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Illustration by Michael Witte.
Illustration: Michael Witte

When something annoys you, you might choose to get mad, or to get even. But there is a third path: Simplification. Eliminate unnecessary programs, icons, and Windows services, and you'll rid yourself of many of the sources of your PC angst. You'll better see the way to enlightenment (and that file you're working on) because so much stuff won't block your view.

You already have most of the tools you need. Most of the fixes we prescribe involve tweaking Windows and your programs so they only do what you want, and no more. We also recommend simpler programs that can replace some common but bloated and expensive apps. And if you go too far and instead turn your PC into a simpleton, we'll help you back to the path.

Annoyances by the Numbers

51 Number of security advisories released in 2003 by Microsoft --Microsoft
49% Portion of Microsoft security advisories rated "Critical" in 2003 --Microsoft
5% Portion of instant messages received that are spam --IMLogic
48 Number of emoticons in Yahoo Instant Messenger (all are animated) --PC World Research
28 Average number of spyware applications on an infected computer --EarthLink and Webroot Software
92% Portion of IT managers who found spyware apps on company PCs --Websense and Harris Interactive
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