[AI] ask our experts

Sanjay ilovecold at gmail.com
Tue Sep 28 02:57:17 EDT 2010

My laptop's function button isn't working properly 

Q: I recently bought a Toshiba NB305 laptop on the strength of your review (see

Labs, Shopper 269). I'm very pleased with it, except for one problem - the Fn

key has stopped working. At first, pressing it would display an onscreen menu

that showed all the features that the button supported, such as toggling the

wireless connection, but now none of these keys works. Strangely, pressing the

Fn key does light up the corresponding LED on the front of the laptop, so the

physical key appears to be working. How do I fix the problem?

Nigel Warrington 

a: The Fn key requires software to operate correctly, and this isn't working on

your laptop. The most likely cause of your problem is an update that has

partially upgraded the Fn key software, leaving it unable to operate. To fix

the problem, you need to download the updated drivers.

The easiest answer is to use the Toshiba Software Installer, which you can

download from http://tinyurl.com/ToshibaSoftwareInstaller. This will

automatically scan your computer, download and install all the necessary

software for Windows 7. This utility works with other Toshiba laptops, too; the

full list can be found on the website. Other readers who are experiencing a

similar problem with other laptop brands can download the relevant software from

the manufacturer's website.

Flash Player keeps asking to be installed 

Q: I have been unable to permanently install Flash Player on my computer. When

I'm browsing, the animation or movie tells me I need to install Flash Player. I

click on the link and install Flash Player 10 as directed. It works for as long

as my PC is switched on. However, the next time I use my computer, I'm just

invited to install it again. I use Internet Explorer 8 and Vista Home Premium.

David Day, dcd113 at googlemail.com 

a: It could be a corrupt Flash installation, or some security software that

you're running. To determine if the installer is corrupt, download Adobe's

official Windows uninstaller from www.tinyurl.com/UninstallFlashWin. Close all

programs, including Internet Explorer and any other browser windows, run the

uninstaller, and restart your PC.

Run the installation utility to update to the latest Flash Player. This will be

in C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash or C:\Windows\SysWOW64\Macromed\Flash.

Right-click on FlashUtil10a.exe (the number and letter depend on the version

installed). Select Run As Administrator and then restart your PC.

If this doesn't work for some reason, download the latest version from

www.tinyurl.com/InstallFlash10 and install it. Confirm the installation was

successful by visiting www.adobe.com/software/flash/about.

You should see a message saying 'Adobe Flash Player successfully installed' and

a box with the version number. This should be or later.

If this doesn't fix the problem, it could be some third-party software causing

the problem. We've heard of people who have fixed the problem by uninstalling

Iolo System Mechanic. It's also worth temporarily disabling any software

firewall or anti-virus software to see if that makes the problem goes away.

Confused about legacy USB support and hybrid sleep 

Q: I realise that these are basic questions, but I've noticed an option in the

BIOS to disable legacy USB support and wondered what it does. Also, I've

upgraded to Windows 7 from Windows XP and was fiddling with the advanced power

settings. Under the Sleep heading, there's an option to 'Allow hybrid sleep',

which is enabled by default. What is hybrid sleep?

Chris Hunter 

a: Legacy USB support is required to make USB devices (usually the keyboard and

mouse) work in environments where there is no USB support. This can include the

POST sequence and any pre-Windows utilities - for instance, during an operating

system installation or a disaster recovery program. If you disable legacy USB

support in your BIOS, your USB keyboard and mouse won't function until Windows

boots, making it impossible to alter BIOS settings. Usually, there's no need to

disable this and if it is disabled, it's sensible to enable it.

Hybrid sleep was introduced in Windows Vista and is also in Windows 7.

Traditionally, Hibernation stored the computer's state on the hard disk, while

Sleep stored it in memory. This meant you could turn off power at the mains if

you chose Hibernation and still restore your session when you reconnected power

and turned on the PC. With Sleep, the memory data is preserved only as long as

there's power; cutting power to your PC meant the restored data was lost.

Hybrid sleep uses both methods, writing the system state to memory and the hard

disk (to a file called hyberfil.sys). This allows your PC to resume quickly if

there's a constant supply of power, but if there's a power cut - or you switch

it off at the mains - your open programs and documents can be restored. It

takes a bit longer to put your PC to sleep in Vista and Windows 7 than in XP, as

writing to the hard disk takes longer than memory.

If you want your PC to sleep more quickly, change the 'Allow hybrid sleep'

setting to Off in the Advanced Settings of Windows' Power Options. You can get

to these by typing Power into the search bar on the Start menu and choosing

Power Options. Click the Change plan settings link next to the selected power

plan and then 'Change advanced power settings' on the window that appears.

Can I install full Windows 7 from upgrade? 

Q: I have a PC running Windows Vista and would like to install Windows 7 in an

empty partition, so that I can dual-boot both operating systems until I have

Windows 7 running and all software installed. Will the upgrade version allow me

to do this, or do I need the full version of Windows 7?

