Invisible Icons in Vista

Hi Rick, I have just changed my Computer and now have Vista Home Premium as my operating system.   I seem to be slowly getting to grips with things. However, one small thing is annoying me. I seem to be unable to change the colour of the Desktop icon labels. If I have a light coloured background, the wording virtually disappears. Under the personalization section, the desktop icon colour facility is greyed out.

Ron Whitby


A. This change in Vista, which is a side effect of the Aeroglass theme, vexes a lot of people but fortunately there are a number of solutions. The textbook, and least satisfactory answer is to dump the Aeroglass interface and switch back to the Classic Theme. There are a couple of third-party utilities that can jiggle the font colour, they are D-Colour XP 1.2 and Iconoid and both are free, though the authors obviously won’t be adverse to you paying a license fee or sending a small token of your appreciation if you continue to use them. There’s another method, which works on some versions of Vista, and that’s to change the background to a solid colour. For a light coloured image choose white, and this will force the icon labels to change to black (use a black background to force white labels). Click OK, reboot and go back into Personalize > Background and select you image and the icon colour should stick.



Victimised by Vista!

Hi Rick, I am fed up trying to use Windows Vista and have decided, if it is feasible, to buy an OEM version of XP and install that instead. Do you know if my Dell computer, which came with Vista will accept an installation of a “lesser” operating system? Will my Office 2007 software recognise it as the same machine albeit with a different?

Bob Neilans


A. I don’t think you will have any problems installing XP and Office on your Dell machine, after all they still offer XP as an option on many of their models. However, I really don’t think it’s a good idea, I know Vista can be a pain seomtimes and it seems like a bit daunting at first, especially if you have grown accustomed to XP. A  few things have been moved around, but underneath they are pretty much alike, and most of the early driver issues have now been resolved. Provided the hardware has been properly configured to use it and you have no performance issues or problems with legacy hardware then it is well worth getting to know. I think, given time, and once you have learned to find your way around, you may even come to quite like it. Reinstalling an OS is a big job and not something to be undertaken lightly, moreover any support you may be entitled to from Dell will go out of the Window.



Beat the Boot

Hi Rick, I was wondering if you could help me with following minor issue? I upgraded from Windows XP to Vista (Home Premium) recently; everything went well and all is OK, however every time I boot the PC, the following prompt appears which delays the boot process for 30 seconds:


Choose an operating system to start, or press TAB to select tool:

Earlier version of Windows

Microsoft Windows Vista

Microsoft Windows Recovery Console


How do I stop this message appearing and speed up the boot?

Harry Elmee


A. This suggests that your XP system may still be present, or at least parts of it remain, but it’s not a problem as the Vista (and XP) boot menu is easily accessible and simple to configure. Press Winkey + Break (or go to Start > Control Panel > System) and in the left hand Tasks pane click on Advanced System Settings. Select the Advanced tab and at the bottom of the window that appears, under Startup and Recovery, click the Settings button. On the dialogue box that appears make sure that Vista is displayed as the ‘Default Operating System’ on the drop-down menu and deselect ‘Time to display list of operating systems’, or change the default time to 0 seconds, click OK, exit all of the open dialogue boxes and reboot.



No so Eeeasy-Peasy

Hi Rick, following on from your enthusiastic comments I rushed out and bought a mini Eee PC and at first I was very pleased with it. However, as time wore by I became a bit disillusioned with the limitations of the Xandros Linux operating system and needless to say it wouldn’t run several programs that I have come to rely upon over the years. To cut a long story short I followed the guide in the instructions and installed Windows XP. Everything seemed to go according to plan, up to the part where I had to install the Asus drivers. I have tried everything but I can see no way to install them from the supplied DVD, none of the installation links seem to exist so now I’m now stuck with a very sluggish XP, poor quality graphics, no sound or wireless Internet connection. It’s so bad I’m thinking of going back to Linux. Can anything be done?

Mike Chang.


A. XP on the Eee PC can be very good indeed but the instruction manual method has a few omissions. First, I recommend that you strip down XP first, using a program like nLite, which removes all of the fat and unnecessary extras, with this you can get the installation down to just a few hundred Mb, leaving much more free space for other programs and your files. There is actually a pirate distribution of XP, called ‘Tiny XP, which is optimised for the Eee, but it’s illegal so I couldn’t possibly suggest that you use it. Anyway, the procedure is as follows load the XP install disc and use it to delete all partitions on the Eee, including the one called ‘BIOS’, format the SSD drive and the XP install should proceed normally. When it has finished copy the Driver folder on the Asus support DVD to a pen drive or memory card and pop that into the Eee. Install the drivers one by one from the Setup.exe in each driver’s folder, re-booting after each one. After that you should have a very useable little laptop.  



Licence to Print Money

Hi Rick, I have a Canon IP5200 printer with which has served me well for three years of generally light use.  Quality seems good enough for occasional photo printing (and the invitations for my daughter’s recent wedding!).  I have always used Canon cartridges in an attempt to maintain quality. 


However, colour quality has suddenly deteriorated dramatically and now print colours are no longer vibrant, but faded as if covered by an opaque film (and this can be clearly seen in “before” & “after” examples of the same pictures).  I have reloaded the drivers, cleaned and deep-cleaned the nozzles several times and trawled the web for help but all to no avail.   Have you any suggestions or do I just go and buy a new printer (which seems a ridiculous “throw-away” approach but labour costs are, I suspect going to be as much as a new device) and if so, any suggestions (though this decision may be skewed by the fact that I have several unused Canon cartridges in the cupboard!).

Richard Lytheer


A. Quite honestly you have done well to get three years of use out of your printer, in my experience they generally peg out shortly after the warranty has expired, or a new model with even more expensive cartridges is launched.


Conspiracy theories aside, inkjet printing is one of those technologies that brings to mind Dr Johnson’s famous quip after seeing a dog walking on its hind legs: ‘The wonder is not that it does it so well, but that it does it at all’…


Ink is squirted through scores of microscopic holes, in precisely metered amounts and all it takes is one hole to get bunged up and the whole thing falls flat. Inks dry out as dust and paper particles attach themselves to the print head, and no amount of deep cleaning (or super-fast cartridge emptying as I like to call it...) is going to fix it. Repairs are theoretically possible but be assured it will cost more than the printer is worth. Over the years I have tried all sorts of tricks and remedies to beat the system and prolong their lives but I think that you are just going to have to face it, it’s time to buy a new one.


I know, it’s not green and it makes no sense that printer ink – which is mostly water – costs more than the most expensive French perfumes, but with new photo quality multi-function printer/scanners costing less than thirty five quid, and not much more than a set of replacement ink cartridges, what other choices do you have?



Flash Drive Access Denied

Hi Rick, I had an expensive 8Gb flash drive as a gift to store my Windows-One-care backup on. I now find that One-Care is only capable of backing up a few files but nothing of any consequence of my PC. Problem is I went to other backup sources but cannot clear my flash drive to use anywhere else, it keeps prompting 'Access Denied', Do Not Delete' - Have I lost it forever? Running Windows XP with Sec Pack 3

Bob Wydell


A. There are several possibilities. First check that the drive isn’t fitted with a physical ‘lock’ switch these can sometimes be hard to spot, as they can be very small. Next, check that the drive doesn’t contain a software lock or built-in encryption – the manual or disc that came with it might provide a clue. However, the most likely cause is a glitch with Windows File Permissions. This is a set of security restrictions, normally only employed on XP Pro and some versions of Vista, designed to protect data on an external drive. Permissions can change spontaneously, for reasons that I have never quite understood, or it can happen if the drive was removed whilst data was still being written to it, or on some systems, by not using the ‘Safely Remove’ option in the System Tray.


If you are using XP Pro you should be able to take back ‘ownership’ of the drive by logging on as Administrator, disable Simple File Sharing (Windows Explorer > