoring tool, Ashampoo Burning Studio 6 Free, allows you to create easily installable backup archives (across multiple disks), handles most music formats, copies DVDs, and works with .iso files. Possibly the best free alternative to Nero.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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March 11, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, permissions, Taskbar, tech, User mode, Windows | Leave a comment

Yellow exclamation mark question

I have received variations of the following question several times from readers lately:

Q: How can I make the yellow exclamation mark (in my Taskbar) go away?
A: Actually, it is not a yellow exclamation mark (those appear in Device Manager) but a yellow triangle containing an exclamation point. It looks sort of like a “Yield” sign on the highway. When you see this icon in the Notification Area (the part of your Taskbar by the clock) it is Vista’s way of telling you that your virtual memory is getting low. (For more on virtual memory, and how it works, click here.)

‘Running low on virtual memory’ warnings are not a catastrophe, and needn’t cause undue alarm. What they do indicate however, is that you have an awful lot of processes running.. and this (usually) means that quite a few applications have sneaked into your Startup folder; and, that you have all of Vista’s bells-and-whistles turned on.

The place to start is taking a look at what programs and Services are set to load when Windows starts, and to “block” the ones you don’t really need to have running all the time (removing a program’s shortcut from your Startup folder does not remove the program). My article on this for Vista machines is here: https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/manage-startup-programs-in-vista/, and for XP (and older) machines, here: https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/10/26/speed-up-your-startup-a-repost/.
[Note: this tip is advisable even if you aren’t getting the yellow icon. Doing this will decrease your boot time, and generally make for a faster machine, as you won’t be wasting resources that can be used for other things.]

To take a quick look at what (and how many) Processes are running on your machine, open Task Manager and look at the Processes tab. (Naturally, I wrote an article on this topic also: https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/09/27/what-programs-should-be-in-task-manager/.)

The best way to resolve virtual memory problems is to add more RAM to your machine. Period. I have mentioned before that Vista runs best with two Gigabytes of RAM, and will happily use more.

If adding RAM is not feasible, and stopping unnecessary processes fails to make the ‘low virtual memory’ icon go away, you can try manually telling Vista to allot more disk space to Virtual Memory. I must caution you that Microsoft advises against this in Vista.. and I agree. In my opinion, Vista is very good at managing virtual memory and it is better to just live with the yellow triangle than to use this old technique.
However, I do understand a little bit about Human Nature, and so I advise you to write down the current setting (and remember System Restore) in case you try this and then decide later I was right.

To manually set the Page File (aka “swap file”, aka “virtual” memory) size, open your System Properties (Control Panel, click on “System and Maintenance”, and then “System”). Click on “Advanced system settings”.
On the “Advanced” tab, click the top button, “Performance”, and click the “Settings” button.
vmset.jpg

Now select the “Advanced” tab again. The lower part of this window deals with Virtual Memory. Here is where you can enter a number that corresponds to how big a space you want to allocate. Click on the “Change” button.
Please understand, because of how an operating system uses page files, setting this number really has a limited effect: making it HUGE will not improve your machine’s performance HUGELY; you will in fact have just ‘whistled in the wind’.. But, making it a little bit bigger might make the yellow triangle go away.
**The Rule of Thumb for setting your (Max) size is to make it 1.5 times larger than your physical RAM: so if your machine has 1GB of RAM, you would enter “1536”MBs (1024 x 1.5).

Click on the “Change” button.
vmset2.jpg
To make changes, you must uncheck the “Automatically manage..” checkbox at the top, and then select the “Custom size:” radio button. Now the areas that were ‘greyed out’ will become edit-able.
Vista is nice and helpful in that it offers a recommendation, and I suggest that you use the number you find there. Here is where manually entering the numbers does affect the efficiency of your swap file: enter the same number in both the Min (“Initial”) and the Max. Then click “Set”, and then “OK”.

That’s it, you’re done. (I really hope you used this as a “last resort”, though. This geek technique is really a holdover from the Windows 9x days.)

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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March 1, 2008 Posted by | computers, how to, PC, System Tray, Task Manager, Taskbar, tech, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

When frozen isn’t really frozen

There seems to be a major outbreak of rebellious computers out there — computers that are just ignoring user commands, and acting “frozen”. I am making this assessment from an unusually high number of recent calls to my Tech Support business that all say basically the same thing:
“I double-clicked CoolProgram 6.0* to launch it, and nothing’s happening.”

When I first started getting these “nothing’s happening” calls, (I was unaware of the emerging pattern) my reaction was to take them as quite serious issues, as this could be indincative of some nasty types of computer trouble.

Fortunately, in every instance, this was not the case. In fact, it turned out that CoolProgram* was simply waiting for a user response before continuing to load (usually some form of permission), and once “Yes”, “Allow”, or “OK” was clicked, CoolProgram opened and worked just as it should. In other words: a non-issue issue.
[note: CoolProgram 6.0 is a ficticious, generic, and imaginary application I use as a catch-all.]

Tip of the day: Be more observant of your Taskbar. Though the program that is asking for permission-to-continue may vary — it could be Vista, your firewall, or the “active” shield of your anti-malware program — the common denominator of these requests for my help has been that the dialogue window that opens is being hidden behind already open windows and simply isn’t being seen: the user doesn’t know they’re being prompted for a response.

Part of the problem is new Vista users who aren’t used to UAC; and usually, and normally, these permission windows open on top of any other window, and we can’t help but notice them.. but now they’re opening underneath.
(For more on UAC, and overcoming “permission denied”, click here.)

You have seen these permission dialogues (and Vista users will become quite familiar with them!) before.
uac.jpg

And if you have a security suite or 3rd-party firewall, you will have seen a small window open saying, “CoolProgram 6.0 is trying to access the Internet. Do you wish to: Allow | Deny.”
We must give some kind of answer or the program will not load– and we’ll be sitting and looking at “nothing’s happening”.

If this happens to you, and you don’t see any permission window, you can “minimize” all your open windows until you uncover the dialogue, or you can click on the tab in your Taskbar that has turned orange
atbar.jpg
In this screenshot, the tab for my open program, Bomgar Representative, has turned orange. This means the program is “waiting for a response”.  You should also look for a new tab; that is (typically) your security suite or firewall, and if it’s there click on it to see the Allow | Deny window.

Once you’ve found the dialogue, and granted permission, things will work as you expect them to.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 8, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, Taskbar, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | Leave a comment