December 2008


Dis-Functional Sony

Hi Rick, the function key (Fn) on my Vaio Laptop has stopped working. Apparently this is not uncommon. The only help I can find tells me to reinstall the hotkey application Util.exe. I am unable to find this file anywhere. I wonder if you can help. My OS is Windows XP.I think any help would be appreciated by many sufferers.

Ron Whitby


A. You are right and this does seem to be a particular quirk of Sony machines. There are several possibilities, so let’s begin with the last one you’d suspect, and the easiest one to eliminate and that’s a faulty keyboard.


If the Fn keys do the other things that are printed on the keycaps then we can safely say the keyboard and keyboard chips on the motherboard are okay. If they keys are stone dead, then I’m afraid it could be bad news. Plug in an external keyboard and if that works it’s almost certainly the keyboard or the connector. If you don’t mind having a fiddle you could remove the keyboard (it’s probably held in place by 2 or 3 small spring tabs along the top edge. Check the ribbon cable is properly seated in its connector. If so a replacement keyboard may be in order, check ebay where they often turn up quite cheaply. If it’s still dead then it may be the mobo, and that could be expensive.


Once you’ve eliminated the keyboard here’s a few other things to try. On some Sony machines the Fn keys won’t work if Num Lock is on  (Press Fn + Numlock to switch off). If it’s still dead, try reinstalling the keyboard and hotkeys driver, which you will find on the Sony Support website.



Doubtful Dictionary

Hello Rick, I loaded Firefox today after the warning about the recent problem with Internet Explorer.  I like it very much but when I added the dictionary add-on, it seemed to be added but does not work when I try to use it.  What do you think is stopping it from working?

Linda Holdstock.


A. That’s very odd, it’s pretty straightforward and I’m not aware of anything that stops it working, though it’s not obvious how it works and there’s a couple of steps you may have missed out, so let’s start over. Go to the Dictionary download page (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3366) and click the Add to Firefox button. The installation box appears, highlight British English Dictionary (or whatever language dictionary you’ve downloaded) and click Install Now. The files download and when it has finished click the Restart Firefox button, then Restart. After a few seconds Firefox returns, hopefully to its previous state (open tabs etc.) and the dictionary is ready to use, To test it out find a page with a web form box, type in a nonsense word and right-click on it, click Check Spelling at the bottom and right-click again and the suggested spellings will appear, click on the one you want to use and it automatically replaces the misspelled word.



Scareware Scam

Winword Security is constantly telling me the PC is infected - but Spybot, AdAware and Virgin Spyware tell me I have no problems! Is this a scam and if so how do I delete it, or do I trust it and buy it?

Iain S Davidson


A. I haven’t come across Winword Security before but I’m reasonably sure it is a scam and another example of ‘scareware’, which is rife at the moment. Basically there are two types of scareware. The first and least noxious is a popup or blinking box that appears when you visit a webpage. They look like Windows error messages and they say your computer is infected and you should click the box to seek a cure. Obviously you shouldn’t, but in most cases it’s simply an ad and clicking on it takes you to a site selling rubbish or non-existent cleaning utilities. The second, more worrying sort is a popup that install a rootkit. This is a real malware program that will infect your PC and install Trojans and other nasties that could compromise your security. This can happen really quickly and they can be a swine to get rid of though many respond to an excellent cleaner called Malwarebytes, and that’s where I would start, if your PC is behaving oddly, the message won’t go away, or your Google searches are being redirected to pornographic websites.



New Word Virus?

Hi Rick, any thoughts on why Word Documents (Word 2003 & XP) would become corrupted and display "FileError_22001" (without the quotes) in place of the text? I suppose a virus is the obvious problem but I've scanned with up-to-date AVG 8 and nothing shows. There is some mention on the web about this error and it only seems to have appeared relatively recently, which is a little suspicious.

Ken Scott


A. I fear this is a virus, and a particularly nasty one at that. It appears to have started spreading a few days ago. At the time of writing the main anti-virus companies seem to have been caught napping and there is very little information. My guess is it’s a rootkit (a collection of malware programs) and they’ve got onto your PC though an infected website, probably by clicking on one of those ‘free virus checks’ pop-ups.


The main effect is to encrypt and save your Office files (doc, .jpeg, .xls) and jpeg files with a .ccd and .flr extensions then overwrite the originals. It smells like a ‘Ransomware’ scam, though I haven’t yet heard of any sufferers being asked to pay to get their files back, so at this point I wouldn’t hold out too much hope of recovering your documents.


Some reports suggest that the infection can be removed using Malwarebytes though this won’t bring back your lost files. Unfortunately, until the AV companies get their act together there’s not a lot more to say, except stay away from dodgy website, make sure you backup all of your Office files, preferably on a separate, removable drive or media and ideally in .rtf format as well as this doesn’t seem to be affected.



Adobe Takeover

Hi Rick, I have a new laptop, onto which I have transferred all my data. I don't yet have Office installed, as I'm waiting for it to arrive in the post. I have tried to open a Word file by clicking on it and was asked what I wanted to open it with. I tried to open it with Adobe and all my Word files have turned into Adobe files and I can't open anything.  Any ideas about what I can do please?

Sandra Chubb


A. It’s okay, all that has happened is that the file association – the way Windows knows which program is used to open a particular type of file – has been temporarily confused. I suspect that as soon as you install Office the file association, between files with the extension ‘.doc’ (or .docx) will be automatically repaired. If by some chance it doesn’t you can easily fix it yourself. Simply open Windows Explorer, right-click on a Word document file, select Open With and Word should be listed. Select it then make sure the ‘Always use the selected program to open this kind of file’ is ticked. Close the boxes and you’re good to go.



Wasteful Accounts?

Hi Rick, can you tell me if there is any point in having more than two User accounts on a PC, if the PC is only ever used by one person? Surely one Administrator Account and one Limited Account (for everyday use) is all I need? I have never used the Guest account (Vista & XP), ‘Public’ account (Vista) or ‘Shared’ account (XP), so couldn’t I safely delete these to free up space?

Peter Vick


A. The first thing to say is that deleting an Account won’t free up much space. Windows Accounts are represented by fairly small configuration files. The only way this could possibly make a difference is if the surplus Accounts had been used and contained large data files, which you could also delete. There is actually a good argument for having two Admin accounts; if you only have one and it becomes corrupted or you forget the password then you could, in theory be locked out of Windows, though there are ways and means to get back in, but it could be a nuisance. There’s no real need for Guest and Public accounts if you are the only user, but as I say, keeping them doesn’t use significant resources, and a Guest Account could come in handy if, for instance, you want to allow a friend or relative to use your PC, though it’s hardly worth worrying about as it only take a few moments to create one these accounts as and when they are needed.



Petulant Printer Properties

Hi Rick, I have a small – but irritating – wrangle with my printer.  It defaults to printing the last page first.  The little box is always ticked (in Properties > Preferences), and if I bother to clear it, it will indeed start on page 1.  But if I have a separate document to print, back comes the tick and the last page prints first.  Is there any way of keeping that box permanently unticked?

Paul Hill


A. If you are using Windows XP I would try setting your preferences from Printers and Faxes on the Start menu. Highlight the printer and click 'Select Printing Preferences' from the toolbar, or under Printer Tasks. There seems to be some sort of control/default hierarchy, and preferences set here usually take precedence over settings in the normal right-click Printer Properties context menu.


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