Bassbug3 asked the Answer Line forum about removing icons, specifically those for no-longer-used programs, from the lower-right corner of his screen.
Depending on who you ask, that collection of tiny icons in the corner is called the system tray, the systray, or the notification area. And those icons may be doing considerably more harm than icons on your desktop or in any other location.
On the other hand, some of them may be doing more good.
Those aren't just icons. They're running programs. In other words, they're currently doing a chore that you may or may not want done. Either way, they're using RAM, clock cycles, and so on. Each one is slowing down your PC a tiny bit. They might also be conflicting with other software, making Windows less stable.
Some of these programs are worth those problems. For instance, you need real-time malware protection (in other words, an anti-virus program). That's one icon that you absolutely must have in the notification area. Whether there are others depends on your work habits.
But Bassbug3 specifically asked about icons for programs that are no longer in use, so I'll concentrate on those.
Your best bet would be to uninstall the unwanted software. If you don't remember the program's name, point the mouse at one of the icons, and some information should turn up. Or right-click the icon for a menu.
Once you've figured out the name, click Start, select Control Panel, and click Add or Remove Programs (if you're running XP) or Uninstall a program (Windows 7 or Vista). Find and select the unwanted program and click the Remove or Uninstall button.
If uninstalling doesn't work out, click Start (in XP, click Start, then Run), type msconfig, and press ENTER. Click the Startup tab. This gives you a list of programs that load automatically when you boot. Find the culprits there, and uncheck them. (This is also what you should do if you want to keep the program installed, but don't want it running at all times.)
Read the original forum discussion.
Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.