Rick, my normally placid and well-behaved Firefox suddenly turned on me this morning and began demanding that I choose a user profile before it would let me in. It then didn't apparently want to let me choose a profile so we had a bit of an impasse. I got out of it by restoring my computer to yesterday but is there anything I should do to prevent it happening again? I'd made no changes - one minute it was OK, the next it wasn't.

David Lowe


A. This is most likely a Windows or Internet issue, rather than anything to with Firefox. Possible explanations include an unexpected termination of the net connection, Firefox not closing properly as a result of a Windows crash and web pages containing a lot of poorly coded Flash or Active X components. There doesn’t seem to be much you can do about it, though in many cases simply rebooting seems to clear the glitch. It doesn’t seem to be very common so hopefully you won’t see it again but if you do the trick is to create a new profile and Firefox will open in its default condition. If you want to restore your previous defaults close Firefox (and Thunderbird, if you are using that as well) then go to:


C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles


Locate your old profile (the new one will have today’s date) open it and copy the contents (Ctrl + A then Ctrl + C) then open the new profile and paste the contents (Ctrl + V) into it. When you next open Firefox your old settings should be retained.




My HP DeskJet 3650 printer is in all other respects well behaved, but if doing a print run of more than one, it spits out a perfect print and a blank sheet alternately. I have exhausted "Helps" and have reshuffled and reloaded different papers. Are you able to suggest anything?

Gordon McNaught


A. It sounds as though you may be using irregularly sized paper or the printer’s Properties are set to the wrong size. Some photo papers, for example, are a little longer than A4 (300mm as opposed to 297mm for standard A4) and if set for one of those the printer could get confused and feed through a second sheet by mistake. You should also check the Print Setup menus of the applications you are using, to make sure they’re not conflicting or overriding the printer’s own settings. A driver or cable problem is unlikely but I wouldn’t leave anything to chance so if possible try reinstalling the software (check also for an updated version on the HP Support website) and if you have one try another cable.




I run Windows XP/SP2 Home edition with Tiscali as my ISP. If I receive an email with an attachment and try to open it XP seemingly by default opens it in Notepad. However Notepad allows me to print only the first page and seems to ignore the rest.  If I try to save it to another folder I lose all formatting that appears in Notepad.  Is there a method of avoiding this?

B. C,  Orpington


A. The problem centres on File Associations, which is how Windows knows to open Word, for example, when you double-click on a Word document file, If the attachments are Word documents then the file association needs to be repaired and to that open Windows Explorer and go to Tools > Folder Options and select the File Types tab. In the Registered File Types window scroll down the list to highlight the file extension .doc, click the Change button and select Word from the list of programs. If the file attachments are text (.txt) files then they will by default open in Notepad but you can change this behaviour by changing the file association, though generally speaking this is not a good idea as system files, which are usually in a plain text format are best edited in a Text editor, rather than a word processor as the latter can add extra unwanted characters and formatting.




Hi Rick, I use Ad-Aware SE Personnel and Firefox. However, I keep getting a malware called "Adware.SystemProcess". Do you know where it originates and whether it is a cause for concern?

Nigel Deller


A. No problem, Adware SystemProcess is a persistent piece of malware that hides inside the Registry and latches on to Internet Explorer (yet another good reason to switch to Firefox), it then makes use of your internet connection and fiddles with your Firewall settings to allow it to connect with an outside company (usually ValueClick or one of its affiliates) to display ads in pop-up windows. AdAware should have removed it, however, the specific malware definition was included in update SE1R72, released on the 26th of October, so I suggest you download the latest updates and run it again. Otherwise there are manual removal procedures, (which involve editing the Registry) on the Symantec web site.




Dear Rick, I have recently subscribed to an American website which is good at finding old newspaper articles.  No complaints there. However, when the page of the newspaper I want comes up on screen (through Acrobat Reader) I cannot find out how to pick out the column I want and enlarge it for printing.  There are all sorts of icons, but none of them seem to work. I tried "cutting" the column but ended up with a tiny sliver.  I have a new Canon scanner, which should help?  So I am left with a full page of tiny print! I am sure that this is not really a problem; can you help me?

