Grey Power

Hi Rick, some unknown event has obliterated the Power Options Power schemes settings leaving them all blank and greyed out. Thus, my Windows XP Home system goes into Standby or Hibernation quite quickly, which is becoming a bore.  Any ideas how I can regain control over my power schemes?

Martin Buckley


A. I can’t say for sure why it happened but most of the time it’s down to a corrupt or missing Registry entry and a quick and simple download from the invaluable Kelly’s Korner website should put things to rights. Scroll down the list to line 204 and in the right hand column right-click ‘Restore Power Schemes/Configuration, select Save Link (or Save Target As) and when the .vbs file has finished downloading, double-click on it and it will automatically make the required changes to the Registry. If that doesn’t work I suggest that you re-install your motherboard drivers from the utility disc supplied with your machine.  



Password Recovery

Hi Rick, as the executor of my late son's estate I have taken over his three notebooks. One is ancient and uses Windows 98, one is less ancient and uses Windows XP and the third is virtually new and uses Vista Home. This is the most likely one to contain information relevant to my role as executor and also family photographs of immense sentimental value.


The problem is that all three are password protected, I can find no clue as to the passwords and there are no backup disks. As matters stand I cannot access the start menu in order to change the password but perhaps this is irrelevant anyway as I don't know the original password. I would welcome your suggestions.

Stuart Wardrop


A. Software is available that can extract the password but I don’t recommend using it as it can be expensive and difficult to use. Otherwise there are two ways to go, there are numerous unlocking services on the Internet, though you usually need to be able to get on line, though a user account in order to use them, and again they can be expensive.


My preferred method would be to exploit a loophole in Windows security and blank out the existing password, which then lets you access the machine. This method relies on creating a boot disc, using a version of the Linux operating system, which can access the Windows SAM (Security Account Manager) files. Rather than go into the full procedure here I suggest that you head over to my Boot Camp archives (which have now moved to PCTopTips) and check out articles 526 – 529, which you will find at: www.pctoptips.co.uk/Bootcamp/2008/08index.htm



Battery Saver?

Hi Rick, I tend to leave my laptop always on (or in Standby) powered by the mains adaptor, and to save the battery's longevity I remove it. Am I right in doing this or is it not necessary?

Tony Gilbert


A. It’s a tempting idea but the sad fact is that chemical reactions inside Lithium Ion batteries, which the vast majority of laptops use, ensure that they have a finite life, and the clock starts ticking the moment they roll off the production line. A general rule of thumb is 3- 5 years, after which they will hold around 50% or less of the original charge, and this will happen even if you never charge it, or leave it discharged. At that point the battery is deemed to be in need of replacement.


Again, I have to talk in generalities, but in that sort of time span you can expect to get around 500 complete charge-discharge cycles, maybe more, maybe less but the point is there’s little you can do to extend the useful life of a Li Ion battery pack. You may be able to delay replacement by a few months, but that’s about it. The best way to treat your batteries is to charge them when they are run down. Don’t leave them in a fully discharged state for any length of time. They live longer if stored in cool conditions – some people keep them in their fridge when not used for extended periods, and if your computer has any battery management or calibration features, use them as this can help by ensuring the pack gets the correct charge. The good news is that battery longevity is improving all the time and Li Ion packs with a claimed 10-year life are in the pipeline, though they will be expensive to begin with.



Spooky Inkjet

Hi Rick, I purchase a Lexmark 3 in 1 printer in August this year and I use it with a Mesh XP Home PC. It has been excellent, except for the built in poltergeist. Eleven times since purchase machine it has made a scan/print noise for about two minutes despite both it and the PC being switched off at the time! It’s very disconcerting at 2am I can tell you! Lexmark say they have no recorded history of this phenomenon and advised me to contact their technical department. I told them my pension did not run to lengthy telephone consultations and I would learn to live with it. Yesterday, however, the noise occurred 13 times in the day. It was still switched off. I would appreciate any ideas.

Bob Wydell


A. I’m flattered that you think I have any insight into the world of haunted computer peripherals, but like Lexmark, who should know what they are talking about (probably…) this is a new one on me.


The only thing I can think of is that when most printers are switched on they go into a brief self-test routine, and occasionally a self-cleaning cycle. Maybe this is what’s happenign here and it is being triggered by a brief interruption in the main supply, or a ‘spike’ caused by a large appliance switching on or off?  Try connecting it via an anti-surge socket or adaptor, or a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) if you have one, which would at least confirm or deny that theory. You could also see if it happens when the printer is disconnected form the PC, which may indicate that it is being woken up by the computer, though why this is happening, I can’t say.  Otherwise, if it’s annoying you, or resulting in excessive ink consumption, seek the help of an exorcist or take it back from whence it came, since it is clearly still under warranty. And if you ever get to the bottom of it, or it sudden starts spewing blood or flying around the room, please let us know, with pictures if possible…



Toying with Synchronisation

Hi Rick, I would also like to be able to share my document files easily between two computers, using a USB drive, preferably without a lot of messing about. Can you suggest a simple way of doing this that doesn’t involve repeatedly copying and pasting files?

Janice Finnegan


A. Look no further than a freebie Microsoft utility called SyncToy. Simply download and install the program, designate the documents folder on your PC as the ‘Left’ folder, and create a new folder on the USB drive for the documents, select the ‘Echo’ option and the copying process begins. When you want to update the USB drive simply run SyncToy, it checks for new files and copies them to the drive in one hit.



Broken Backups

Hello Rick, I have been very good over the years.  I have backed up every last thing I can find and have become overwhelmed by CDs and DVDs!  I had to reinstall Vista Home Premium and of course I had my backups.  Well, nearly all of my backups.  Of the four containing jpeg photographs, and backed up consecutively on the same day, all except the last one works.  The DVD that doesn't work contains 915 jpeg photographs amounting to 1.3 GB


Attempting to open them produces a message in three programmes that I have on the PC saying "this file type is not supported on open" or similar wording.  However the other three DVDs open normally. I would appreciate any thoughts that you may have.

Ron Roe


A. I know it’s a little late in the day, and not what you want to hear but one of the first things you should l do after making a backup is check that it works. I’m guessing that you are doing your backups manually but if you using backup software see if it has an automatic facility to verify its integrity. The dodgy DVD may be a harder problem to resolve, optical discs can be unreliable, especially the cheaper no-name brands, which may even be rejects or seconds. All you can do is run it through a CD/DVD recovery program, I suggest CD Recovery Toolbox, which is free and works as well as many paid-for programs. If that cannot restore any files them I’m afraid that the only thing left is a commercial recovery service; most of them work on a no data no fee basis, but if they manage to find any images be warned that it can work out quite expensive, so get some quotes first.



Lost Addresses

Hi Rick, I am really puzzled. Suddenly I find that my Outlook Express Address Book has vanished. I became suspicious when I tried to send an email and the person's name in the "To" box didn't auto-complete. When I clicked on the ‘Address’ button on the toolbar, nothing happened. I can still send emails, but only if I can remember the person's email address! As you can imagine, that makes most people out of reach!


Hope you can help. It must still be there somewhere, or else the emails wouldn't arrive, but how do I get my address book back?

Geoff Lawn


A. It is unusual for the OE Address Book to go walkabout of its own accord but if it’s still on your PC it should be possible to track it down. The link to OE can be broken if you have MS Outlook on your PC, if so click the Address Book icon on the Toolbar then go to Tools > Options and make sure that ‘Do not share information…’ is checked.


If it is, or it makes no difference then look first in its default location, which is: C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Application Data\Microsoft\. The Address Book file should have the extension ‘.wab’ (Windows Address Book). If you see a file called  <yourname>.wab~  that’s a backup of your current address book and you can use that if the original has disappeared, by renaming it with a .wab extension.


If it not there go to Search on the Start menu and look for ‘*.wab’ and if you find it you can re-import it back into OE by going to Import > Address Book on the File menu, and navigate to the file’s location. Otherwise if there’s no sign of it, and you haven’t made a backup recently, then I’m afraid that it has probably gone forever and you’ll have to rebuild it. Incidentally, OE will still send and receive emails, even if the Address Book has been deleted.



Cloning Complications

Hi Rick, I have a desktop PC with XP and a laptop with Vista. My question is, if I cloned my desktop PC system onto an external hard drive (USB) and then changed the BIOS on my Laptop to boot from USB first, would the laptop run XP without causing me any problems, and if so is it just by changing the boot sequence that I could switch from XP to Vista?

Rex Hinton


A. In theory it might work, it depends if the laptop’s BIOS allows it to boot from a non-OEM copy of Windows, some won’t. It’s also important to be clear what’s meant by cloning. Simply copying the contents of one hard drive to another definitely won’t work. That’s because a Primary drive – i.e. the one that boots the PC and contains Windows – has code and command files, like the Boot Sector, that cannot be accessed through Windows, moreover, you can’t easily copy Windows whilst it is running so you will need some specialist disc mirroring software. However, the big question is why go to all this trouble? If you want to dual-boot XP and Vista and I suggest that you start over, wipe the drive, install XP first, then Vista; on a dual boot Windows system the oldest OS has to be installed first. If you are feeling brave you can get around this by installing a copy of Linux, like Mandriva on your laptop and this will allow you to create a new partition for Vista, and it’s bootloader will sort out the complexities of triple booting. If you fancy a stab at that method see Boot Camp 446 in the BootLog archives


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