[AI] YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Sanjay ilovecold at gmail.com
Thu May 6 14:39:21 EDT 2010


FROZEN OUT

Q Attempting to use the keyboard on my Windows XP PC frequently causes the
machine to freeze up.  I have to turn the computer off and start again.  Can
you
suggest a fix?

Ken Walker

I suspect that the problem is arising because of a hardware fault on either
your
keyboard or your motherboard.

Check that your keyboard doesn't require specialist drivers by going to the
maker's website or looking on Windows Update ( windowsupdate.microsoft.com).

Next, try plugging the keyboard into a different USB port.  Alternatively,
if
yours is a PS2 keyboard (these have a round connector), borrow or buy
another
keyboard and try that.  Note that switching to a USB keyboard can involve
enabling it in the Bios; updating your Bios can also help.

If you're still experiencing the same lock-ups then it's likely there's a
fault with your motherboard, or the operating system itself.  In either
case,
back up all the files and folders stored on your PC on to an external hard
drive
before you continue to the next step.

Reinstalling Windows using your restore discs is an option only if you are
confident enough to do so.  Remember, this isn't something you should
undertake lightly.  It's also worth establishing whether there are any
issues
with your motherboard and, if so, whether your machine is still under
warranty
and can be fixed at nominal cost.

EXPERT TIP: WHO HAS YOUR BACK?

Backups are only as good as your methods of making and storing them.  For
best
results, you need redundant backups, including one that resides offsite.
Instead of paying monthly charges to a specialised backup service, you can
set
up nearly the same level of protection with no ongoing fees.  All you need
is a
trusted friend with a similar need.

First, form an exchange plan with your friend (or another business, if
you're
storing corporate files).  You host their backup files, and they host yours.
Such a setup should be sufficient for most small businesses and many
medium-size
organisations.

You can make a local backup in a matter of hours, then physically move that
device or media to the offsite space.  Even including the time to ship or
drive
the disk over, the process will be faster and less taxing on bandwidth than
uploading hundreds of gigabytes.

CrashPlan ( crashplan.com) offers one way to build the system.  If you have
less
than 10 PCs to back up, you buy a $60 (around ukp35) licence for each one
and
provide your own storage space.  This might be a NAS drive or an attached
USB
drive for ongoing, local backups, plus a drive for storing offsite.

Run the backup software twice and it makes archives to both destinations.
You
then move the external drive to whoever you made the exchange arrangements
with.
Once they install the software, you'll be able to keep incrementally backing
up data to the offsite drive for no monthly cost.

CrashPlan also offers upgrades, including a monthly storage option; try out
the
free trial to see whether it fits your needs.  Or, if you've got more than
10
systems, try CrashPlan Pro, which is largely the same as the small-office
version.

Zack Stern

SPEAK UP

Q My PC dual-boots Vista and XP Pro.  Since installing XP Service Pack 3,
I've
lost the sound on that partition.  Windows Help reports that all devices are
working properly.  A PC technician was also unable to fix the problem.

Thomas Cameron

We can rule out a hardware problem since the sound is still audible under
Vista,
Thomas.  The ATI sound card mentioned in your original email is part of your
ATI
graphics card (all ATI HD cards come with Realtek HD audio chipsets built
in).
This is probably the second sound device installed on your machine as your
motherboard will also have an audio chip onboard.

To check whether you have two sound devices installed on your machine,
right-click My Computer and choose Manage, Device Manager, Sound Video and
Game
Controllers.  You can also disable one of the sound cards in the Bios.

Given that HD audio is available only via an HDMI connection to an external
monitor or TV, consider disabling the ATI card.  To use your other sound
device
instead, go to Start, Control Panel, Sounds and Audio Devices, Audio and
make it
the default device under the Sound playback section.

Alternatively, disabling the onboard sound will force the machine to use the
ATI
card - it will be the only sound device available.  Download the latest ATI
drivers and Catalyst Control Center for your particular graphics card from
ati.com.

SQUEALY STRANGE

Q On returning home from a recent holiday and switching the electricity back
on
I was met with an unwelcome and almost continuous squealing noise from my
PC.
The machine refuses to boot up and no image appears on the monitor.  Tech
support suggested that the CPU or its fan had failed.  The processor fan
seemed
to be working fine, so I wasn't surprised when the noise continued after I
installed a new chip.

Robert Atkinson

The noise could be also coming from your power supply unit (PSU), Robert,
where
there is another fan.  However, perhaps the easiest way to discover the
source
of the squeal is to remove the side panel and switch the machine on.

The fact that you aren't getting a picture on your display leads me to
believe
that the PSU may have failed and is now sending an incorrect amount of power
to
the computer.  However, if the noise appears to be coming from the
motherboard
then the actual culprit will be the memory, processor or other component.

In all cases you should contact the manufacturer's support line and try to
get
the issue resolved under warranty.

DRIVING ME CRAZY

Q My internal and external optical drives seem to be causing my PC to freeze
up.
I've tried booting up into Safe mode, cleaning the drives and checking for
firmware updates, but the problem persists.

