September 2007



Busy System Idle Processes

Hi Rick, in Task Manager the CPU usage keeps jumping from 5% to 100% on, Process - System Idle Process - System, even though I have nothing running at the time. As the usage alters it pulses all the processes showing in Task Manager up and down slightly. It seems to be causing some instability on my PC.

George Beale


A. System Idle Processes in Task Manager foxes a lot of people, probably because of the name, and the misleading impression the large numbers in the CPU column give. In fact it is the other way around and high values like 95 or 98 mean that the CPU is actually 95 or 98 percent idle, in other words it’s hardly doing anything. When the number drops, to 5% percent, say, that means the CPU is really busy doing something. I’m afraid the instability and there’s any number of causes, though if it only happens when particular programs are running then that’s the place to start looking. One of the best way’s to find out what your PC is up to at any given moment is to use a freeware utility like Sysinternals Filemon, which shows you in real time what your PC is up to and what, if any programs or services are causing problems.



Word Printer Not Responding

Hi Rick, I am using Windows XP (SP2) & Office 2002.  Word has recently stopped printing normally. All the other Office applications are fine but Word comes up with a warning message "The printer has not yet responded but Office may be able to proceed without printer information’. I click yes and eventually it does print but it takes an age. "Options" under  the Tools toolbar gives the same message.


I have reinstalled my printer and updated the drivers from the Epsom website. The test page prints properly and I have reinstalled Microsoft Office. Any other suggestion would be gratefully received.

Pete Owens


A. This is an odd one and I have to say that I don’t have a definitive answer but I do have a short list of things to try that fellow sufferers have found helpful. You’ve saved me the bother of suggesting re-installing the printer driver so try my Word cure-all, which is to replace the Normal.dot document template. It’s amazing how many Word problems this fixes.


If you are using Norton 2003 disable the Office Plug-in. Try temporarily disabling the Windows Firewall (no I don’t understand that one either but it worked for someone. Finally, open Windows Explorer and go to Tools > Folder Options > File Types, scroll down the list to ‘DOC Microsoft Word Document’ highlight the entry, click the Advanced button then Print and click the Set Default button.



Seeing Red with RegSeeker

Hi Rick I have been using RegSeeker for a long time (for which tip, many thanks) and always delete the "green" items but leave the "red" ones alone, heeding your dire warnings to the uninitiated about deleting carelessly.  I'm left with a lot of Invalid entry items.  Are they safe to delete?  If not, what does "invalid" mean for them?

Bill Martin


A. RegSeeker, for those who haven’t come across it before is a powerful and safe Registry cleaner, and for the record, the Registry is a large collection of System Files in Windows that controls how it, and the software on your machine looks and works. Over time the Registry becomes cluttered and errors develop and if they are serious enough they can stop Windows working properly. RegSeeker checks through the Registry, removing redundant entries, left behind by programs you installed and all of the other bits and pieces that collect there and it can fix all sorts of registry-based problems and an occasional scan can also help to keep your PC running smoothly.


RegSeeker takes a safe and conservative approach and things that can definitely removed are colour-coded greed, and items it’s not one hundred percent sure about are flagged in Red. An invalid entry is one that that doesn’t appear to have any purpose, or it contains an error. Basically RegSeeker is saying that it’s fairly sure they can be removed, but you do so at your own risk. Personally I haven’t had any problems removing all flagged items, but even if there were a problem I wouldn’t be too worried because by default RegSeeker backs up everything it deletes, so if the worse come to the worst you can undo any changes.  



Using AdAware

Hello Rick, I am using AdAware and after a scan it tells me there are 25 objects to remove, but I don't know how to find them to remove them.  I have clicked everything on the window without success.  Can you help?

Greta B.


A. AdAware is fairly intuitive but I suppose that it can appear a little daunting if you have never used this type of software before. It’s actually very simple, following a scan, a summary of what it has found is displayed, click Next and the results are itemised, categorising them according to the threat, to delete an object, and it is usually safe to delete everything shown, simply click into the check box next to the item, click Next, you will be asked to conform the action, click OK and it it’s done.



