July 07


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?

Andrew Gorey


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?

Jill Edwards


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.


‘Spambots’ 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 Minute?

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?

Nigel Penn


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 to offer.


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.



Windows Installer 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! Any thoughts?

Toby Hufford


A. 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.



Missing Partition

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 afterwards.


After installation 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?

David Calvert


A. 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?

Derek Greenaway


A. 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 free uninstaller form Adobe, then reinstall both of them, using the links on the same page.



MP3 Quality

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?

Derek Wildman


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.

Harry Metcalfe


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?

Terry Mason


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 drive letters.



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.

Mahomed Hajat


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 /verifyrepository’ (without 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.



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