strange WindowsXP problem
February 3, 2009 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Strange thing happening on my Windows XP, don't know what to do...

OK, you know down in the system tray, bottom right corner, how sometimes you get a little speech bubble pop-up, with a little popping noise, when something noteworthy has happened? For example, when a torrent has completed downloading, or a new external hard drive is detected, or whatever? Usually they stay up long enough to click on them for further information, to act on the information.

So my problem is that for the last few months I have been getting these strange little events, where a speech bubble pops but is really quick, too quick for me to see what it is talking about. It is only there for like 1/5 of a second, even when I stare intently and wait for it I cannot read it. When it starts doing this it will continue for an extended period, every minute or so, giving me the little pop / speech bubble.

How the hell do I figure out what is up?

Some further info:
-happens whether or not I am running BitTorrent or Skype
-I have updated AVG on, it tells me I am clean
-I just did a full system malware scan with a couple different tools, nothing fishy was indicated
-here is an image of my current tray, if that is of any help. It is going on right now...

I would love to make this slightly irritating thing stop. Can you nice and knowledgeable people advise me on how to proceed? Thanks in advance.
posted by Meatbomb to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Meatbomb, I'd be happy to help. Click on Start > Run and enter "msconfig" then click "OK."

The System Configuration Utility will come up. Click on the "Startup" tab and make a list of the things that are there. It may be quite long, so you may need to post a set of images as the easiest way to convey the information. Make sure the "Command" column is wide enough to show the data it contains.

What's likely happening here is some program that is set to run every time Windows starts is malfunctioning. We are looking at the list of such programs to see which ones might be causing your issue.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:35 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks BigLankyBastard! Yes, too long to type it all, here are the images.

All but the last one ("common startup") are location "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run.

start of list
end of list
posted by Meatbomb at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2009

It would be easier to figure this out if you could say what the bubble (balloon notification) was popping up from.

Just have your entire system tray expanded and wait. You don't need to read it - just figure out where it is coming from.

My guess with absolutely no knowledge of what is going on is your wifi finding util (looks like you are using intel proset) is finding a wireless network in range to you and it pops in then drops out throughout the day because of a weak signal.

Alternatively, you could turn off the balloon notifications: (Just run the file, it's an automatic MSI from MS to do this)
posted by zephyr_words at 9:26 AM on February 3, 2009

OK, It looks like you have a number of things running that are either unnecessary or might be positioned to generate spurious alerts like the one you describe, for various reasons. So, from the System Configuration Utility, startup tab: (Starting from the bottom) Uncheck Adobe Ga..., RGSClau..., Googleup..., Reader_sl, and jusched. Then click "OK" and restart the PC.

If the problem persists, open the System Configuration Utility again and uncheck rundll32, Skytel, and sm56hlpr, then restart again. I'll wager these have to do with syncing information from your cellphone to your computer, so if you like that function you may want to re-test your ability to sync after restarting the computer.

Obviously, if any of these changes break some functionality that is important to you, you can go back and re-check any of these items, then restart your computer, to undo the changes you have made.

When restarting the computer after making these changes, Windows will give a message to the effect that the Startup options have changed or something like that. You will be able to check a box telling Windows not to remind you again.

Let me know how it goes.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:27 AM on February 3, 2009

Also, zephyr may be right.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:32 AM on February 3, 2009

I see you're running AVG. This is just a guess but today in particular it's been really distracting with failed update notifications. This could be a problem with one of their update servers.

Try to get an idea of which distracting notification is the one to blame and focus on that one.
posted by ezekieldas at 9:37 AM on February 3, 2009

Take some video of the screen when it starts doing it and see if you can catch the frame and freeze it (I recently did just that to figure out some driver BSOD issues)
posted by zeoslap at 9:46 AM on February 3, 2009

Tell your system tray to not auto-hide anything. Right-click on the task-bar. Select properties then press the customize button. Set all icons to "always show." Now wait. Or if its too big start by just doing the "Current items" first.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:43 PM on February 3, 2009

My logitech mouse has a low battery alert that sometimes has this behaviour. It only happens when I'm using rechargeable batteries. The alert will flash up repeatadly of the barest of moments (basically just long enough to unfurl).

I've speculated that it is because the rechargables when they get low will reside right on the edge of the low voltage for a long time. A mouse movement will drop the voltage below the threshold and then as soon as I stop moving it the batteries recover so the warning disappears.
posted by Mitheral at 7:26 PM on February 3, 2009

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