Monitor, hide and permanently remove systray icons and processes

Some of the programs that we install add new system processes. These processes always consume system resources, but are often unecessary. Other programs also add new "Systray" icons (Systray is the Windows System Tray, in the lower right corner of your Task Bar, next to the clock). And some of these systray icons may not be removed by a simple right click / close option. Even if you closed a systray icon, it wouldn't be removed, and it would be restored when booting again your PC.

We can optimize the memory usage of our PC killing several system processes and system tray icons.

Nevertheless, our best first choice to permanently remove Systray icons is to double click the icon, or right click / properties on such icon, and look for options to uncheck the "Show icon on the system tray", "Display quick link icon" and so on.

Checking Windows processes

To display the active processes in Windows: Right click the task bar / Task manager, or press simultaneously Control+Alt+Del.

The tab called "Applications" is the listing of the currently open programs, which are usually displayed in the left part of the Windows task bar.

The tab named "Processes" (this is the most useful one) are the currently running system processes, no matter whether they are visible or invisible. We can check how much system memory are using these processes on the right column.

We can temporarily kill these processes (till we reboot the PC) by simply selecting them and clicking "Terminate process". There are some processes that are essential for Windows while others can be safely shutdown. To find out what does each process, you can find out detailed process information (manufacturer, software, possibilities of being a virus or spyware, function, whether it is a mandatory process or not, user comments, etc.) at

Remove systray icons and processes permanently in Windows

There are several ways to permanently remove system tray icons and system processes (which don't provide a permanent removal option by default), and to prevent them from running again when rebooting the system.

An easy way is to install the free registry cleaner program called Regcleaner. Run the program and in the "Startup List" tab, select and delete the undesired processes.

This way to remove system tray icons and processes does nearly the same (plus a system process backup) as the following way (in which you don't have to install anything), which consists of clicking Start menu / run and then typing msconfig. This will open the System configuration utility. In the "Startup" tab of such menu we have a complete listing of the Windows processes. We should just uncheck the undesired processed, and we are ready to go.

Side note: removing Windows startup processes this way will make the following warning message appear when rebooting the system. It's just Windows information about the user-initiated removal of processes ran at startup.

Just uncheck the "Don't show this warning again..." and click Accept.

How to set MySQL auto increment in phpMyAdmin

A common practice in database design is to set primary keys (PKs) with auto increment enabled. This way, you don't have to worry about specifying a new unique primary key value each time you insert a new record in such table.

While phpMyAdmin is a very powerful and easy to use MySQL database management tool, "where could I set auto increment in phpMyAdmin" is still a frequent question. And here is the solution.

In the latest phpMyAdmin versions there is a new A_I Checkbox. Mark this option as enabled when creating or editing your primary key table column and that numeric field will automatically increment its value each time a new record is inserted.

Setting auto increment in phpMyAdmin

You can check that the auto increment property was successfully setup in the EXTRA column of the table column properties (after selecting a table, inside the structure tab). If the auto_increment text appears here, the configuration was successful.

In previous phpMyAdmin versions, auto_increment was an additional option inside the dropdown menu of the EXTRA category (the last column in the field creation menu). To access the "edit table field menu" you can click the pencil icon in the desired table field row, inside the Structure tab.

Anyway, you can always run an SQL command to update the auto increment status of the desired column by selecting the SQL tab and writing an SQL query like this one:

ALTER TABLE `table_name`
    CHANGE `pk_column_name` `pk_column_name`
           INT(key_length) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT

Just replace "table_name" by the name of the current table being edited, "pk_column_name" by the column name of your primary key column and "key_length" by your integer primary key length (the default int length is 11).

You should also make sure that the auto incrementing field is in fact the primary key of the current table. You can reset the table primary key by clicking on the table key icon of the desired field row.

Take also into account that only one auto incrementing field may be specified in each MySQL table. Nevertheless, auto incrementing only makes sense when used with numeric primary keys, and only a primary key field may be specified for each MySQL table as well.

Finally, if you want to change the current Auto Increment Value (i.e.: to make your auto increment field start from a specific numeric value) just select the phpMyAdmin Operations tab, type in the AUTO_INCREMENT field the new starting value of your auto incrementing field, and you are ready to go.

XAMPP MySQL deactivated error

Installing XAMPP is a quick way to setup an Apache Server with PHP and a MySQL database.

But sometimes there's some kind of configuration error or bug that doesn't allow to start the MySQL service. Checking the status with the XAMPP control panel will display a message of "MySQL database DEACTIVATED".

How to fix the XAMPP MySQL deactivated bug

While I'm not sure about the causes of this error, there is a quick fix to activate MySQL in XAMPP following 2 simple steps.

  • First, try not to configure your MySQL database as a service. This is asked during the XAMPP installation. So don't select the checkbox of installing MySQL databases as a system service.
  • Second, create a basic configuration file for your new MySQL installation (you can do this automatically using Win MySQL admin).

