Going Legal with XP
Dear Rick, three
years ago my hard disk became badly corrupted by viruses. What turned out to be
a cowboy operator installed an illegal version of Windows XP. I have since
purchased a legal copy of XP Home Edition. The instructions say that I must
first uninstall all programs. Does this mean that I must also save all the
basic hardware settings of my PC onto disk? By this I think I mean all the
stuff that shows up as green immoveable items during defragmenting?
A. You should be
carry out a ‘Repair Install’ or ‘In Place Upgrade’ of XP and in theory all of
your programs, folders, files, settings and configurations for Windows and the
software installed on your computer should be safe. However, as with any major
job on the operating system you would be wise to backup any irreplaceable
files, before you begin.
To carry out the
Repair Install fire up the PC and load your new XP install disc. Click ‘Install
Windows XP’ and on the Setup page select ‘Upgrade (Recommended)’, accept the
Licence Agreement then you will be asked for the legitimate 25-character
Product Key. Once that has been accepted just follow the prompts and the new
legal copy of Windows will be installed.
All in the Family
Hi Rick, we had an
email sent from our daughter’s computer who is with BT Broadband so we assume
it automatically has a virus protection. The email we received from her
computer had ‘Re-thanks’ on it and an attachment to download. When we clicked on download, thinking it was
okay because it was from family, our anti virus program picked it up as being a
virus. So we immediately deleted it.
Our daughter says
she has no knowledge of it being sent - so my question is, can an email be sent
with a virus from a persons computer without them knowing about it being sent?
A. Assume nothing when
it comes to virus protection, people let their subscriptions expire, switch
their antivirus programs off and forget to switch it back on again so the short
answer is yes, it could have come from her. However, it is more likely that
this particular email came from another infected PC, which has your email
details in its address book.
are usually behind it, basically they are PCs that have been infected with
software that sends out thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of emails.
They’re usually Spam messages but equally they can be copies of themselves,
helping to spread the infection. Providing you have regularly updated virus protection,
a decent firewall (and not just the one in Windows XP) and run a regular
malware scan then you should be okay. There is a chance your daughter’s PC is
infected but if her PC is protected then the chances are small.
Broadband by the
Hi Rick, I have BT
broadband installed at my home and have become accustomed to using it. I also
have small county cottage, and when I go there I like to keep in touch by using
my laptop. However, I do miss the broadband when I am there. Other than paying
something like £17 per month for few days usage each month, I cannot find a way
of getting broadband access at the second home. Is there any system where one
can pay by usage? Do you have any other ideas as to how to resolve this?
A. There are a
number of monthly contract and Pay As You Go broadband services but the savings
you are likely to make will be fairly small -- compared with the cost of
no-frills contract deal -- when you take into account the extras, like activation
and installation fees and the cost of a modem. Have a look at what Metronet and Skint have
If any of your near neighbours
have broadband, and you get on well with them, it might be worth having a word
about sharing their connection using Wi-Fi. As long as no
money changes hands you will probably be okay as far as breaching the rules and
conditions are concerned but it’s probably not something you would want to tell
too many people about. As a last resort there’s always Onspeed, which makes a dial-up connection
go a bit quicker. Personally I’m not a fan but there are those who say the
improvements are worthwhile.
Won’t Go Away
Hi Rick, every time
I turn on my PC, Windows Installer comes on and tries to install via a CD (which
I have not got) Microsoft Office. I cancel but it keeps coming back; it’s infuriating!
Windows Installer has a bit of a reputation for being buggy and not knowing
when to stop and this problem is not uncommon. There are several ways to make
it behave but most of them involve editing the Registry of fiddling with System
Policies, which I wouldn’t recommend to novices. However, there is another way
and that’s to use a little known freebie tool from Microsoft, called the Windows
Installer Cleanup Utility. You’ll find the link to the download and some
instructions in Microsoft
Knowledgebase article 290301.
Hi Rick, I have just
installed Windows XP Home on a 80Gb hard drive, which had been used in another
installation. I decided to partition
the disk with two equal partitions during the Windows installation. I think that I asked for the disk to be
fully formatted during the installation and expected to see drives C and D
only Drive C was available and it appears to have a capacity of about
40Gb. Does this mean that the second
partition was not formatted? Whatever,
I wonder if you can explain to me how to retrieve my "lost" 40Gb?
The installation utilities would only have formatted the main or ‘active’
partition, if memory serves you can go back and format it from inside the XP
Setup program but if you miss it it’s not a problem. Just go to Start >
Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Disk
Management and your drive will be shown, designated as Disk 0. It should show
the active healthy C: partition and the unformatted 40Gb partition. Right-click
on it and select Format, choose the NTFS option and follow the prompts and at
the end Windows should assign it drive letter ‘D’.
Not So Flash
Hi Rick, I’m having
trouble with Flash Player. Some applications tell me I need it, so I download
and install it. When I return to the site it tells me I haven’t got Flash
Player and need to install it, and so it goes on. If I search my computer for
Flash Player, there is no sign of it. Where am I going wrong?
Relax, it’s not your fault, there’s a couple of possibilities, including
changes made to Windows by Service Pack 2, which can stop Flash Player from
installing, or there may be an older version gumming up the works.
