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The system tray is the portion of the taskbar that is usually found on the bottom right of the screen.  The system tray usually contains the system clock and at least a few icons for running programs.  Most of the programs here will be things that start when the computer starts, but programs you start can add items to the system tray as well.  Microsoft Outlook and Windows Live Messenger are such programs which may not start with the computer but, upon being started, add an icon to the system try.  Also shown in the system tray are warning messages from Microsoft, such as that your firewall is disabled or that your antivirus is out of date.  A very common and useful item often shown in the system tray is the "speaker icon", which will let you adjust your computer's volume.

Remember, the system tray is in the taskbar.  Here is a picture of the taskbar that we used earlier.


The system tray can be seen on the right.  It has four items in it.  From left to right, we have a yellow shield with an exclamation point in it.  This tells us that there are Windows Updates waiting to be installed.  Next we have a red shield with an X in it.  This tells us that there is some security problem with the computer.  If we click on it we would see that it is telling us that there is no antivirus installed, in this case.  The next is the speaker icon, which may or may not be here, depending on your settings.  One click of the speaker icon will bring up a quick "master volume" slider so you can set the overall volume on your computer.  Double click on it and it will open the volume window, which will let you adjust not only the master volume, but also the volumes of individual components.  And, finally, we have the clock.  Though the order of the icons may change, the clock is always in the same place, to the right of any icons.

Here is a picture of just the system tray.

System tray