DAB and Memory Cards

I have just bought a Pure Evoke DAB radio, which takes an SD card. I am wondering if you know if there is an MP3 player that takes a SD card so I can play recorded input on the Radio? All I can find are the MP3 players with "in built " memories.

Judy J.


A. They do exist, I have one of them right here. My current preferred alternative to the ubiquitous iPod is a 4Gb Sumvision Sempra MP4 player, which I bought from ebuyer.co.uk a few months ago for around £50.


This has a SD card slot and does everything you need, as well as play video files on its 2-inch screen, it also has a built in radio, which you can record from and it functions as a USB flash drive. For the record I also have an Acer N35 PDA, which has a SD slot and plays most types of multimedia files, oh yes, and for good measure it has a built-in Sat Nav receiver, so it’s pretty versatile



Changing Default Font in Works WP

Hi Rick, wish to permanently change the font in Works but cannot find any default button, any change I make reverts to default in 30 seconds - any tips please?

Bob Wydell


A. It’s not that obvious but it’s easy enough when you know the trick. All you have to do is open a blank document then choose the font and the size you want to make the default then go to SaveAs on the File menu and click Template. The final step is to give the template a name and check the item ‘Use this template for new Word Processor documents’, click OK and it’s done.



PageFile Equals Trouble

Hello Rick, I’ve just bought my Son a new HP laptop to take to Uni and started going through getting rid of Norton and installing Zone Alarm and AVG when I started getting the dreaded blue screen and the message “DRIVER IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL” before the machine reboots. Can you help us?

Bill Humpage


A. There are many possible causes for this type of message but a couple of them come out of top. A faulty memory module would be the first thing to check if the problem had been on-going, but since you say it only started after uninstalling some software I am inclined to think it might be the second one, which is a corrupt PageFile. This can happen after a crash or improper shutdown, so it may just be a coincidence that it started after your clean-up session, it could have happened at any time. The PageFile is ‘virtual’ memory on your hard drive, used by Windows to temporarily store data for running programs and if it gets bunged up you need to wipe it and start again.


To do that open System Properties by pressing Winkey + Break, select the Advanced tab, under Performance click Settings, then the Advanced tab and click the Change button. If you have previously made changes to the PageFile make a note of the size then check the item ‘No paging File’ click Ok, exit System Properties and Reboot. Go back into the PageFile setup, uncheck No paging file and reset the previous value and reboot once again.



Driven to Distraction

Hi Rick , we have recently had a new hard disk and Windows has been reinstalled. When we try and scroll up and down pages either on Word, the Internet etc, the page continually refreshes and flashes and makes it very difficult to watch the screen. Is this a known problem, is there an easy fix or should I go back to the engineer who did the work?

Richard Hornsey


A. Yes, go back and ask him or her to install the correct video driver. This sounds very much like a display issue. I suspect the they installed a generic driver or one they considered to be a close match, either way it should only take a few minutes to download and install the right one. Incidentally, you may already have it, if the video adaptor is built into the PC’s motherboard. The driver should be included on the utilities disc that came with the machine, though it’s always worth checking with the manufacturer to see if there’s a more recent version available.



Transferring IE Favourites

Rick, is it possible to save my favourite Internet addresses so that I can transfer them to another computer?  I find it isn’t the regular files that cause issues in transfer but the things the computer does that we take for granted until we start on a new one!



A. Indeed it is and this is a very simple little job. Your Internet Explorer bookmarks are all contained in a file called ‘Favorites’ and in Windows XP it is stored in: C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\ favorites. All you have to do is copy the file to a floppy, memory stick, or even send it as an attachment in an email to yourself and paste it into the same location on your new PC. If you are moving to a new Vista PC the location is slightly easier to get at: C:\users\<yourname>\favorites.