Christine Deas, Carnoustie, Scotland


A. PDF or portable document files created by Adobe Acrobat can be ‘locked’ by the author or publisher to prevent the reader from editing or copying the document and it may be that’s what happening with the pages you are looking at. The simple way to tell is to click the ‘T’ icon and see if you can highlight a block of text, if you can then Copy (Ctrl + C) and Paste (Ctrl + V) the text into an open Word document and that should solve your problem. 


If you can’t copy and paste text the alternative is to use the Zoom tool (magnifying glass) to centre and size the text block or column you want to copy then press the PrtScn key on your keyboard. This will record the image of what you see on the screen to the Windows Clipboard and from there you can Paste (Ctrl + V again) the image in Windows Paint or a Word document and then resize and print it.




My PC has recently started failing to complete DVD burns and refers to "The device, \Device\CdRom1, has a bad block." (Event Viewer). It happens with different brands, and doesn't happen when I burn a CD. Where do I need to focus my efforts - on hard drive issues or on the DVD writer? Running Checkdisk and defrag or taking out the DVD writer and cleaning/replacing it?

John Beardsworth


A. The possibilities are many and various, anything from dodgy discs to Windows not being able to keep up a steady flow of data but I would start with the simple stuff, like thoroughly cleaning the drive with a good quality cleaner disc, and although you mention you’ve tried different brands, if it’s only one or two then I would try at least one more, just in case you’ve been unlucky with dud batches. When you are burning a disc make sure there are no other applications running in the background.


Next I would check the driver and utility software for your drive (if applicable) visit the manufacturer’s web site to see if there’s any mention of the problem in the FAQs or Help sections and download and install any updated drivers or patches. After that I would look at the software you are using with your drive. If it’s been in use for a while uninstall and reinstall the application and again check the website for any clues. If it has a write speed control try setting that down a notch or two and see if that makes any difference, finally, there’s a chance it could be the drive itself, if it is still in warranty get it checked otherwise I’m afraid the only thing to do is try another one.




Hi Rick, I was I was reading Boot Camp 252 ‘Making your own CDs and DVDs, part 2’’ and towards the end of the article you say that ‘Windows XP has CD writer support built in, using a customised version of Roxio’s Easy CD Creator’. Can you tell me where I can find it please?

Eric Flower.


A. The Windows XP CD Burner utility operates almost invisibly behind the scenes and it has to be said that it is very basic and not really a substitute for a fully-fledged CD/DVD burning application like Roxio or Nero. It’s also worth mentioning that not all CD/DVD writer drives are recognised by Windows XP, but if yours is the CD burner program will reveal itself if you open Windows Explorer, pop a blank disc into the drive then drag and drop a file or folder onto the CD drive icon, or right click the file, select Send To and click the CD drive.


Now this is where it gets a little confusing, Windows XP appears to copy the file onto the disc when in fact it does nothing of the sort. The file is simply put into a waiting area, in case you want to add some more files to the disc, and it will remain there until you right-click on the drive icon and select ‘Write Files to CD’. Only then will the files be recorded, and it’s a once only action, so no more files can be added. The recording progress is displayed on a bargraph and when it has finished the disc will be ejected. If you have a CD Writer and it’s not recognised by XP then have a look at this troubleshooting article in the Microsoft Knowledgebase.




I would like to get broadband, but my computer is in a room without a telephone connection and at present I use a long telephone extension lead when I want to go online, obviously this is not suitable for broadband.


I have read that there are devices, which enable you to use your mains wiring as a network connection. Could this be used as a broadband connection? I would presume using the broadband modem where there are adjacent telephone and mains sockets. Would I have to make any internal changes to my machine?

Bernard Victor


A. I think you are talking about devices like the MicroLink dLAN, which uses the household mains wiring for networking several PCs, instead of a normal cable or Wi-Fi connection. It probably would work but it’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It would be far simpler (and possibly cheaper) to install a telephone extension socket close to where the PC will be located. In addition to making it easier to connect the broadband modem or router you could also have a phone, so you can make and take calls, even when you are online. It’s also worth bearing in mind that devices like these do not have the same data throughput as a wired local area network (LAN), the Microlink dLAN for example works at speeds of up 14Mb/sec whilst even a basic wired LAN is capable of running at up to 100Mb/s. It’s not a problem for standard broadband but it may be a bit slow if you want to stream audio and video over your network.