David Bauernfeind

You need to check which device is causing the problem, David.  If you run
your
PC with the external drive disconnected and it still freezes then your
internal
device is probably at fault.  Disconnect your PC from the mains, then remove
the
cables going to your internal drive.  If the PC now works correctly then
you'll need to download and install the latest firmware for your internal
drive.

Similar steps apply should you discover that the external drive is at fault.
If
the problem persists, one of your optical drives may need to be replaced.

TONIC FOR SONIC

Q My Dell XP machine has started prompting me to set up a 'Sonic Activation
Module'.  I press Cancel but the message is reluctant to disappear.  Sonic
Activation Module doesn't appear in Add/Remove Programs, so I can't get rid
of it from there.

Alan Mayne

The Sonic Activation Module refers to the Sonic disc-burning suite bundled
with
some Dell laptops.  Although the message may be annoying, it isn't doing any
harm to your PC.

You can usually open the Sonic suite and activate it or uninstall it via
Add/Remove Programs.  However, since Sonic isn't appearing in your list of
available programs, you can use MSconfig to prevent Sonic starting up when
Windows launches.

Click Start, Run.  Type msconfig and click the Startup tab.  Look for any
entries listed as Sonic and untick them.  Finally, reboot.  Any of these
steps
should prevent the message popping up again.

LOUSY MOUSE

Q When I put my Windows XP PC in Standby or Hibernate mode the USB mouse and
keyboard refuse to wake up on reactivation.  Changing USB ports makes no
difference.

Mick Davey

XP's hibernation and sleep function is notorious for not working correctly
with some devices when the machine wakes up.

Right-click My Computer and choose Manage, Device Manager.  Expand the
Universal
Serial Bus Controllers branch and look for entries listed as USB Root Hub.

Double-click the first to bring up its Properties.  Click the Power
Management
tab and untick 'Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power'.
Repeat this step for each USB root hub to fix the problem.

TIME AND MOTION

Q My computer fails to display the correct time and date at bootup.  This is
a
problem when I access my webmail, as I get error messages saying the time
and
date are out of sync.  How can I force the machine to remember the time?
Lynne

Like a wrist watch, your PC's internal clock runs on a battery.  If this
dies
and the PC is powered down, the machine will be unable to maintain the
correct
time and date.

Earth yourself, unplug your computer and remove its side panel.  Now remove
and
replace the Bios battery.  A new battery will cost you only a couple of
pounds
from a hardware store.

Finally, power up your computer and reset the time and date.

USB USELESS

Q When I disconnect a non-powered USB device using Safely Remove Hardware,
my
wireless network adaptor and mouse also stop working.  Tech support
instructed
me to uninstall the USB Root hub, check the USB devices worked on another PC
and
to use a different wireless adapter.  I've also reinstalled Windows.

Lawrence Bradbury

It sounds as though you've gone through a fairly exhaustive list of possible
fixes.  The best alternative we can suggest is to ensure that the
power-saving
options for your USB ports are disabled.  Follow the steps given in the
previous
question to do so.

You should also update your computer's Bios.  Download a Bios update from
the
manufacturer's website.

A FRESH OUTLOOK

Q Every time I boot up I get the message: 'To free up disk space, Outlook
Express can compact messages.  This may take a few minutes'.  I don't use
Outlook Express, although I do use Outlook.  I don't need to free up disk
space and I don't particularly want to compact my Outlook messages.  How can
I
get rid of this message?

Richard Perry

I have a sneaking suspicion that Outlook Express has duplicated your Outlook
Email (it can do this if it has been started up and detects the presence of
another compatible mail program).  The easiest solution is to simply remove
Outlook Express.

Go to Start, Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs and choose Add/Remove
Windows
Components.  Deselect Outlook Express and click Next.  This should remove
Outlook Express from your system.

EXPERT TIP: MISSING DRIVERS

Q My laptop has about 20 missing or corrupt drivers. Help! Rani P

Start by restoring your system to a point before the problems began.  Go to
Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore and follow
the
prompts.

Now consider the fact that you may have addressed only a symptom.  Scan your
hard drive with SuperAntiSpyware ( superantispyware.com) and/or Malwarebytes
(
malwarebytes.org) to make sure it isn't infected.  Also run CCleaner (
ccleaner.com), which can sweep away other, not intentionally malicious,
problems.

If System Restore hasn't done the trick go to Device Manager and select
Start,
Run.  Type devmgmt.msc and press Enter.  Uninstall all the corrupted drivers
by
right-clicking each one and selecting Uninstall.  Reboot your PC when you've
finished.

Windows will find and reinstall any drivers it can.  They won't necessarily
be
the most up-to-date versions, and some will be generic ones that can run
your
hardware only in limited ways.  But your computer will be working, and
you'll
be able to install the other drivers from CDs, manufacturer websites and so
on.

Lincoln Spector

INDIVIDUAL UPDATES

Q Could you point me in the right direction of a download link for Windows
XP
Service Pack (SP) 3 please?  Also, how I can download individual updates,
save
them on my hard drive and manually apply them at a later date?  I'd like to
reinstall Windows and then reapply the updates.

Mick Jackson

You can download a copy of Windows XP SP3 from tinyurl.com/4qvth5.

