Right Click Freezes PC
Hi Rick, I have been running XP, fully updated, defragged,
and in every sense - bar one - perfectly stable, for at least 3 years. At an
undefined point some months ago, I became unable to right click on any desktop
icon, except 'My computer' and 'Norton Bin'. A right click on any other icon
caused an immediate freeze and an error message from Windows Explorer 'needed
to close and send an error report to Microsoft'. Selecting anything on these
two options results in a prolonged freeze -10-15 mins. The only function
remaining is 'Ctrl-Alt-Del' which will bring up task manager, which is viewable
but non-functional. I have attempted to find something on Microsoft, but
nothing came up, any thoughts?
A. The timing of this unfortunate behaviour
caught my attention because it roughly coincides with two events, the release
of XP Service Pack 2 and Security Update 908531, both of which have been
implicated with this type of fault. I would tackle the 908531 solutions first,
because it is the easiest, and this is to install the latest version, which was
released last April and there is a link to it on Microsoft Knowledgebase Article
918165, which has more about the problem. If that doesn’t work then I would
SP2, see if that makes a difference and if so download and install the latest
Date on Desktop
Rick, I am sure that some time ago you explained how to get the date, as well
as the time, to be displayed in the corner of the screen. The date has recently
disappeared from my bar and I would really like to replace it. Please can you
A. I’m not sure which
method you used but there several ways to make the date appear in your System
Tray. In fact you don’t have to do anything, other than just ‘hover’ your mouse
pointer over the time display. The other really simple method is to make the
taskbar wider, by dragging the edge (you may need to right-click the taskbar
and uncheck ‘Lock the taskbar’ before it will let you do this).
There are several
third-party utilities that do this as well, and the one I’ve suggested in the
past, which you may have installed, is TClock. This excellent
little utility is freeware and in addition to showing the date it lets you
tinker around with other parts of the clock display.
Printing CD Labels
Rick, do you know of any freebie software for printing out labels
and case inserts for DVD and CD cases? Any help over this would be
If you are feeling brave you should be able to set up a custom label in Word;
all you need are some blank CD/DVD labels. The Word label facility cannot handle
circles but you if you set the dimensions as a square, corresponding to the
diameter of the circular label with a little trial and error you should be able
to get it to print correctly. Alternatively, there is a freeware program called
DVD Printerthat’s worth
investigating and in addition to disc labels it also does box covers and CD
Am I a Zombie?
Rick, I have read many reports about Spam being sent out
from domestic PCs that have been infected by software that takes control of
them and makes them slaves. Is there a way to tell whether or not my PC is
clean? Will my antivirus (AVG), firewall (ZoneAlarm) and antispyware (Adaware)
programs detect any infection and protect my PC?
Infected PCs that spew out Spam are known as ‘Zombies’ and recent figures
suggest that as much as 80 percent of Spam could be coming from zombified home
computers. The infections are most often caught from email
attachments and files downloaded from peer-to-peer networks; owners of
compromised PCs usually have no idea that their machines have been hijacked and the damage they are doing. It really shouldn't happen!.
chances of catching something nasty are virtually zero if you observe the usual
commonsense rules, like installing a proper personal firewall (not the XP
jobbie, which only blocks incoming traffic) and anti-virus software and making
sure it is regularly updated. Never open unexpected attachments and stay well away
from iffy file-sharing websites. You appear to be well protected so I don’t
think you need to worry but keep an eye on your firewall and when you get
requests from programs to access your connection don’t just click OK, find out
where it is coming from.
Will a Router Protect My PC?
Rick, A question and a comment on AVG Anti Virus. You and millions of others
use AVG successfully. I did so until a few years ago when a Trojan got past it
and infected the system, replicating itself on each boot of the PC.
Professionals could not deal with it and I had to reformat.
then, reluctantly, I have used Norton. But as I also now have a router, friends
tell me that the full protection of Norton Internet Security and Norton
Anti-virus is not needed. Certainly, since the router installation some two
years ago, there has been nothing for Norton to deal with on the weekly scan.
the general subject of routers and the need or not of extra protection would
make a useful Tip for the future - it would certainly interest me.
A. To be fair I wouldn’t necessarily blame AVG for the Trojan getting
through, especially as it was a few years ago, things have moved on since then.
Most of the time they hide inside emails or are buried in web pages and by the
time you’ve clicked on a link or downloaded an infected file it is too late.
New Trojans are appearing all the time and nowadays AVG are very good at updating
the program’s ‘signature’ files, normally within hours of the infection being
released into the ‘wild’; you may just have been unlucky, or missed an update.
Routers do not contain any meaningful anti-virus
protection, they can, however, be quite effective as ‘hardware’ firewalls and
block incoming hack attacks but that’s about as far as it goes. You still need
a decent software firewall to block unauthorised outgoing attempts by malware,
Trojans and keyloggers etc., to use your Internet connection. Do not let your
guard down, you still need anti-virus software, malware protection and a firewall,
and make sure they are all kept up to date.