Mike Reason, mike at postmill.plus.com 

a: The short answer is that you're not allowed to do that with an Upgrade

version of Windows 7. The Windows 7 End User License Agreement (EULA) states:

"To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is

eligible for the upgrade. Upon upgrade, this agreement takes the place of the

agreement for the software you upgraded from. After you upgrade, you may no

longer use the software you upgraded from." In other words, you can't run your

old operating system and your new one.

If you want to wipe Windows Vista and start from scratch, a further complication

comes into play; an upgrade disc doesn't let you perform a clean install.

Instead, the installer looks for an old version of Windows.

There are ways around this. Try booting from the installation disc. Just don't

enter a licence key when prompted, and make sure Windows isn't set to

automatically activate. After the installation has finished, you can activate

it manually.

If this doesn't work it gets tricky, but there's an excellent guide to making

clean installations from upgrade discs at

www.winsupersite.com/win7/clean_install_upgrade_media.asp. Performing a clean

install using the methods here won't breach your licence agreement, providing

you no longer use Windows Vista, sell your old OS or transfer it to another

person. To do exactly what you want to do, though, you should really buy a full

copy of Windows 7.

Is port forwarding safe? 

Q: I was wondering if you could advise me on a security question. I have

enabled the web server and FTP service on my NAS device, and opened ports 21 and

80 on my Linksys broadband router. I have created a dyndns.com account and can

now happily access my NAS from the internet.

However, soon after I opened the ports, the logs quickly recorded anonymous

attempts from the internet to access it. As far as I can see, only people with

a username and password set up on the NAS can access FTP, and only those

accounts I have made can access the web server. Am I safe leaving it accessible

like this? Could anyone get through the router/NAS on ports 80 or 21 and access

other machines inside my home network? And are the files on the NAS vulnerable

to theft?

Phil Griffin,philgriff at googlemail.com 

a: The simple answer is that by opening up any ports and allowing access to your

computers is a security risk. However, it's not so much about whether or not

it's a risk as how you manage that risk.

It seems as though you've done the sensible thing by password-protecting both

your web and FTP servers. You just need to make sure you don't have any default

account names and passwords enabled that people could use to access resources.

If someone was to break into your FTP account, they could access all your files

and - depending on the permissions you've set - they could delete them.

Accessing your web server would only allow them to access the hosted website. A

bigger, but less likely risk, is that a flaw in either account could give a

hacker command-line access to your NAS, from which they'd be able to attack

other computers on your network. This is unlikely, though.

To add more security, you can alter your NAS's settings to change the port on

which the FTP and web servers run, moving them from their defaults of 21 and 80

respectively. You can use any port number from 1 to 65,535, although you should

use something relatively easy to remember, such as 400 and 401.

If you do change the port numbers these services run on, you'll need to go into

your router's configuration pages and edit the Port Forwarding settings for the

new port numbers. You'll also need to edit your FTP client to point to the new

port number. For access to the web server, you'll have to use the port number

in the URL you type in, typing a colon followed by the port number, such as


Unless your servers are protecting incredibly important files or you're really

paranoid about security, though, the settings you have offer a decent amount of


Disabling an irritating IE pop-up 

Q: I am using Windows Vista Home Premium. As well as the security programs that

come with Vista, I also have the free version of AVG 9. Every time I turn on my

PC, an Internet Explorer Security Box appears in the middle of the screen that

says, "A website wants to open web content using this program on your computer".

The program is Adobe Flash Player (\System32\Macromed\Flash\FlashUtil10e.exe).

I do not have this program installed. Whether I click on Allow or Don't Allow,

nothing happens. To clear the box I click on the X button, but the box

reappears a couple of times. I do have Adobe Reader 9. Security scans aren't

picking anything up, and I even used the trial version of Malwerebytes to see if

anything nasty had infected my PC. How do I terminate this nuisance once and

for all?

Jeff Peacock, jeff.peacock at talktalk.net 

a: This is a security feature of Protected Mode in Internet Explorer that asks

if you will allow the program to run in IE. It's similar to Windows Vista's

User Account Control (UAC). To disable it, go to the Tools menu in IE and click

on Internet Options, then the Security tab. Untick the box that says Enable

Protected Mode. Restart Internet Explorer and the messages should disappear.

It's worth pointing out that you probably do have Flash Player installed, as

many websites require it to display content, including videos. This may have

been installed when you bought your PC. It's also worth updating to the latest

version of Flash Player (see the question on page 142) and installing the latest

version of Internet Explorer, as you shouldn't normally see these pop-ups.

Why won't Live Sync work? 

Q: I was hoping you could help me with a problem I am having that involves file

synchronisation. I'm running Microsoft Windows Live Sync on several computers,

so I can synchronise files across all of them. Everything was working just fine

until the other day, when my laptop started to display this error message: "WLS

failed to sign in because the service is temporarily unavailable or you are not

connected to the Internet."

However, I am connected to the internet and my other computers are working fine.

