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  Wizard of OS   

The Operating System (OS) is a software program that manages your computer and provides you with a graphical user interface (GUI) from which you can view your system settings, programs, files, and documents.  There are several different operating systems available depending on the system you buy and your preference.  Since I (and my family) currently use Windows XP,  that will be the topic of discussion  here.  (More about Windows on Page 2)

When Windows starts up, it (much like your ROM) checks out your computer system to see what components you have, loads the drivers for those components, loads system files required to run and manage Windows, and starts any programs required to do so when your computer starts up (ie... your anti-virus program).

Once Windows starts you'll see a screen somewhat like the one pictured below.  This is your Desktop.  Simply put, it holds those things you want or need easy access to like your desk at work. It will vary from person to person because you can customize the look of your desktop.  Learn how to customize your desktop by clicking the words Customize Desktop.

The little pictures on the left side of this screen are called ICONS. Icons are shortcuts to programs, folders of information, and tools available on your computer.  Without icons you would have to navigate your way through menus and lists to find the program or tool you want to use.  There are just a few icons that will be on your desktop when you first fire up your computer.  As you install programs on your computer more icons will be added to your desktop.  That is, of course, unless you choose keep them off your desktop.  Learn how to customize your icons by clicking the words Customize Icons.

The bar located at the bottom of your desktop is called the TASKBAR.  It is broken into different sections and it includes:
The START button (at far left, see above pic).  Click the Start button and a menu pops up with shortcuts to your system info, tools, programs installed on your computer, and the Log Off and Turn Off buttons.  If you purchased your pc and haven't customized anything your start menu will look similar to the one pictured here (see pic to the right).

I've customized mine because I prefer the Classic Start menu and if I've worked on your computer (and you've given me license to customize) I likely changed yours to Classic as well (see pic below left).  My favorite thing about the Classic menu?  It's smaller.  You should have known that was coming.

I like to have the programs I use most frequently one click away so I have those on my quick launch toolbar.  Programs and tools I use less frequently (ie. My Computer) are a double-click away as icons on my desktop.  That leaves the start button menu for programs and tools I rarely use so the smaller version is just fine for me.  Like any other Windows customization, it's all about personal preference.  Learn how to customize your Start button by clicking the words Customize Start Button.

Next is the QUICK LAUNCH area.  This is an option you can choose (as I have).  The icons here require only one click to start the programs as opposed to double-clicking the icons on the desktop to start them.  Although it might seem all the same, I prefer to use the quick launch for a few reasons not the least of which is I can't stand there being too many icons on my desktop.

The area in the center of the taskbar shows what programs you have open while allowing you to switch from one to another by simply clicking on the one you want.  (More about that later.)

Last (at far right) is the SYSTEM TRAY (systray), also know as the Notification area.  This is the area where you'll see your clock, the volume control for your sound, and any programs running.  For example, what's showing in my systray is (from left to right) my Printkey program, Spybot Spyware program, volume control, my antivirus program, my USB device connection, my scanner software, and the clock.
Learn how to customize your taskbar by clicking the words Customize Taskbar.