Milkshake on the Desktop
My granddaughter now uses
my computer to go to Channel 5’s 'Milkshake'
website. To help her go there herself and have control over what she gets up
to, I want to put an icon on the desktop to load explore and got directly to
this site. I have done them to launch
programs, but this is a double action.
Is there a way to do it, and then I can carry the Milkshake Picture over
to the icon? I don't want to change my 'home site' incidentally, since I would
find navigating back from 'Milkshake' an annoyance.
A. No problem, simply
visit the Milkshake website and drag and drop the icon in the address box
directly onto the desktop. Clicking on this will automatically open your
browser and navigate directly to the site. It will have the browser’s default
icon, so to customise it right click on the Milkshake logo and select ‘Save
Picture As’, this should open the My Picture folder, if you like change the
name to something easy to find, like ‘Milk’. Now open Windows Paint (Start
Programs > Accessories), and open your newly saved Milk image. Now go to
File > Save As and give the file an .ico extension and in the Save As Type
box select 16 Color Bitmap and click OK. To finish off right-click on your
Milkshake desktop shortcut, select Properties then Change Icon and navigate to
and select the Milk.ico file in your My Pictures folder and click OK.
I have a desktop PC with internet access but I have acquired a Laptop
that I wish to use whilst travelling throughout the UK, Europe, Canada and USA
especially whilst in a campervan without land line access - possibly a mobile would
What is the most appropriate and cost effective way of obtaining an ISP
for web and email usage? I have been
given lost of conflicting advice as to the feasibility of my requirements.
A. There is no ‘right’ answer, everyone’s requirements are different
and there are many options these days but in your case I think there are two
solutions worth pursuing. The first is to sign up with an ISP that has
worldwide local access numbers and the two that spring to mind are AOL and
CompuServe (the latter is now owned by AOL).
Armed with phone cable and a data connection cable (or IR or BlueTooth
connection) for your mobile phone you should be able to set up a dial-up connection
just about anywhere. This is for occasional use and emergencies only as data
speeds tend to be slow and online call charges can be steep if you are using
your mobile on a UK account, so always check locally for cheap pay-as-you go
SIM card deals.
The other alternative is to fit your laptop with
a Wi-Fi adaptor, unless it already has one, and log on to the Internet and
download your emails at wireless ‘hotspots’. Many of them are free to use so
before you go Google ‘free hotspots’ plus the name of the country or city where
you will be staying, before you leave. Other suggestions are very welcome.
Can’t Find Server Bounced Messages
Dear Rick, I run XP and have AVG anti-virus (free version) plus Windows
Firewall. My Sister-in-law has XP and she receives emails I send to her, but I
do not receive anything she sends to me, including replies to my messages. Her emails show up in her 'Sent' box but
just bounce back with a 'can't find my server' message. Her emails to all other people are
successfully transmitted. I have
confirmed that she is using my correct address and I should be very grateful
for your help.
A. There are several possibilities and you
should be able to pin down what is happening by a process of elimination. The
first thing to try is to send an email to yourself and see if it gets through.
You should try it first with your PC in its normal condition, then with your
Firewall switched off, followed by ones with your anti-virus scanner and Spam
filter – if you have one – disabled. If your original message doesn’t get
through, but it does with one of those utilities switched off, then you have
found the culprit and you need to check the relevant program’s configuration
If none of the above makes a difference then you can check to see if
the incoming message is getting through to your mailbox by checking it at www.mail2web.com, if so this
might indicate that there is still something at your end -- try an alternative email client like Thunderbird -- if not you should ask your
sister-in-law to run a similar set of tests at her end, so make sure her
outgoing messages to you are not being blocked.
Outlook Express Spell
Checker Stuck on French
have checked that my Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007 all use English dictionary
for spell checking, yet I find Outlook Express is set to use French
(France) dictionary, thus declaring all English words as misspelled! The Tools/Options/Spelling tab confirms this and offers no
means to change this setting, French being the only choice in the Language drop
down list. Can you suggest how to
resolve this problem?
A. It seems you are
not alone and I think I may have found a couple of solutions to your
problem. The first thing to do is try changing the Language setting
in MS Outlook, which apparently can change the language setting in
OE. You will find this option in Tools > Options > Spelling. The
other possible cure is to install a third-party OE spellchecker, then uninstall
it and this should reset the language in OE to its English default.
The one suggested is Spellchecker
for OE (which also happens to be one that I've recommended in the past for
those who do not have Word installed on their PCs.
AVG, is it any good?
Rick, for the last few weeks AVG has been telling me they are to discontinue
support for AVG7 and there is a new version to download. So far I've not seen
any comments on this new version and wonder is it as good as previous AVG
programs and if there are any known problems with it.
A. I’ve had quite a few emails recently from worried
AVG Free users, concerned that AVG7 is going to being phased out, and not
replaced. Just to put everyone’s mind at rest AVG7 will be discontinued from
February 18th, but it has been replaced by AVG 7.5. It is still free and it is
available for download now. It’s early days yet but I have been using it for
some several weeks without a hitch and it seems fine. I am not aware of any significant
glitches and checking around the various forums the rollout has gone reasonably
smoothly and the few error reports I have seen appear to be mostly isolated
incidents. That is not to say there won’t be a few hiccups along the way, the
possible software permutations and potential for interaction is almost infinite
but so far so good!