So what's the problem?

a: The problem you're experiencing is caused because Live Sync, for some bizarre

reason, gets its connection settings from Internet Explorer. If Internet

Explorer has been put into offline mode, which it automatically does sometimes -

particularly after an internet connection has failed - then Live Sync goes into

the same mode and declares that it can't connect.

Start Internet Explorer click on the Tools menu and then click Work Online.

Shut down Internet Explorer. Right-click on the Windows Live Sync icon in the

Notification Area and select Exit. Restart Live Sync from the Start menu and

all should return to normal.

Windows 7 is blocking access to my C: drive 

Q: A couple of months ago, I upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7 Professional.

Unfortunately, I now have a serious difficulty: I am unable to display the full

root directory of the C: drive. How can I fix this?

Regi Owens, regi.owens at btinternet.com 

a: The most likely answer is that your upgrade hasn't assigned permissions

correctly for your C: drive and your user account doesn't have proper access to

it. To fix the problem, you must manually change file permissions. To do this,

open Computer, right-click the C: drive and select Properties. Click the

Security tab and then the Advanced button. Before you can change security

permissions, you may need to take ownership of the drive. Click the Owner tab,

select your username from the 'Change owner to' box and click OK. Click OK

again on the message that appears. You may have to close all the dialog boxes

you have open before right-clicking your C: drive and selecting Properties


Once that's done, click the Security tab and the Advanced button. Then click

Change Permissions and Add. In the 'Enter the object name to select' box, type

'Administrators' and click OK. Make sure 'Apply to' is selected as 'This

folder, subfolders and files'. Click the Allow box for 'Full control' and click

OK to continue. Click OK until all the dialog boxes have been closed. You

should have access to your C: drive again.

Battery drain woes 

Q: I have a Sony Vaio laptop, and there is a significant power drain when it is

switched off. It dropped from full (100 per cent) charge to 27 per cent charge

in three weeks when switched off completely. Sony has just assured me that this

is normal - do you agree?

Stephen Fearnley, struth at ukonline.co.uk 

a: Yes, this sounds normal to us.

Batteries don't indefinitely hold their charge and it's usual to lose around

three to four per cent of charge per day with the laptop turned off. This is

because when the laptop's turned off, a small amount of power is still drawn in

order to power the system clock, and there's some natural wastage.

If you think you're losing too much power, you should try recycling the power in

the battery: drain it completely and recharge it. If you find that you're

getting a lot less battery life than you used to when the laptop's turned on,

the battery's probably on its way out and could need replacing.

However, a quick calculation from your figures shows that your computer's losing

just over three per cent of its charge per day, so we wouldn't worry too much.

Resizing partitions in Windows 7 

Q: I've just received my first Windows 7-equipped PC and would appreciate some

help. The machine is an Acer all-in-one, Windows 7 Premium 64-bit, and is

fitted with one hard disk. Acer has set up the hard disk so that there are

effectively four partitions: the 100MB 'system reserved' partition, a recovery

partition, the C: drive and the D: drive. I realise I should leave the first

two partitions alone, but Acer has divided the remaining space on the drive

equally between the C: drive and the D: drive so they are both, in round

figures, 350GB.

I realise this is the popular trend at the moment, but I have no need for a D:

drive of that size and consider it wasted space. I would like to reduce it by

250GB, and add that 250GB to the C: drive. Can I do this with the tools built

into Windows 7? I haven't tried them yet because I haven't got the courage.

I'd appreciate your guidance before taking a step that may prove disastrous!

Jon North, jp.n at virgin.net 

a: Basic partitioning tools have been included in Windows since Vista, although

it isn't a well-known fact. If you open up the Control Panel and click on

System and Security, you'll see a link under Administrative tools for 'Create

and format hard disk partitions'. This opens up the Disk Management window,

which you can also access if you right-click on the Computer icon on the desktop

and choose Manage.

You'll see a list of the 'logical' drives at the top, and a graphical

representation of the disk partitions below. First, locate your D: drive, which

you want to shrink. Right-click on it and choose Shrink Volume... and Windows

will analyse the partition to work out how much you can shrink it by. This will

depend on how many files are stored in it. You'll then see a window asking by

how much you want to shrink the volume. By default this is set to the maximum

amount, in MB. To decrease the size by 250GB, enter 256000 (with no comma) into

the box and click Shrink. Finally, repeat the process on the C: drive, but

right-click and choose Extend Volume... to add the freed-up space to the C:


There's always a risk when you're resizing partitions, so back up any critical

files before you start. If the worst happens and your C: partition becomes

corrupted and Windows won't boot (highly unlikely), you can restore the original

factory disk image using Acer's restore method. Make sure you've burned a

restore DVD if the recovery utility can't be run directly from the boot

sequence. Usually, this involves pressing F12 or another key to start the


If you find that you're unable to shrink the partition as much as you'd like,

there are probably hidden system files getting in the way.

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Saints are not always saints; sinners are not always sinners.

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