Turning off the Unused Icons Wizard

Having been pestered by the Windows XP Desktop Cleaning Wizard one too many times, I wanted to turn the bloody thing off. Turns out it was under Display -> Desktop tab -> Customize Desktop -> a check box to turn off the wizard.

Interesting that a system maintenance service is actually controlled by a setting in the same tab that sets my Desktop picture – a similar jarring mix of purposes would be rare to find in a Mac system preference panel. I ended up having to Google “unused icons” and “Windows” to find out this little piece of information.

In a timed fire event like this, a logical “opt-out” solution would have been to have the rather intrusive wizard offer an option to deactivate itself – permanently if necessary. Instead, I had to go hunt down the magical control that triggers this wizard once some number of days. This is really poorly designed, but rather symptomatic of typical Windows UIs for preferences.

Without strong cues, users tend to overlook settings that are deeply hidden. A check box on a tab, from a dialog box that is opened by some button, on a tab of a control panel, is already pushing it. Who usually explores beyond what he can skim at a glance from a control panel window? Who actually drills down regularly into all those “Advanced” and “Properties” buttons, which hide dialog boxes, which themselves possess tabs (or, dear god, another “Properties” button that opens up yet another dialog)? The problem is compounded by the fact that there lacks a sufficiently powerful search interface to find the specific setting you want from the operating system.

Conventional wisdom holds that most users never change preferences from their defaults. I keep wondering if it’s that they simply can’t find the damn thing in a reasonable amount of time, or have enough cues to know that these things can be changed. The Desktop Cleaning Wizard certainly never hinted that its presence can be made to go away. If I were a less motivated user, I’d probably settle for ignoring the notification until it goes away on its own.