To back up all the Windows updates that have been downloaded and applied you
first need to disable Automatic Updates.  Right-click My Computer and choose
Manage, Services and Applications, Services.  Right-click Automatic Updates
and
choose Stop.

Navigate to your Windows folder and find the SoftwareDistribution folder.
This
is where Windows places updates.  Copy the contents to an external drive.
Once
you have reinstalled Windows you can copy the updates back into the folder.

The next time you run Windows Update the system should pick up that the
relevant
files require updating but will not need to download them again.  You may
find
that XP SP3 is already held within this folder too.

Note that you can save a lot of time and effort by downloading nLite (
nliteos.com) and using it to 'slipstream' SP3 with your current XP disc.
This will create a brand-new bootable disk that will install XP SP3.

FIREWALL FIGHT

Q Since installing Norton Internet Security 2009 I have been unable to
launch
the Windows Firewall.  Symantec tells me that the two should not conflict.

Gavin Dransfield

There isn't anything wrong with your firewall, Gavin.  When you install
Norton
it simply disables the Windows Firewall and replaces it with its own (you
can
only have one software firewall).

XP's firewall is basic and we recommend that you stick with the Norton
alternative.  You should find that this provides better filtering,
monitoring
and reporting.

Note that you should have only one security suite on your PC - antivirus
products often interfere with each other and detect each other's activity as
'suspicious'.

EMAIL EXCHANGE

Q I want to give my laptop to a family member.  How do I remove my email
details
from it without losing the mail stored on my desktop PC?

Jim Finlayson

If you use Outlook, Outlook Express or any other desktop mail client, you
can
simply delete the mail file held within your user area.  The location will
differ from program to program - try conducting a web search for 'mail file
locations' for your client.

Deleting the file may also delete your emails on the laptop.  Given that
emails
are local to each machine, however, your messages will remain on your
desktop
PC.

MOBILE WEB HISTORY

Q I connect to the internet via mobile broadband and try to keep the time
I'm
online to a minimum.  In the past, I would open Explorer History or use
Google
Desktop Search to view web pages I had previously visited.  Now, when I try
to
access a page, 'Internet Explorer cannot display the web page'.  How I can
view these pages without connecting to the web?

Alan Greenfield

The History list in Internet Explorer is a 'cached' version of the web pages
you have visited.  The cache saves a page's content, pictures, text and
layout
to your Temporary Internet Files folder.  These files are then used to speed
up
web browsing by providing web page content from a local source rather than
you
having to download the files every time you visit that page.

When your computer is offline and you click on a web link your browser will
try
to recreate the page from the cache.  However, the dynamic nature of many
modern
web pages means that they change their layout constantly by pulling pictures
and
text from databases held in the background.  These pages can't be viewed
offline as the web page code will demand a connection to the web database to
display correctly.

If want to view web pages offline you should instead save the pages.  In
Internet Explorer you can do this using the Web Archive Complete option.  Go
to
File, Save As.

EMAIL ATTACHMENTS

Q can I attach Microsoft Word documents into a Gmail message?  When I choose
New, Email message in Word's File menu, the message appears within Internet
Explorer.  I'd also like to be able to use Gmail on my Nokia E90 mobile
phone.

Mohammed Izzat

When you choose the email option in Word, it thinks that you want to create
an
email and therefore launches Internet Explorer for you to use Windows Mail.

To send the Word document separately you must first save it and close down
Word,
then log into your Gmail account and create a new email message there.  The
option to attach a file can be found just below the subject line.  This will
then be sent as a separate file within the email.

Details of how to access Gmail on your mobile phone are at tinyurl.com/m2
millilitres5h.

Note that many E90 users have commented that certain settings do not work
and
need amending depending on your ISP.  If setup proves tricky, contact your
ISP's help desk to check you have the correct configuration.

WAYS WITH WIRES

Q I have a Huawei wireless adaptor that came as part of my broadband
subscription.  Until now I've been using it with an iMac and a Toshiba
Satellite laptop but I can't get it to work with my elderly Sony Vaio
laptop.
This has an ethernet connection, but I'd like to be able to use it
wirelessly
too.  I've checked for updates on Sony's website.

Mark Coe

First check that the Wi-Fi service isn't switched off on the laptop case.
There's usually a switch on the side or above the keyboard near the lid.

Next, check whether the wireless device is visible to the PC.  Right-click
My
Computer and choose Manage, Device Manager.  The wireless adaptor should be
listed under the Network Adapters section (the wireless card is manufactured
by
Intel).  If it's listed there, right-click it to check whether it's
disabled.  If it is, simply select Enable from the menu.

If the device isn't listed it could be that it's disabled in the Bios.
Enter the Bios on boot up and check the Wi-Fi card is enabled.

Finally, it's possible that the wireless module has become loose under the
case or has stopped working.  If you suspect this and the laptop is still
under
warranty, Sony may be willing to investigate.  Perhaps the easiest option,
though, is to spend ukp20 or so on a compatible USB wireless adaptor.

You should also update your wireless drivers to the latest version from the
Sony
update site for your laptop (visit tinyurl.com/mvjv6c).







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