Are PCs that are not connected to the Internet still vulnerable to viruses, asks Cecilia Norman?



I am teaching computer studies to a group of elderly people at my local U3A (University of the Third Age). There are 6 ancient computers in the room and none is connected to the Internet nor has a virus checker. I have been instructed to ban the use of work saved on floppies and subsequently used on students' own computers in their homes, which may or may not be connected to the Internet. There is one computer in the main office, which is connected but not by broadband. Is it possible to bring in a virus and infect the main system?



The short answer is yes but the risk of infection is relatively small since most infections these days hide inside email attachments, so it’s quite difficult for a non-internet PCs to be affected. Even if one did get through most viruses and worms do little actual damage and spend most of their time trying to replicate by sending out copies of themselves in email attachments, so again the threat is quite low. Nevertheless there are still plenty of other viruses out there ‘in the wild’, lurking inside older shareware and freeware programs, some of them carrying destructive payloads that can wipe a drive or corrupt files. Why not just install anti-virus software, and then everyone will be happy, Free programs like AVG and Avast! do an excellent job and since there’re basically only looking for older viruses there’s no need to update them quite so often as the new signature files are mostly concerned with recently released Internet-borne infections. 



Ken Allcroft’s scanner has stopped scanning, so what’s going on?



I have been using Epson Perfection 1650 scanner for some years through Paint Shop Pro 7, fairly frequently without any problems. My PC is a 633 Emachine with Windows Millennium.Today I cannot  import photos and after normal File > Import > Twain > Acquire, prompts the error message "An error occurred while trying to open the Data Source", with no options given. I have tried PSP Help but no there’s no mention of the problem and Iooked at your website but nothing seems to compare!


A. This should be fairly simple to sort out. TWAIN or ‘Technology Without An Interesting Name’  is a set of industry standard protocols that allow programs like PaintShop Pro to communicate with scanners and it is likely that this component has become corrupted. It’s difficult to say at this distance exactly where the problem lies but it will be in one of two places, within PSP or the software that came with your scanner. The simplest thing to do therefore, is uninstall then reinstall them one at a time.



If you think your PC is behaving strangely then spare a thought for Bill Oliver in Vancouver…



I wonder if you've run into my problem before? I leave my computer on for long periods of time and sometimes I can't access a website unless I re-boot the computer. The strange thing is that I can get my e-mail at all times. Any ideas as to what the problem could be?


A. That’s definitely an odd one Bill but not unheard of. I’m assuming that you are using Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, in which case you would expect them both to fail since they share a common connection to the Internet. Nevertheless all sorts of things can conspire to interfer with IE's connection so begin with the usual suspects, which are your Firewall and anti virus programs. Disable or switch them off and see if that makes any difference. You should also run a thorough Malware check using AdAware and SpyBot and MS AntiSpyware if you are running Windows XP. If that doesn’t turn up anything then you should download and install Mozilla Firefox and see if that’s affected. I wouldn't mind betting that it will be okay, which points to a problem with Internet Explorer. If so thing to do is uninstall it then re-install IE then visit the MS website to download the latest version and any missing updates.



Kate Osborne would like some clarification on the tricky question of software ownership…



I hope to dispose of a digital camera that had a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements included in the package. I duly installed this and registered it, but have never used it.  Upon enquiring of a knowledgeable friend as to what I should do, it is thought that I can include the Photoshop CD-ROM with the camera but that I must first uninstall the program from my computer. Could you please advise me, as I don't wish to fall foul of the law!

Kate Osborne


A. I’ve looked through the Photoshop Elements EULA and there’s no specific mention of transferring licences and registration. I think you can take it as read that your friend is correct and the proper thing to do is remove the software from your PC when you sell the camera. I suspect you should inform Adobe -- this is normal practice on its high-end products -- so that your registration can be cancelled and transferred to the new owner, however, I suspect that finding out how to do it, assuming that such a mechanism exists for PS Elements, will be more trouble than it is worth. It is highly unlikely that you will get a visit from the boys in blue. Hopefully they have much better things to do and if the authorities or software industry wants to crackdown on piracy and fraud all they need to do is visit a few car boot sales, or trawl through the listings on ebay.



Glad to hear Pauline Little is heeding my advice about backing up irreplaceable data, but as she points out, you’ve got to find it first…



Can you please suggest an easy way of backing up for my email messages in Outlook (not Outlook Express)? I have Windows XP SP2, (Home edition) and Roxio CD Creator. I really do need to have a copy of my emails. I also need to copy my Favourites as well.


A. Backing up your data in Outlook is actually a lot easier than Outlook Express and everything, including your messages and contacts are conveniently stored in one folder called Outlook.pst. You have a couple of options. You can use Outlook’s built in Export facility (on the File menu) to copy selected folders to a new location on your hard drive, and then copy them all to a CD. To restore the data back into Outlook use the Import command on the File menu. 


Alternatively you can just copy the whole Outlook.pst file to CD and in Windows XP you should find it in: C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. If you ever need to restore it simply rename the existing folder to outlook.old and copy the backup file into the same location. Your Favourites folder can also be copied and restored as-is into its original location and this lives nearby in C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Favorites.



Lee St Lawrence wants to boost the sound from his new laptop, so far with no luck…



I have a new Sony Vaio VGN-FS215S and want to add small external speakers. (I foolishly didn't order the FS215Z that includes external speakers). I have phoned and e-mailed Sony asking what kind of speakers I can use (preferably Sony) with zero response and I get conflicting information from everyone else. I tried adding a couple of cheap speakers using external power and volume controls plugging the cable into the earphones' socket and get no sound whatsoever! Any ideas?


A. You are on the right track, Lee, and a set of powered speakers plugged into the earphone socket should have worked. There are two possibilities, there’s nothing coming out of the socket, or the speakers are kaput.


The first is easy to check, just plug in a pair of earphones, make sure the sound isn’t muted or the volume set to zero and see if you can hear your PC’s system sounds, or play a CD.


I’m reasonably confident that the socket will be okay, especially if you can hear sounds as normal through the laptop’s internal speakers, which leaves the external speakers. Check the connecting cable from the amplified speaker to the PC. If you turn up the volume and dab the end of the jack plug you should hear a pop or a buzz, if not get take them back from whence they came.


As for recommending new speakers it would have been helpful to know a bit more about what you want them for. If you want to listen to music and portability is not an issue then why not connect your laptop to the auxiliary input on your hi-fi system? You’ll be amazed at how good CDs and downloads can sound through a half decent amp and speakers. If you only want to increase the sound from your laptop then the best advice I can give is that you get what you pay for. Cheap speakers are fine for system sounds but if you don’t want to offend your ears avoid anything costing less than £40, say, and especially anything with an unfeasibly high wattage output. Many PC speaker manufacturers persist in using highly misleading (but impressive looking) ‘music power’ or ‘peak power’ figures, rather than the more realistic RMS rating. For the record 3 to 5 watts rms though small speakers sitting a metre or less from your ears will be plenty loud!



Mention tape recorders, like Grant Mangham, and you get my undivided attention…



I have a 1950's "Elizabethan" tape recorder and I have a few recordings that -- if they are still OK -- I would like to transfer to CD on my computer. The trouble is, I don't know whether I can connect the two and, if I can, whether I need any special software. (I do have 'Nero')


On the recorder there are four sockets, labelled 'Mic', 'Radio', 'Mon' and 'Spkr'. Three are fairly obvious and presumably 'Mon' is for earphones? So the only likely one is 'Spkr' but what sort of cable should I plug in and how sure would I be that no damage would be caused to my PC (via 'Line In'?). I have a similar problem with some cassettes except that the options on the player seem to be restricted to headphones.


