MAY 06



I generally use Firefox thanks to your recommendations (but keep IE up to date for the odd (increasingly less and less) site that needs IE. Recently some (only some) sites are failing to fully load on Firefox, although they're OK on IE.  What can be going on?  I would have thought that all my firewall and anti-virus protection should consistently affect both browsers.  (I use Panda AV with MS Anti-spyware and run Spybot and Ad-Aware regularly and have been all clear for ages.).

Brian Edwards


A. As you say fewer websites these days won’t open, or do not display properly in Firefox so it’s likely to be something in the program, like an extension or a corrupt Profile that’s causing the problems. One way to find out is to start Firefox in ‘Safe Mode’, which bypasses all of the extensions and add-ons.


To do that close down Firefox and open it from the All Programs list on the Start menu, choosing the ‘Safe Mode’ option. If you’ve deleted the Safe Mode shortcut you can do it manually by typing: 

C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -safe-mode

in Run on the Start menu. If the websites concerned now open properly then try disabling or deleting any extensions or themes you have downloaded. You’ll find them listed on the Tools menu. If that doesn’t work then try changing your Profile, though make sure you backup your Bookmarks and any other customisations you’ve made, there’s a simple step by step guide in Mozilla Support.




Hi Rick, as a follower of your column since its inception and another ex-Thorn employee - I worked on colour TV at Enfield in the 1950s - I would like some advice if possible on Voice Recognition Systems?


I am a lousy typist and have seen two in my local PC World store. One called Dragon and one I think from IBM. They are expensive and before plunging I would like to know how effective they are now, how easy to use, and how long it takes to teach them.

John Oxenham


A. good to hear from a fellow survivor of the Thorn empire and I bet you can still taste the smell (you would know what I mean if you’d worked there…).  I‘m also a poor typist and probably break every rule in the book but at no time have I ever felt the urge to move to voice recognition for text entry. I’ve tried them all at time or another and some of them are actually quite good, however, in my view the cons far outweigh the pros and I’ll stick to tapping the keys for as long as my fingers allow.


To begin with there is a very steep learning curve to contend with, but even when you’ve mastered it you will find that they make a lot of mistakes and you can spend as much time correcting errors as entering text. I also like to have Radio 4 and music on in the background while I am working, and whilst you can cut out a lot of background noise ‘clutter’ with a decent headphone mounted mike, it does mean you will have to work in comparative quiet


I’m certainly not against voice recognition per-se, and it has a valuable role to play for those unable to use a keyboard, but if you can do so then I would persevere. You will get faster and eventually it becomes second nature. Typing has other benefits, because it is a physical process it slows you down and forces you to organise your thoughts; voice recognition works a the speed that you can speak. I don’t know about you half the time I’m speaking my brain is not in gear, so that’s more time spent cleaning up voice entry documents.




Hi Rick, please advise me how to switch off the dreadful chimes at the opening and closing of XP?

Geoff Smith


A. All Systems Sounds -- the noises your PC makes when you click on things and so on -- are controlled from the Sounds icon in Control Panel (Start > Control Panel). If all you want to do is switch off the Windows opening and closing ditties then click the Sounds tab and scroll down the list to Exit Windows, highlight then click the Sounds drop-down menu and select None. Repeat for Start Windows. However, I urge you not to leave the Sounds Control but to have a play around with your PC’s sounds, it’s great fun. There are many different sound ‘Themes’ some of them are quite good. Better still, why not make up your own opening and closing sounds, you could even use a clip from your favourite CD. It’s really easy to do and an excellent way to get to know your PC. There’s more details in this PCTopTip.




Hi Rick, I followed your Top Tip in Boot Camp 401, about logging on to XP without a password so can set Windows to bypass the logon screen. I really don't know what happened, but I seem to have lost not only the user "Administrator", but also Administrative rights for myself.


Consequently, I am in the invidious position of apparently not only not being able to add a user called Administrator, but cannot add such administrative rights to myself.  I have tried starting in "Safe Mode", but the same problem applies.


Under normal circumstances, this may not matter all that much, but in order to run one of my programs I need Administrative rights. As per the usual yell from everyone in such circumstances, HELP!

Charles Macmillan


A. I sympathise, XP’s security system can be a nightmare for the unwary. The good news is that the Administrator Account is almost certainly still there; it’s just hidden from view. You should be able to get it back by starting the PC in Safe Mode (as you know, press F8 after switch on), right-click on My Computer then Manage and expand Local Users & Groups, click Groups, double-click Administrators > Add then enter the Account name you want to have Administrative rights, click OK and restart.


Hopefully that will do the trick but if you are still stuck have a look at the very useful guide to XP Administration on the Kellys Korner website. 




Hi Rick, I love the site - it is my Home Page to make sure I don't miss anything. I have been using one of you recommendations, MailWasher, very successfully to manage and reduce my spam. Recently however there has been a new explosion of messages - up to 100 per day - 95% of which are various returned mail/failure to deliver messages. I thought perhaps my PC had been hijacked by some malware, which was using it to send out Spam e-mails. Norton, AdAware and Spybot have not picked up anything. Is this a new trick by the Spammers, and is there anything I can do about it?
Gerry Brown


A. Thanks for making BootLog your home page, and you can be sure you’ll never receive any Spam from us. My mailboxes have been groaning for weeks under the weight of Spam emails with links to Russian porn sites, though they seem to have slowed down a little in the past few days, only to be replaced by offers of university diplomas, share tips and medications to improve my ‘package’.


They are in addition to the usual fake Rolexes, 419 scams and phishing attempts, which show no sign of drying up, but like you’ve I have noticed a marked increase in message returned emails. They are mostly down to MailWasher, trying unsuccessfully to ‘bounce’ emails that have been flagged as Spam. The Bounce facility in MailWasher was a good idea at the time. Sending the message back to wherever it came from, clogging up the Spammer’s mailbox with returned messages from non-existent addresses had a lot of appeal but it has long since ceased to be effective, so you might as well not bother.


MaiWasher, or at least part of it has also stopped working. The ‘Blue Frog’ tool, supplied by Blue Security has had to be disabled after the company suffered a massive Spam attack. Mailwasher now recommend that the feature be switched off in the Spam Tools menu.


As for stemming the flood, I wish there was more than could be done but short of switching email addresses I’m afraid we’re going to have to put up with it. Spammers obviously prefer to send messages to ‘live’ email addresses but there are plenty using software that simply generates millions of random addresses, yours and mine included, so there’s no escape. ISPs must bear some of the blame for allowing this stuff to get through and some do a better job of filtering than others, but in the end Spammers are a sneaky lot and continually find new ways to ply their trade. And they will continue bombarding us with this rubbish for as long as there are enough idiots out there making it worth their while by responding to it.



STOP IMAGES DISPLAYING IN OUTLOOK EXPRESSHello Rick, I would like to take this opportunity of thanking you for all the help and advice you have provided we mere mortals over the years. The issue I'm addressing at the moment, on behalf of a cousin of mine, is: how do you stop Outlook Express showing photos which have been attached to an e-mail in the main body of the e-mail following the text message. The size of the photo shown in this format is very large and cannot be seen in its entirety.


However, if you double-click on the attached icon for the photo it opens up and displays, as you would wish. I use Thunderbird and can stop this aberrant display by removing the tick against 'Display Attachments...' in the view menu. I've tried to find a similar setting for Outlook Express but failed. Can you please advise?
David Hamilton


A. Thanks for all the support and I am sure we can help your cousin. On PCs with Windows XP Service Pack 2 images and other potentially harmful attachments are automatically blocked from displaying. To control this manually you need to go to OE’s Tools menu, select Options then the Security tab. You’ll find the Switch to turn off images in the body of an email about halfway down, simply check the item ‘Block images and other external content in HTML e-mail’.




Hi Rick, I have four columns in my All Programs menu, of the forth column only half is displayed on the right hand half is off screen. On the left of the screen there is the exact amount of desktop showing. I cannot move the whole screen to the left, dragging does not work. Can you advise please?

David Saxton


A. The quick and simple solution is to change from a static to a scrolling display and this will allow you easy access to all of the programs on the list. However. The more fundamental problem is that you have too many programs on it. There are two solutions, you can thin out the ones that you no longer need or use, either by uninstalling the program, or deleting the icon on the All Programs list. Alternatively, if you can’t bear to lose anything then group similar programs together in folders. For example all of your image editing programs could go into on, you audio application in another and so on.


To enable a scrolling display right-click on an empty area of the taskbar, select Properties, select the Start Menu tab, click the Customize button then select the Advanced tab. Scroll down the Start Menu Items list and check the item ‘Scroll Programs’.


To edit the All Programs list right-click the Start button and select Explore All Users and an Explorer type window opens, double-click the Programs folder and you will see the contents of the All Programs list. These are simply shortcuts so you can delete any that you no longer need. To group program icons into folders go to File > New > Folder, give it a name and drag the program icons into it.




Hi Rick, I was wondering if I could use my old PC for copying or backup? If so, what do I have to do to be able to transfer data and files from my new PC (Windows XP Professional) to my old PC (Windows ME)? Hopefully, this would not cost too much as I have just become self-employed as a driving instructor. There are quite a lot of files I would like to backup regularly and would require too many CDs.



A. I have two suggestions, the first involving taking the lids off both PCs, so if that doesn’t appeal skip to suggestion two. The quickest and ‘simplest’ way to transfer data from one PC to another is to whip out the hard drive in the old PC and ‘slave’ it to the drive in the second PC. The only thing to watch out for is that you have to change the ‘jumper’ on the old drive to the ‘slave’ position. There’s usually a spare data and power cable in most PCs, and Windows XP recognise the slave drive as soon as it boots up, so all you have to do is drag and drop or copy and paste files and folder from the old drive to the new one. Hard drives are normally only held in place by four screws and since this is a temporary hook up you don’t need to physically install the old drive in the new PC. Now I’m making this sound very simple, and it is, but if you are not sure which end of a screwdriver to hold or you’ve never poked around inside your PC don’t do it!


My second suggestion, assuming that you do not want to set up a permanent home network, is to use a built-in Windows XP facility that helps you set up a simple PC-to-PC network. All you need is a cable, there are several types but rather that go into all of the details here you can find out more by firing up the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, which you will find by going to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools.




Hi Rick, is there a way of changing the order of applications in Task bar? Like most business PC users, I always open programs in a certain order e.g. Outlook, then Excel, and Word etc. Sometimes Outlook, for example, will crash - so when I reopen the program, its position will now be at the right of the Task bar, of course. That does not seem a big deal, but habit dies hard - and I then tend to click automatically in the wrong part of the Task bar.

Hugh Sawyer


A. Indeed there is Hugh, and I have unearthed red a couple of little utilities that will do what you want. The one that came out on top was TaskArrange, it’s freeware and very easy to use. Simply run the program -- you could make it run automatically with Windows by including it in the Startup group -- then drag and drop your taskbar icons into the order in which you want them to appear. Very neat and simple to use, it's available in 8 language variantsand it’s free!




Hi Rick, I have been trying to set up a regular backup using Windows own as suggested in your excellent Boot Camps 376 and 367 but the scheduled task fails to run.  I then tried EZBackitup from one of your shareware tips but again it refuses to run as a scheduled task. When I try and change the schedule under Windows back up it comes up as: ‘0x8007005:access denied. You do not have permission to perform the requested operation’.


I am the only user of the computer and show as “Administrator” in Accounts. How can Backup be made to run as a scheduled task rather than having to be started manually each and every time - when I remember?

David Thomson


A. I suspect that although you are the Administrator you are not logging on as such because you haven’t yet set a password. You need to create one and to do that go to User Accounts in Control Panel, click your Administrator account icon then click Create Password and follow the prompts.




Hi Rick, I hope you can help me. I am going abroad to live and cannot take my desktop PC with me. I want to copy and take all my music with me, which is about 5GB in Windows Media Player. Would you recommend using a USB drive as a storage method or do you think it would be better to copy all the MP3 to CD's even though probably safer they are more cumbersome to lug around. I don’t know if you have covered this topic already. Thanks also for a great site, I always enjoy reading it.

Mike T.


A.  On balance I think I would go for the disc option, and if you have a DVD writer you could pack almost all of your music files onto one disc. Even so CDs don’t take up a lot of room and you are only talking about 7 or 8 discs. The key advantage is flexibility; you’ll be able to upload the files onto just about any PC using any operating system. With USB flash and hard drives there may be a problem with drivers on non XP PCs, and it’s not unknown for XP to get into a huff and refuse to recognise some types of media.


Blank discs are cheap; 5Gb worth of flash memory, spread across several drives will set you back a pretty penny and external drives can be quite pricey. Of course there are other alternatives, such as an MP3 player and there are plenty of models with that sort of capacity, or you could just take the hard drive from your desktop PC with you and slave it to the PC you’ll be using at your desitination. If you can’t manage that you could always buy a second drive; you can pick up 160Gb drives online now for around £42, and with that sort of capacity on tap you would have the space to take all of your other files and software with you as well. 




Dear Rick, I was delighted some months ago to discover Bootlog. I bought my first computer in late 1996 and learnt to use it largely by trial and error. In 2002 I replaced it with a new one - which has been pretty much a disaster. I am now planning its replacement and want to make sure I do not make any mistakes. I have mad ea brief search of your website and - surprisingly - it does not seem to give any guidance on choosing a new computer. Is there help on the site somewhere? If so, where? If not, is there a reason for its absence?
Susan King


A. Glad to have you on board and you are right, there’s not much about buying new PCs on BootLog. It’s such a tricky subject to deal with. Ask ten people what they want a PC for and you’ll get ten different answers. It’s made worse by the fact that the technology and the market change at a frightening pace so almost anything that’s written about buying a PC is effectively out of date by the time it appears in print, or on the web. Manufacturers and deals come and go with alarming regularity and prices are incredibly volatile.


Nevertheless here are a few basic tips. Do not skimp on CPU speed, memory and hard disc capacity, it’s usually easier (and sometimes cheaper) to upgrade at the buying stage, rather than fiddle about with it afterwards. Basic or ‘entry-level’ home or office PCs do just about everything most users want (office applications, web surfing, multimedia etc.) but If you are going to be tackling demanding jobs like high-end gaming and graphics or video editing then be prepared to dig deeper for a faster processor, more memory, bigger hard disc drives and a top-end graphics adaptor. Get the biggest and best LCD monitor you can afford and accommodate on your desk -- nothing less than 17 inches will do, and budget for a decent keyboard and optical mouse. 


These days you would be hard pressed to find a new PC without enough expansion sockets and ports, so no worries there, which just leaves things like reliability pricing and after sales service, but on those matters I’m afraid I can’t be much help. All I can say is that most PCs are built from standard off the shelf components and you are as likely to get a great product and professional aftercare, or an old clanker and the run-around, from a major multinational, as a local computer builder. That said, nowadays most PC hardware is incredibly reliable. Windows XP is pretty stable; most problems can be put down to RTFM, flaky software and lax security Listen to friends and colleague’s recommendations and above all, shop around. One more thing, it’s all change in six months when Windows Vista hits the streets, but if you need a new PC buy one now, it will take a year at least for the bugs to be ironed out and the dust to settle.




Dear Rick, I’m being driven to distraction with my hard disc constantly chattering away (and I mean constantly). My PC is a recent home-built job (worked first time!) and has an Athlon 64 3200 processor with 1 GB of memory. I’ve been into Task Manager and worked my way through terminating 20 running tasks, but still to no avail. The ones that are left are either critical Windows modules or belong to my firewall/anti-virus programs. I’m sure you’ve covered this before, but I’m at my wits’ end.


I didn’t have this problem with my old PC, and most of the software loaded is the same, although the graphics card is different (as is the motherboard), and I have on-board sound. Any advice or help would be much appreciated.

Paul Davies


A. There are a good many possibilities, including not enough RAM, though that’s obviously not a problem in your case with a healthy 1Gb installed. Nevertheless you should check System Properties (Winkey + Break) to make sure it has been recognised and is working. Other things to check are malware and viruses, if you haven’t already done so carry out a thorough virus scan and a clean-up with AdAware and Windows Defender, check also for browser nasties with Hijack This. They are all freeware and you’ll find them all in the Software section of the website.


If you get the all clear the next step is to switch off hard drive indexing, it’s probably not the direct cause but it does increase drive activity for little or benefit. To do that right-click on your drive icon in Windows Explorer, select the Genera tab and deselect ‘Allow Indexing Service to Index this disk…’.


If the problem persists then it’s time to call in the big guns. The list of possible causes is almost endless, so rather than spend ages uninstalling and switching things off download and run an excellent little utility called Filemon. This shows you, in real time, precisely what programs and processes are accessing your hard drive and from that you should be able to identify the troublemaker.




Dear Rick, I live in Spain using Telefonica dial-up service and am unable to have ADSL so following research including the information on your site I decided to download Mozilla Firefox and it is working fine except when I try to use Mozilla Extensions. I am unable to enter the Mozilla Extensions site as I get a message saying: ‘Alert – You cannot connect to addons.mozilla.org because SSL is disabled’.


I have doubled checked on Firefox (Tools > Options > Advanced > Security) and SSL is enabled. I also obtain the same message when I try to check Hotmail. I am at a loss at what to do next, can you help?

Richard Milner


A. SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is a set of protocols for sending documents securely over the Internet and normally it operates silently in the background. It’s enabled by default and since there’s nothing out of the ordinary on the websites you’ve been having problems with the problem is at your end of the connection. I have a couple of suggestions. First go back to Tools >> Security and make sure all three options are ticked, including the mysterious TLS 1.0 (Transport Layer Security) protocol, which provides an extra layer and may be responsible for the SSL message. I don’t know why this should make a difference, all I can tell you is that it often works. Failing that I would uninstall then download and install the latest version of Firefox from the Mozilla website.




Hi Rick, I remember using a neat trick with either the key board and/or the mouse to increase the size of the print on web pages as you're viewing them but age being a cruel thing I can't remember where I found this information or how to do it. Can you help please as the print on BT web pages is miniscule for some reason?

Liz Carrington 


A. No problem, and it’s a tip worth repeating, because it is so simple and useful. It works best if you have a ‘wheel’ type mouse, in which case you just hold down the Ctrl key and spin the wheel back and forth, to increase or reduce the text size. This works in both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Additionally in Firefox you can use the keyboard shortcut to do the same thing, Ctrl  + makes text bigger and Ctrl - makes it smaller. Unfortunately there’s no equivalent in IE and you have to use the menu command View > Text Size.




Hi Rick, my son recently bought a laptop with Windows XP SP2 installed. However he now has a problem with it and cannot open Windows Explorer or Control Panel, but things like System Restore and Help are OK. Trouble is that Help says open Control Panel to try and cure things. The Windows Firewall is on along with Updates etc. Any suggestions would be welcome.

David Coulson


A. Two possibilities spring to mind, either the shortcuts pointing to Windows Explorer and Control Panel are faulty, or there is something very seriously wrong with Windows as these two programs are core components.


Either way the first thing I would try is System Restore, choosing Restore Point before the problem occurred. If that doesn’t work you can see if it’s just a shortcut problem by typing ‘explorer’ and ‘control’ (minus the quotes) in Run on the Start menu. If that works then all you have to do is rebuild the shortcuts. If not then the simplest option is to backup your data as best you can and return the PC to the vendor since it presumably still under warranty. If you want to attempt a DIY fix, and you have the Windows CD, try a Repair Install.




HI Rick, I have been successfully using Paint Shop Pro for quite a while now quite but all of a sudden when I open an image or images then close the program down I get a dialogue box asking me if I want to retain the images on my clipboard for further use. Not having copied or cut images I don't understand why this has started to happen. With your infinite knowledge could you suggest a reason why this is happening?

Doug Monks


A. Infinite knowledge eh? I like that though sadly my powers do no seem to extend to predicting the week’s lottery numbers nor how this message came about but maybe I can help you to get rid of it. On my version of PSP it can be disabled by going to File > Preferences > General Program Preferences. Select the Warnings tab, scroll down the list and uncheck the item ‘Unsaved files during Windows Close All’ then click OK.




I have recently installed Firefox and Thunderbird on a new XP computer, and have also had to change my ISP in order to get broadband.  Firefox works OK and so does Thunderbird to send emails, but it won't receive them.  The Server names etc. appear to be correct, and Outlook Express works OK in both directions.  Is there some sort of incompatibility with my ISP? My phone line belongs to them and we can't get broadband from any other provider. Any ideas would be much appreciated.

Graham Brown


A. It’s usually the other way around, you can receive but not send emails. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to contact you ISP to see if there are any compatibility issues. It’s highly unlikely but check just the same, and if you haven’t already done so try uninstalling then reinstalling a fresh copy of the program. Assuming that your POP3 account settings are correct (and it never hurts to triple-check) then my next port of call would be your anti-virus and firewall software. Disable each program in turn -- if you have both installed -- then try again. There is also a known bug in Thunderbird that can affect incoming mail, and a patch to fix it, but the circumstances are fairly specific, so read this Mozillazine Knowledgebase article first.




Help me please Rick, because no one else seems to be able to. When I open 'Add/Remove Programs' in Control Panel there are not as many programs listed as there were, and almost all of them have the two grey buttons marked Change and Remove missing.  I don't know what I have done to arrive at this situation. Can you tell me what I can do to restore them, as on some of the programs there is no uninstall option should I wish to? I am running Windows XP.

Frank Ayshford


A. The most likely cause is a rogue program uninstaller that has messed up a number of Registry entries. You could try a System Restore to a point before the problem started, try a date before the last time you uninstalled something? Failing that I’m afraid the only solution I to get your hand dirty and do a spot of Registry editing. It’s not difficult, just time-consuming; the whole process is outlined in Microsoft Knowledgebase article 266668




Hi Rick, I seem to have lost the Spike facility is Autotext; it isn't there when I go to Autotext. I used the Repair option for Word but no luck. Any suggestions?

Anne Collins


A. The Spike is a little-known feature in Word that works like a cross between the Clipboard, and one of those old fashioned metal ‘spikes’ used in offices, to keep hold of documents or notes. ‘Spiking’ a story is newspaper jargon for holding an item, possibly for use at a later date. Anyway, unlike the clipboard, and just like a real spike, items put on it accumulate, wih the most recent at the top. The ‘Spike - Insert’ command on the AutoText list pastes the lot at the document insertion point. Clearly this is has only a limited number of applications and few Word users even know about it.


If the AutoText command has vanished -- it was probably deleted by accident -- it can still be used with the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl + F3 (Copy selected text or object to spike) and Ctrl + Shift + F3 (Paste and empty contents of spike). If you want to restore the AutoText command then you will have to reset Word to its default condition by renaming the normal.dot document template file (call it normal.old -- see this Top Tip for more information) and the next time it opens the Spike entry should be restored.




Hi Rick, I can't find a solution to this problem within Word's help index, but I'm sure it must be possible:  I need to create an overscore or bar over a normal uppercase character, which I will use to describe an inverted digital output (i.e. "Q bar" as the inverse of "Q").  Can you help?
Richard Brown


A. There are several methods, including the use of special fonts but this one, using a ‘Field Command’ is the simplest and quickest. Place the cursor or insertion point where you want the character to appear and press Ctrl + F9. This opens a Field Code showing a pair of brackets or ‘braces’ on a grey background with a cursor in between. Press Delete then Backspace to remove the spaces either side of the insertion point. Now enter the following command ‘EQ \x \to(Q)’ (without the quotes, and watch for the spaces in front of the backslashes). Now press Shift + F9 and your overscored character will appear.


[Home][Software][Archive][Top Tips][Glossary][Other Stuff]