If you are using Firefox it is even easier. Just go to Bookmarks > Organise Bookmarks > File > Export, choose a location (your removable media), load it into the new PC and repeat the process, this time selecting Import (instead of Export) on the File menu.



Torrent of Abuse

Hi Rick, someone has recently pointed me at a site called ‘Utorrent’ for free software.  It all looks a bit suspicious and intimidating to me.  Any advice?

Andrew Griffin


A. There’s nothing inherently sinister about uTorrent, it is simply one of a number of BitTorrent ‘client’ programs. It’s not the software, but what you and others do with it, that is controversial. BitTorrent is a file sharing technology, based on the peer-to-peer model, which basically means that instead of downloading a large file from a central server computer – which is inefficient and prone to slowdown if a lot of people all do it at the same time – you download files from other people’s computers. BitTorrent is a variant on this theme, splitting very large files into smaller chunks spread across many more computers.


It all starts to get a bit tricky when you get down to what these files actually are, and in most cases it is pirated computer software or multimedia files (audio, movies etc.). Downloading copyright material without paying for it is stealing and there is a risk that the files you download may be infected with viruses.


How you deal with that morally is up to you but be aware that various national and international organisations and the copyright owners are continually cracking down on large and small-scale pirates and there have been many successful prosecutions. One other thing to bear in mind, nothing you do on the Internet (on your own PC) is private. Records are kept by your ISP and others, you can be traced through your IP address and multiple logs are kept of the web sites you visit.



Selective Formatting?

Hi Rick, do you know of any software that will permit the reformatting of that part of the hard disk that is not being used?  We have deleted certain files that are presumably still somewhere on the hard disk and could be recoverable in the hands of an expert. To ensure security we would like to reformat everything on the hard disk that is not taken up with existing (non deleted) files -- is such an operation possible and do you know if there is any software existing to effect it?

Trevor Ray


A. Not really. Whilst formatting appears to erase a drive’s contents it’s actually meant to create the file structure for a whole disc drive or partition and you can’t selectively format just part of a drive. In any event, the ‘free space’ created by the erased files are likely to be in widely dispersed ‘clusters’, rather than in neat chunks of drive space. You should also know that formatting doesn’t necessarily remove all traces of old data from a drive and there are ways and means of recovering files on drives that have been reformatted several times. It’s probably not something you need to worry about, though, as it requires considerable resources and expertise.


If you are not in a hurry and the PC is secure then eventually the data you’ve erased will be overwritten. In future the best way to ensure that deleted files are unrecoverable is to electronically ‘shred’ them, which basically means overwriting the data with random characters, several times if necessary, depending on the level of security you require. If you can’t wait for the data to be overwritten you could shred the free space. A utility called File Shredder will do this for you; it’s freeware so you have nothing to lose (except those pesky deleted files…).




Listen to my Voice…

Dear Rick, I would be so grateful for any help you can give me. I really don't know where to turn. I am a Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist and I do cassette tapes sometimes for my clients. They are now asking for CDs instead. Is there a way to record my voice directly onto my PC and save it, then transfer to a CD to give people or produce more copies to sell, or do I need a lot of expensive equipment?


I don’t have a lot of money so cannot afford to go down the path of recording studios etc and for my needs I don’t think I need to. I also have cassettes I want to put onto CD, which I picked up one of your tips for, so thank you. I am hoping I can do this with a personal cassette player, but do have a portable CD player. Do I need to buy any software or just the cable you mentioned?

Annette Boden


A. The short answer is yes, and apart from a microphone some blank CDs and the connecting cable, everything else is free. I’ll start with the recording part and for that I strongly recommend a freeware audio recording and editing program called Audacity. With this you will be able to record your voice, onto your hard drive, and if you make any mistakes you can go back a cut out the wonky bits and do all soft of clever things, like adding echo and spatial effects. Once you’ve made the recording you can copy the file to a CD in a variety of formats, including audio CD, MP3 and so on. The easiest way to make an audio CD is to use the burning utility in Windows Media Player (v10 onwards).


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