A. As visitors to the nether regions of BootLog may know I’m a real tape recorder nut and I’m always happy to help keep these big old beasts rolling, however in this case, and in view of the machine’s age. I wonder if that’s a good idea? If it really is a 1950’s model (and I have to say I’m a little dubious, it’s more likely to be a 60’s model) then it is almost certainly a valve machine and unless you know it to be working, and have used it recently, I wouldn’t power it up until it has been checked out by an expert. If by any chance there’s a fault there’s a very real possibility that mains voltages could be lurking on the output sockets and if these get anywhere near the line input of you PC it will fry it!


It would be better to use a more up to date machine -- there’s plenty of 70s and 80s transistorised reels to reel machines going for a song on ebay. If it is okay and you are happy to proceed then I would use the Mon socket to connect to the PC rather than the speaker output as this could also damage your PC. I can’t say for sure but I suspect the Mon socket is a standard jack whereas the line input socket on your PC will be a stereo minijack. You can get a cable made up but you can just as easily use a minijack-to-minijack patch lead and a minijack to standard jack converter on one end. As for recording, there are numerous tape and vinyl recording and editing programs and rather than list them here have a look at Boot Camps 276 & 277 ‘LP to PC to CD’ parts 1 and 2 which deals with the whole business of making CDs from analogue sources like tape and vinyl.



Alan Kenny has made the switch to Thunderbird but he’s missing one of Outlook Express’s handy facilities



Many thanks for the excellent site, long may it continue. When I used Outlook Express I had a short cut on my Desktop to my Address Book, since changing to Thunderbird I can't find a way to create a Desktop short cut to the Thunderbird Address Book. Is it in fact possible to do this?


A. Thanks for the support and those kind words Kenny, and you’ll be pleased to know that it is indeed possible. But first, for those of you still using Outlook Express, to save you writing in to ask how it’s done, all you have to do is go to Start > Programs > Accessories, right click on the Address Book icon and select Send To > Desktop as shortcut and it’s done.


Now back to Kenny’s request, and it’s almost as simple. Right-click into an empty area of your desktop, select New > Shortcut and in the ‘Type the location…’ box copy and paste the following command


"C:\Program Files\Mozilla Thunderbird\thunderbird.exe" -addressbook


Don’t miss the quote mark in front of c:\, and change the path as necessary if your copy of Thunderbird is on another drive. Click Next and keep or change the shortcut name and your new Address Book shortcut will appear on the desktop



Julian Guest is having email picture problems, or is he…?



I have once or twice tried to send files of pictures as attachments to email recipients but they are unable to open them. They are all in JPEG format and I don't understand why. I have Windows XP Home edition and Outlook Express.  Any Ideas?  All help gratefully received.


A. I wouldn’t mind betting that you have successfully sent those emails but something is stopping them from getting through. There are several possibilities, including anti-virus and firewall software on the recipients PCs, or security settings in their copies of Outlook Express. However, before we can be certain that’s the cause let’s make sure you are actually sending those attachments and the easiest way to do that is to send one in an email to yourself.  If it is received intact then you are in the clear, if not then here’s a few things to check.


When you send an attachment the file icon should be clearly displayed in ‘Attach’ box in the New Message window, and to check it is okay you can double-click on the icon and the file will open. Make sure that your outgoing attachments aren’t being blocked or encrypted, some web filtering programs strip out attachments in outgoing emails so if you have anything like that on your PC switch it off. OE can encrypt attachments and this may stop them from being opened. You might have switched this on accidentally, to see if that’s the case go to Tool’s > Options, select the Security tab and make sure ‘Encrypt contents….’ Isn’t checked.


If the problem is at the recipient’s end the most likely explanation is OE is set to block attachments. Send them an email and ask them to check their setting, which for the record is on Tools > Options > Security tab and make sure ‘Do not allow attachments to be opened or saved’ isn’t ticked.

the bank and it could easily pay for itself on the first outing.



Ken Scott’s friend is having a little trouble with Outlook Express apparently loosing mailboxes, can we help?



