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Issue #814: Feb 26 – Mar 4, 2023

Q: Several months ago, probably after a Windows update, I started getting an ‘extra’ little picture/icon in my bottom tray, inside the search box. It changes daily, and maybe applies to something significant to that day. Today it is flowers and a present. I suspect that it is using bandwidth/memory/or something that I don’t want it using. How can I clear this out? It is very annoying. I am still using Windows10 on a Lenovo, maybe 6 yr. old computer, using Firefox, and using DuckDuckGo 99% of the time as a search engine.

 – S.A. P.
Niceville, Florida

A:  Like everything else that performs a function on a computer, it is a given that this little “extra” is using some amount of bandwidth and memory, along with CPU ticks to present this little picture in your system’s taskbar.  I would submit that in the great, grand scheme of things that run on your computer – including those that you run in the foreground, and the dozens, perhaps hundreds of things that run “behind-the-scenes” that make your computer do everything it does – this little picture is a drop in the bucket, and really nothing to worry about.

But – you didn’t ask whether it was something to worry about.  You clearly stated that it’s annoying to you, and you want to get rid of it, and I’m here to help you with that.  So, let’s learn a little about this annoying little picture, and how you can take back control of your task bar and get rid of something you don’t want. 

The object in question appeared in Windows 10 as part of a feature update in April of 2022.   Its formal name is “Search Highlights” and despite its name, it doesn’t highlight any of your search results.  As far as I can tell, the only thing that the name has to do with anything is that the picture just happens to live in the Search bar near the Start menu.  Nevertheless, knowing its name is key to being able to get rid of it, as it is a toggle on one of the menus. By the way, these instructions will also be useful for those of you who aren’t currently seeing this little picture and would like to.  Not everybody finds it annoying.  You might just enjoy seeing what Microsoft has to offer on any given day.  As with most things on your computer, the choice is yours, assuming you know where to find the controls.

It never fails to surprise me where Microsoft chooses to put options to configure features in Windows.  It used to be that one would have to visit the Control Panel, and choose the correct icon for the subsystem one wanted to modify.  More contemporary versions of Windows have a dedicated “Settings” applet that performs these functions.  Well, most of them anyway, because there is no option in Settings in Windows 10 to turn the Search Highlights feature on or off.

So how does one toggle it? It’s surprisingly non-hidden.  Just right-click in an empty area of the task bar, or even in the Search bar itself.  Find the menu option that says “Search” and in the slide-off menu, you’ll see the option to “Show search highlights.”  If it’s on, there will be a checkmark next to it, and no checkmark if it’s off.  You can turn it on or off at any time as you see fit.

By the way, if you want to see the real power behind this little picture, just hover your mouse cursor over it for a moment.  Again, I’m not quite sure what this is good for, as you have no control over the picture or topic for any given day.  But it is a little distraction from what you’re doing at the keyboard.  Whether that is a good or bad thing is for you to decide.

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