To see if
it’s the first one pop along to the Adobe Knowledgebase and work your way
through the checklist in article
19479. Failing that remove any old Flash and Shockwave players using this
form Adobe, then reinstall both of them, using the links on the same page.
Hi Rick, after
dragging my 500-ish CDs through ten house moves, I'm considering ripping them
to MP3 using iTunes, archiving them to DVD for security and selling them off.
My only worry (maybe I don't know enough to have more than one!) is playback
quality. I'm not obsessive about hi-fi but I was planning to
use a laptop plus decent power amp and floor-standing speakers
(from my existing separates system) and I'm wondering if I'd notice a
deterioration in quality compared with playing CDs directly.
I'd be grateful for
your comments, and I have two questions in particular: would choosing a higher
sampling rate for the CD-ripping justify the increased file size, and
would I be better off just buying an integrated system like the iPod Hi-Fi
or Bose SoundDock?
A. It’s fairly obvious you do know about hi-fi and appreciate quality and by the
sound of it you have some proper gear, so I would say yes, you will notice the
difference and you will find it a disappointing experience.
It’s important to remember that
MP3 (MPEG Layer 3) compression was designed to cram a lot of data into a small
amount of storage space, so something has to go. In theory the sounds that are left out are
those you cannot hear, or are masked by other louder sounds, so you shouldn’t
notice they’re missing.
In practice it usually doesn’t matter since most MP3s are played back is through cheapie head or earphones in noisy environments,
but as soon as you try feeding MP3s through a half-decent audio system, even if
they are high bitrate files, they will still sound thin and uninvolving. Integrated systems
designed for MP3 sources try to beef up the sound with various processing
and acoustic tricks but in my experience they mostly sound artificial and flat. If you are serious
about good sound hang on to your CDs, and believe me, one day you will thank me.
Vanishing BBC Downloads
BBC on-demand starts, I believe, on July 27 and programmes
available for seven days after first release. The reports I’ve seen say that
downloads will automatically 'vanish'
after 30 days. I can't find out from the BBC site, or anyone to ask at the BBC
what this vanishing act consists of. What if I copy my download on to a write
only CD? I am perplexed.
A. You are talking about the BBC iPlayer and you will be
relieved to know that no magic will be used to prevent you watching downloaded
programs once the 30-day limit has expired. Needless to say the BBC is cagey
about the technicalities but downloads are encrypted and encoded in a
non-standard file format that only plays back through iPlayer software. Additionally
the files contain DRM (Digital Rights Management) codes that tell the player
not to play, or delete the files after the expiration date.
However, if your PC or laptop is fitted with an
analogue PAL video output then there’s nothing to stop you recording the
playback on a VCR or DVD recorder, though obviously there will be some loss of
quality. I also have no doubt that the encryption will be cracked and there
will be third-party software video recorders that can copy hacked recordings to
DVD within weeks of launch (in fact I wouldn’t mind betting someone has already
figured it out, wink, wink…).
Where Have All My Gigabytes Gone?
Hi Rick, I recently bought a new computer, although I did
not build it myself by following your articles
it did inspire me to choose my own parts and I had it assembled. It is a Pentium 4
3.4GHz with 1Gb of RAM and 500Gb hard drive. When I was installing everything I
chose NTFS file system but did not partition the drive I now find that the hard
drive is only rated as 127Gb. What do you suggest I do to have the whole of the
capacity of the hard drive available?
A. There are a couple of possibilities. The most likely one
is a known glitch in Windows XP SP1, which prevented Windows from recognising
drives larger than 127Gb. Service Pack 2 fixed this, so if you haven’t already
done so install SP2 and all should be well. Otherwise it’s likely to be a
problem with your motherboard, which doesn’t support drives over 127Gb. Usually
this can be cured by upgrading the BIOS, but you will have to check this on the
manufacturer’s website. If by some chance this is not possible you may be able
find a workaround on the drive manufacturer’s site.
In the unlikely event neither option is
available that the only other way to get back those missing gigabytes is to
partition the drive. You may be able to do this from Disk Management (Start
> Run type ‘diskmgmt.msc’). Right-click on the ‘Unallocated Space’ and
select New Partition, and choose the option ‘Extended Partition’. You will need
to repeat this until all of the unallocated space has been partitioned and assigned
Vista not recognising AVG
Hi Rick. I recently bought a laptop running Vista Home
Premium and have encountered a problem. I have downloaded AVG free antivirus
software and activated it, but the windows security centre does not recognise
its presence saying it did not find antivirus software on the computer.
Uninstalling AVG and re-installing several times on different days has not made
any difference. Any suggestions will be much appreciated.
A. There are no significant compatibility issues with Vista
and AVG but this problem is not unknown and there are a couple of possible
causes. First make sure your laptop is fully updated, and I don’t just mean the
critical updates. Go to the Windows Update Centre and download everything as
Microsoft released a patch, which may not be on your PC.
If that doesn’t work then you can try re-registering AVG
with Vista and to do that you need to go to Start > Programs >
Accessories. Right-click on Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator. A
DOS like window opens and at the flashing command prompt type ‘winmgmt
the quotes). If this is the problem you
should see ‘WMI repository is not consistent’, so now you
should type the following ‘winmgmt /salvagerepository’ (again no quotes). This will shut down and restart Vista’s
Services so it may take a few minutes. Afterwards re-boot. It may not work the
first time, if so repeat.