Broadband, Should it be left on?
Dear Rick, I have recently gone onto broadband. I am
not sure whether I should log onto broadband each time I boot up or just when I
want to use the Internet? I am not a heavy user and wonder if my
broadband provider is likely to object to leaving my broadband connected when
not in use.
R H Keightley
A. The whole point about
broadband is that it is ‘always on’ and ready for use, without having to go
through the kafuffle of dialling up and logging on. You are paying for this
service so you should make use of it. If you are using a USB type broadband
modem -- i.e. it only comes on when the PC is running -- then you should have
it set to connect when your PC boots up. If you are using a network modem, or
one of those wireless ‘home hub’ jobbies with a modem built-in then by default
it will maintain the connection for as long as it is switched on. This is
particularly important if you are using your broadband connection for phone
calls or VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), otherwise you would only be able
to receive incoming calls when it is plugged in.
Rick, I am receiving a large number of unsolicited
emails. I am not too bothered by the unpleasant content of some as I do
not read them but delete immediately. However, this is not only tiresome
but sometimes they take a long time to come through and I have to accept them
to receive the odd one or two I want.
As I am not on broadband but pay by
the minute and cannot afford to change over can you tell me how to avoid
receiving them please. Is there a way that will cost me nothing? I
am a 78 year old on a very small income. Last Saturday I had to keep on line
for about 35 mins in order to clear them.
A. I have a couple of
solutions for you. The first is to use a web-based email client like Mail2Web (www.mail2web.com). All you have to do is
visit the website, enter you email address and email password and all of the
messages waiting for you will be displayed. You can then delete the ones you do
not want without any of them getting anywhere near your PC. When you have done
just open Outlook Express to download your mail as normal. The alternative is a
Spam Filter and I recommend a freeware program called MailWasher,
which does a similar sort of job. It logs on to your mail server, displays the
contents of your mailbox, delete the rubbish then download the messages you
want through Outlook Express.
Recording Radio 4 Listen
Hi Rick, I like to listen
to BBC Radio programmes after they have been aired. I appreciate that the BBC
provide some podcasts of a few shows and that previously aired shows are only
available online. Is it possible to record these ‘Listen Again’ type programmes
in an MP3 format so that I can listen to them on my MP3 player remotely? I have
tried a couple of free shareware type programs but they do not record the
actual show that is being re played. Any ideas?
A. Speaking as a saddo
Archer’s fan I can sympathise with your plight. It’s actually very easy to do,
and something I’ve mentioned on in the past. All you need is a freeware program
This is a sophisticated -- yet very easy to use -- audio recording and editing
It does a zillion other things
but the features we are interested in are its ability to record anything
passing through your PC’s audio system, and being able to export recordings as
MP3 files. The latter requires a ‘plug-in’ but there are instructions about how
to download this as the same time as the program on the Audacity web site.
One you have it on your PC
all you have to do is visit the BBC website, start the ‘Listen Again’ item
playing then open Audacity, set the input to ‘Wave Line In’ and press the
Record button. When it has finished click Stop then go to the File menu and
select Export as MP3 and download the file to your player in the normal way.
Windows Installation Limitations?
How many times can we uninstall and reinstall Windows before
they say no?
A. In theory you can
re-install a copy of Windows as many times as you like, however, there are a
few ifs and buts. Legally you are only licensing Windows from Microsoft, you
don’t actually own it as such and you are only entitled to install it on one PC
at a time. Before Windows XP came along you could install it as many times as
you like, piracy was rife. Naturally enough this caused Microsoft great
annoyance, so on Windows XP and most MS Office Applications there’s something
called Product Activation. This enforces the single machine installation rule
by compelling users to authenticate their copy of Windows or Office. If they
fail to do so it will stop working after 30 days, or if that particular copy
has already been activated (i.e. you try to install it on a second machine, or
it’s a pirate copy) it also stops working.
So how does Microsoft know how many times a copy of XP has
been installed? Easy, after you install XP it logs on to the MS website and
verifies that particular copy of Windows is genuine. If you haven’t got an
Internet connection, you can Activate XP by phone, by tapping numbers that
appear on the PC screen into the phone keypad, you are then given a code, which
you enter on your keyboard.
If you try installing XP on
a second PC soon afterwards the activation will probably fail and you won’t be
able to download updates on one or both PCs and eventually they will need to be
reactivated. Product Activation also kicks in if you make any substantial
changes to your PC’s hardware (CPU, hard drive, motherboard etc.). However,
this rarely causes problems and re-activation is routine, certainly if it
happens more than six months after XP was first installed. Otherwise you may
have to speak to a MS rep, who will normally okay the reactivation after asking
you a few questions.
Early reports that
Windows Vista could only be re-installed once caused something of a furore and
Microsoft has apparently backtracked but it’s clear it is determined to crack
down on piracy so this probably isn’t the end of the story, but for the moment
at least, as long as you play by the rules you can re-install Windows as often
as you like.