Microsoft: Windows PCs still too weak for seconds in taskbar clock

A Windows developer explains why the taskbar clock is not allowed to display the seconds under Windows 11 either.

There are things that have a tradition with Windows. This also includes the fact that there is a clock in the taskbar at the bottom right, but this only shows the user the hour and minute, not the seconds. She could, but she mustn’t. This has always been the case and has remained so up to Windows 11.

The Microsoft developer Raymond Chen revealed the reason for this in a blog post in 2003: On PCs with only 4 GB RAM, the minimum requirement for using Windows at the time, the display of the seconds in the original Windows versions caused a poorer display performance and thus also for worse benchmark values. According to the principle “The fastest code is the code that isn’t running”, the seconds display in the taskbar clock was simply removed and until Windows 10 it can only be unlocked with a trick (more on this below).

PCs (and Windows) too weak for seconds display in the taskbar clock in 2022

Many years later, Raymond Chen has now written a new blog post in which he answers the question of why the taskbar clock should not have a seconds display in 2022 either. And this despite the fact that the minimum requirements for using Windows have been raised and 4 GB of RAM are no longer permitted.

“It just wouldn’t be a good idea for the performance,” Chen says, going into a lengthy explanation. Accordingly, there would still be performance problems on multi-user systems such as terminal servers. On these systems, the time in the taskbar clock would have to be recalculated and displayed every second for each logged-in user. The CPU might be busy redrawing hundreds of taskbar clocks every second. “Even updating a hundred clocks once a minute is too much for many of these systems, and most terminal server administrators just disable the system tray clock altogether,” Chen explains.

And what about single-user systems like Windows 11?

But what about single-user systems, why can’t the taskbar clock show the seconds here? According to Chen, the answer here is also performance. Every activity that recurs faster than a minute is scrutinized by the Windows team, which is responsible for the performance of the operating system. The reason is that such repetitive Windows activities prevent the CPU from entering a low-power state.

Updating the seconds in the taskbar is not absolutely necessary for the Windows interface, in contrast to the video that the user is watching runs smoothly. Therefore, according to Chen, the recommendation “that non-essential periodic timers should have a minimum duration of one minute and enable timer merging to minimize system wake-ups.”

Hidden switch for displaying seconds in Windows

There is a trick in Windows 10 that can be used to activate the display of seconds in the taskbar clock. To do this, an entry must be created in the registry. Specifically under


the “DWORD Value (32-bit)” entry


This entry must then have the value “1”. After the system restart, the taskbar clock then shows the hours and minutes as well as the seconds. All information about this trick can be found in this PC WORLD tip.

And on Windows 11? This trick no longer works.

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