Another version of AOL’s AIM instant messaging client arrives, this time version 6.5, and still there's no solution to its habit of eating CPU resources under Windows Vista.

What’s habit is that, you say? I can’t say for sure that this is a problem of AOL 6.5 – it might relate to an old version that pollutes the registry – but an application process called aolload.exe loves Vista (and possibly XP too) so much it hugs up it to the tune of up to 100 percent CPU time.

It’s the cheapest Vista upgrade I know – just kill that one process and watch the PC come back from the dead. The crazy thing is that aolload.exe is not central to the client’s working, and can safely be ejected from the process tree. It’s the kind of bad programming that keeps registry booster companies in business.

It turns out that aoload.exe and CPU cycles is an established problem, going back at least to version 6.0, and one not helped by the tendency of some spyware programs to hide themselves under the same file moniker. None of the common explanations apply in this instance as far as I can tell. The program is not being stymied by the firewall and this is a legitimate AOL program as Vista sees itas being signed.

There are various explanations as to what aolload.exe actually does that I won’t bore readers with. More to the point is that a major software company doesn’t offer much information on the software it seems happy to load on to user’s PCs, despite the fact that such programs can screw up their PCs enough to the extent of consuming all available CPU cycles on an otherwise unstressed machine.

I’ve moaned about AOL’s IM client before, but for different reasons. At least that issue has resolved itself. Meanwhile, I will resist the temptation to rip this aolload.exe thing out by the roots using regedit and just watch it to see what it does. Some problems are nice to have if you can turn them on and off.