Windows Sidebar Clock Can Steal CPU Cycles!

March 21, 2009 08:54 – 08:54

Last night, I noticed that programs were taking a while to start, and my computer was being sluggish in general. I right-clicked Windows Vista’s Taskbar and started the Task Manager to see if I could figure out why. In the Processes tab, I clicked CPU to reverse sort by CPU consumption.

In this picture, both instances of sidebar.exe were showing 0%. Last night, however, one of the sidebar.exe instances was showing 50% CPU usage! Note that there might be two instances of sidebar.exe running. I’m given to understand that the second process is used for managing Sidebar gadgets that do not come with Vista.

In any case, the question for me was WHY?

I closed Sidebar, and CPU usage for it dropped to 0% (although the two processes did not close). I restarted Sidebar, and the 50% problem returned after a short while, although not immediately.

Long story short… I traced the problem to the analog clock that comes with Vista’s Sidebar. I tried closing the gadgets one at a time, thinking that the problem would be with WeatherBug or one of the other add-on Gadgets. But, the problem went <POOF> (that’s techspeak for disappeared) when I right-clicked the clock and chose Close Gadget.

I checked on my laptop computer and the problem does not exist there, so I don’t know how widespread the issue is. However, if you’re noticing that the computer seems to be churning when you aren’t aware of any big programs running… do what I did—check the Processes list in the Task Manager. And, prepare for the unexpected!

In any case, my computer is running a good deal faster this morning. I temporarily replaced the clock that comes with Vista with something called Digital Dutch Clock. But, it exhibited the same problem as Vista’s built-in one. When I get around to installing Windows 7, I’ll have to see if it has the same clock issue. But, for now, I’ve placed an old wooden clock where I can see it.

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