Yes, there's an automated way to generate a basic config file for MySQL using tools installed by default in XAMPP. Just go to [XAMPP installation folder] / mysql / bin and run winmysqladmin.exe. Type a new username and password, and let the MySQL admin program generate the default mysql initialization file.

And that's it! A MySQL disabled as a Windows service, and a default configuration file with MySQL username and password defined should change your XAMPP SQL status from "MySQL database deactivated" to MySQL database ACTIVATED.

How to check that MySQL status is active

You can check the status of the MySQL databases opening the XAMPP control panel: MySQL should have a green running tag next to it.

Notice that I wouldn't keep using the Win MySQL Admin once you turned your MySQL service active: it's an old, discontinued application that seems to throw random Windows errors. But don't worry: just close the Win MySQL Admin window and keep using the built-in phpMyAdmin from the XAMPP default installation.

You can open the phpMyAdmin menu to check the active status of the MySQL databases from the XAMPP Apache main menu: start the Apache server, open the main server page using your web browser (just type "localhost" by default in your web browser address bar) and click the phpMyAdmin link to check that your MySQL databases are enabled.

I hope this helped you to activate your MySQL databases in XAMPP! Now, have a happy coding and local server testing!

How to unlock Windows if you blocked your PC with "Windows + L"

Unlocking Windows

Have you accidentally locked your Windows PC (maybe trying some keyboard shortcuts such as "Windows + L") and don't know what to do?

If you pressed "Windows key + L" to lock your PC, a password prompt will be shown for your current Windows user. The straightforward way to unlock your PC is to input your current Windows username and password. Entering the login data from another user with Windows admin permissions will disable the Windows lock too.

But, if you activated this Windows keyboard lock by accident, and you don't remember having specified any password related to your current user, don't panic! If you never defined a password for your active Windows user, just leave the password field empty and click "Accept": that will unlock Windows for sure.

Pure 100% CMYK black is different from rich black (HTML #000000 color code)

Rich black color

Did you know that 100% CMYK black is NOT the same as HTML #000000 color?

In most traditional CMYK print oriented programs, the default black color is the so called pure black (or solid black), composed of 0% of CMY inks, and a 100% K.

Nevertheless, if we choose the HTML #000000 black color code, we are choosing a rich black color (also called jet black, or even superblack). This rich black color is an ink combination of the following ink percents:

  • Cyan: 86%
  • Magenta: 85%
  • Yellow: 79%
  • Black: 100%

At least, these are the values of the rich black color in Adobe Illustrator. Nevertheless, these CMYK ink percents may vary for the rich black color in other programs.

Do rich black and #000000 black look like real black?

The problem with pure black (100 K) is that, when it is depicted in some RGB color space, it will look like a dark grey color.

On the other hand, the darker than black (on a computer screen) rich black color would look like a dark brown color in CMYK, as it depends a lot on the actual inks used by each printer.

In fact, this makes sense: in a CMY substractive color mixture the darker color possible would look like a dark brownish color.

On the other hand, a single black ink cannot absorb any color radiation in real world (and thus being actually pure black), so it looks like some kind of dark gray.

Finally, the misleading of the printing plates may add some color halos to a 100 K print on a colored background. This wouldn't happen using rich black instead of pure black.

What to use, 100% black in CMYK or rich black in HTML (#000000)?

Working with CMYK blacks and RGB blacks is very easy if you take into account these 2 main points:

  • Don't use CMYK rich black on a traditional CMYK print. Even with a more dense ink pattern, the result won't look as a pure clean black color in CMYK printing. You would be printing a dark brown or dirty dark grey instead of black. So printing black CMYK requires you to use only 100% Black.
  • Use the HTML #000000 color when exporting RGB images. A 100% K value would look like a dark grey in a computer screen, so you need to use rich black to see true RGB black in your monitor.

So stay clear of rich black in most traditional CMYK printing processes that use a white background. You would only need to use rich black if you try to print black text over an image or picture, to prevent trapping problems (color halos that surround the black) that would make the text hard to read.

Adobe Illustrator rich black tricks

In Adobe Illustrator there is a little trick to make your life easier. It allows you to work always with pure black (100% Black, the default black color in Illustrator color swatches), even when exporting your image to RGB: make sure that Edit > Settings > Appearance of Black is configured this way:

  • Displaying all black colors on screen as rich black. So you won't be confused with dark grey previews of your 100% K black.
  • Exporting and printing CMYK blacks as rich black. This does not change the black color (that remains as 100 K with no brownish color mixtures), but will create the #000000 HTML superblack color if exported to RGB color spaces.

We hope that this will shed some light telling the differences between pure 100% CMYK black and the rich black HTML #000000 color code!