A friend’s PC has "lost" some of its OE6 message folders. They were there earlier in the day and now they are not!!! I have searched for .dbx files on his PC and I can see all the folders, including those that aren't visible within OE6 so they do still exist. I thought the non-visible folders may be corrupted and so I suggested he download the trial version of a recovery tool and run it in demo mode but the software hung, apparently not completing the demo scan, I wasn't there at that point. I still think the only answer can be corrupted folders, how would you advise we proceed as those folders contain some important emails relating to his work?


A. I agree with your initial diagnosis and the chances are the missing mailboxes are corrupt. I also go along with your suggestion of using a recovery tool but I would never run it on the original mailboxes, just in case the tool does even more damage. I would copy the ‘missing’ dbx file, and its ‘temporary’ copy (file extension *.dbt) into another folder and run the tool from there. Over the years I’ve suggest a number of recovery tools but the one that gives the most consistent results is DBXtract, it’s shareware, but registration only costs $5.00 so its not going to break



Tricky beggars fonts, as John Bygate has been finding out…



I have been trying to reprint a book I wrote in 2001 using Windows ME and Word 98  (if I remember rightly!) Having since then gone over to XP and Word 2000, I now find that some of the fonts I used then are no longer on board - but worse, when I try to convert them to one of the fonts now on board, the letters simply come up as boxes. Is there any way to overcome this 'translation' problem? (It has happened with every system update, but until now it has not been important.)


A. I suspect you mean Word 97, but no matter, the core elements of Word haven’t changed and documents created in every version since the year dot can still be opened in Word 2000 and later.


There are several things you can try and the first one would be to install the missing fonts, if you still have them or can find them on the Internet. Just remember that fonts have to be properly installed or they won’t show up in Word. To do that go to Fonts in Control Panel and use ‘Install new fonts’ on the File menu to load the fonts from the folder or disc where it is stored.


The other thing to try is to strip out all of the embedded formatting in the document by opening it in Word then using Save As on the file menu to save the document as a plain text (.txt) file. Close the document then re-open it and you should be able to re-format it as much as you want using the fonts stored on your PC.



Well, it was working last time he used it… Michael Spira is having a spot of bother with a venerable old Tosh laptop that clearly has been sitting in the back of the cupboard for some time..



I am trying to get some information off an old laptop of mine - a Toshiba 2326. From memory, it has Windows 95. Unfortunately I can't get into it. When I boot up I get the following message on screen:


Base memory                640k

Extended memory            7168k

486 DX4 processor detected operating at 100 MHz


Real time clock failure. Invalid configuration information – please run SETUP program

Press the F1 key to continue, F2 to run the setup utility


When I run setup I get: ‘SETUP has attempted to correct the following errors:

Signature byte was invalid. Chip-set defaults were loaded. System configuration was invalid. Review the first page settings. Memory size was invalid. Review base and extended memory settings.


That's as far as I can get. I don't have a recovery floppy disk. I should also add that the laptop no longer has a battery. I discarded this a long time ago when it died. Can you help please?


A. I haven’t been able to identify your specific model but I am willing to bet 50 pee than the problem is caused by a dead battery, the one used to provide power for the PC’s internal clock. On some models the battery is a rechargeable type and it will keep running as long as it gets an occasional top-up from the main battery, or whilst the latter is charging. Otherwise the battery is a disposable type. These last for between 3 to 5 years on average so yours is long overdue for replacement.


Now this is where it gets tricky. If it is a rechargeable type you may be able to revive it temporarily by leaving the PC connected to its mains adaptor overnight. If it is a replaceable type than you will have to find out where it is located (more often than not it’s under the keyboard) and this information is normally included in the manual. If you no longer have it then you may be able to download a copy from the Toshiba Support web site but you will have to be a little more precise with the model name number. If that doesn’t work then there are other ways and means of extracting details from a dead PC, so write back and let me know how you get on.



We’ve looked at how to transfer your Outlook Express address book and messages to another PC but Howard Galloway want to know can he also copy his OE Rules?



For some time, I have been using the excellent OE Backup by David Guess. It has been my salvation on more than one occasion. However, it does not save OE Rules. I do not even know where they are stored. Do you know of anyway to save Rules? I have well over a hundred and it is a bind to have to re-write them all.



Yes you can but it’s a real palaver. Things like OE Rules, Signatures, Blocked Senders, Custom Views and so on are stored in the Windows Registry so unless you are happy tinkering with it I would leave it alone and consider one of the many OE backup and transfer applications on the market that will do the job for you. The complete procedure, which actually isn’t too difficult or risky (providing you follow our advice and make a backup) can be found here, in Boot Camp 197.


05 - 06/11/05

Networks can be a pig to troubleshoot but Grant Manghams problem sounds like it should be quite straightforward



I'm afraid I must be the only person unable to set up a two-computer network with file sharing... so I would be enormously grateful for your advice, please. Physical set up: desktop connected by LAN cable to an ADSL Firewall Router, laptop with Wi-Fi. Both machines can access the Internet - this e-mail is coming from the laptop. I think the desktop can access the shared files on this machine. However, the laptop does not recognise the desktop. Clicking on "My Network Places" shows a network consisting of the shared docs on this computer. The computer-based instructions are confusing. For example, the wireless network has a name but do both computers need to have a Workgroup Name and can that be the same as the network name? There is mention of setting up the first computer and then creating a special disk (3.5" (!!!) to use on other machines. I have just 'pinged' from desktop to laptop and vice versa: both machines appeared to be talking?


A. By the sound of it Grant you are ninety percent of the way there so there should be no need to use the setup disc, it is almost certainly a configuration rather than a hardware problem so let’s recap. Both PCs can share the Internet, the desktop can see and share files on the laptop but the laptop cannot see the desktop.


My money is on incorrect naming. Each PC in a network must have its own separate ‘identity’ or name. All of the PCs in a network, and it doesn’t matter if it’s cabled, Wi-Fi or a mixture of both, must be in the same Workgroup and the wireless link also has its own name, which all Wi-Fi enabled PCs connected to it must use. It shouldn’t matter if Workgroup and Wireless link names are the same but it would be daft to do so because it would get very confusing.


Assuming that your names are now correctly assigned and that hasn’t fixed the problem let’s run through some other possible reasons why the laptop can’t see the desktop. Check is that Desktop has file sharing enabled and at least one folder is being shared. Check Network TCP/IP Properties on both PCs to make sure they are configured to the same Subnet Mask address (normally Finally, check that the desktop’s Firewall isn’t blocking access and the easiest way to do that it to switch it off.



Keith Hammond-Gearing’s laptop is taking forever to check its discs. So what’s holding things up?



My Scan Disc has suddenly started taking forever; literally you can leave it running all night and not complete the scan. It usually scans 3/4000 thingies and then goes back to the start, otherwise my laptop is working well. Can you help?


A. I wonder why you feel the need to run Scan Disk since you say that your PC is otherwise okay? Scan Disk is essentially a diagnostic and repair tool for the Windows filing system, not a performance aid and you really shouldn’t be using it unless your PC is experiencing problems. The reason it isn’t completing a scan is because there are one or more programs running in the background that are reading and writing data from the hard drive. It’s the same kind of thing that makes Defrag keep restarting and the solution is the same. Before you start Scan Disk (or Defrag) disable your screensaver, then shut everything down; exit the programs in the System Tray by right clicking on the icons. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and End Task everything except Systray and Explorer and try again. If all else fails try running Scan Disk and Defrag in Windows ‘Safe’ mode (press F8 at boot up).



David Willams’ laptop has suddenly developed a nasty case of laryngitis -- the question, is will it get better?



I am running Windows 2000 SP4 on a 5-year old Gateway laptop. Recently the sound stopped, no error messages, just no sound. I have tried removing the audio driver from device manager and rebooting. I have downloaded the latest soundcard driver from Gateway's website but that hasn't worked either.


I can't re-install windows as I no longer have a bootable CD ROM drive (that has packed up and I think it is a hardware failure), I only have an external CD drive. The 'sound' applications I use are Windows Media, ITunes and Sony's SonicStage. How can I get the sound back again?

David H. Williams



If the machine is totally silent, not even a bleep during boot up, then I think you have to face the possibility that there could be a hardware fault. You seem to have worked your way through most of the obvious software possibilities. The only thing you didn’t mention was the desktop volume control and Master volume control settings (double-click the speaker icon in the System Tray), which I presume you have checked to make sure the levels are not at zero and nothing has been muted.   

If, as seems possible it is a hardware fault it could be something as simple as a dicky speaker connection. On most laptops the speakers are automatically muted when you plug in headphones and it’s not unknown for a build-up of gunge on contacts inside the headphone jack socket to isolate the speakers. Try some headphones, if you can hear sounds through them then that’s a distinct possibility and a quick poke with a cotton bud may be all that’s needed. The other, less easily fixable possibility is a problem with the laptop’s sound card or audio circuitry and since this is integrated with the motherboard there’s really not a lot you can do about it apart from getting a new one, and that’s likely to cost rather more than the machine is worth.  



Windows has a rather boring way of letting you know you have emails in your Inbox, Shirley Draffan wants to know if she can change hers?



I recently recorded my two little grandchildren using the Windows Sound Recorder.  It is saved in My Documents with a shortcut on my desktop.  Is there a way to use that as my email notifier instead of the ones available?  If so, would you kindly try to find a moment explaining how to do it, please?  I have Windows XP


A. This is really easy to do, and you can use any sound -- a few bars from a favourite CD perhaps, maybe your own DIY sound effects -- all you have to do is copy the sound file into the Media folder in Windows. The only condition is that it must be in WAV format, so if you are starting out with an MP3 file then you need to convert it. This is also easy to do with audio recorder/editor like Audacity. Once you have copied your sound file all you have to do is go to Control Panel, click ‘Sounds and Audio Devices then select the Sounds tab. In the Program Events list scroll down to ‘New Mail Notification’, click the Browse button and select your sound file. To test it out click the Play button (the small triangular button to the left of the Browse button) and if you are happy with it click OK



Richard H’s Hewlett Packard printer is misbehaving, can we help?



I have just reinstalled Windows XP pro. Everything is working fine except that I cannot always print documents from web sites whereas I had no problem previously except for the usual sizing. What happens is when I opt to print, the printer (710c DeskJet) is triggered, the paper feeds and goes through the printer at a very slow speed with all the characteristics of it printing in "normal" (whereas my printer is set to print in draft as default) and no print appears on the paper. I thought it had corrected itself a few days ago but the problem has reoccurred. For instance I was able to print a selected part of Boot Camp this morning but unable to print from an online sized bank statement. I cannot think of any setting, which would affect this. Any ideas?


A. I’ll have a go but if the following doesn’t work there’s not a lot you can do with printers in terms of DIY measures and if it’s out of warranty you may find that it is cheaper to buy a new one, rather than pay to get it fixed, but that's another story...


The first thing to try on HP printers is a ‘Hard Reset’, which simply involves unplugging the printer from the mains and this will clear the memory and restart the printer’s firmware; after that try printing a Test Page. It may not sound like much of a cure but you would be surprised how often it works. A lot of users think that re-booting the PC somehow also resets the printer but it doesn’t work like that, the printer is still connected to the power and the firmware glitch -- if that it what it is -- will still be there when the PC powers up.


If that doesn’t work then the next step is to reinstall the driver software. However, instead of simply deleting the printer and reloading the driver from the CD I suggest paying a quick visit to the HP website, to download a fresh copy of the driver, and use that instead.



Spybot has proved to be a reliable effective weapon in the fight against Malware but as Keith Jenkins has just discovered it can throw the occasional wobbly…



I am now regularly getting a 'Bad checksum' error message when trying to update Spybot. Any suggestions?


A. It’s okay, this doesn’t indicate a fault and it’s not that uncommon. This rather unhelpful message is actually

telling you that the update utility can’t get through to the Spybot server, unusually because it’s busy or it can’t make a connection due to high volumes of traffic. The solution is simple, try again later. There’s some more information on the Spybot website but no news yet of when the company is going to increase its server capacity.  



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