September 24, 2008, 6:00 AM — Here's a simple test you can do to determine whether you are a geek (power user, self-proclaimed expert, computer nerd, and so on) or an ordinary user (n00b). Plug a USB flash drive into your computer. In a few moments a safe removal icon should appear in the system tray area of your taskbar. Now click on this icon. Which message do you see displayed: "Safely Remove Hardware" or "Safely Remove USB Mass Storage Device â€“ Drive <letter>"?
If you see the first message, it's because you right-clicked on the icon instead of just clicking on it. That's what geeks tend to do because they're used to bringing up a shortcut menu by right-clicking on files in Explorer and other tools. And if you saw the second message, it's because you left-clicked as instructed ("click on" means "left-click"). What's the difference?
Clicking on a system tray icon means "just do what I want to do". For example, if you want to adjust the volume of your speakers, click on the speaker icon and then adjust the slider. Â Right-clicking on a system tray icon however means "I want to configure this". For example, right-clicking on the speaker icon gives you two choices: Open Volume Control, which does the same thing as just clicking on the icon, and Adjust Audio Properties, which does the same thing as if you went to Control Panel and clicked Sounds And Audio Devices.
So now you want to remove your USB flash drive, right? OK, click on the System Tray icon. A dialog box named Safely Remove Hardware appears, so you select USB Mass Storage Device in this dialog and click the Stop button. This opens another dialog box named Stop A Hardware Device, and in this dialog you select SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB Device (or whatever) and click OK. Another dialog box appears saying "The device Generic Volume cannot be stopped right now, try stopping it later." Argh, you say, and click OK followed by Close. You close the Microsoft Word file you opened previously from your flash drive and then you go through the above procedure again. This time when you click OK you get a system tray notification that it's OK to remove the device from your computer. You do so and click Close.
How many mouse clicks was that? Thirteen, I think. Why so many? Because you're a geek! If you had only followed instructions and clicked (instead of right-clicking) on the system tray icon you would have discovered you had a file on the drive open after only one click, and only one more click would have been needed to remove the drive. See how geeks never listen to instructions ...
It's surprising how many people (even geeks) aren't aware of the difference between clicking and right-clicking on system tray icons like this. And besides, most users just yank the flash drive out of their computer without clicking (or right-clicking) on the safe removal icon even though that's generally not a good idea.
Got any Windows hardware tips you want to share with other readers? Email me and I'll share them in a future post on this blog.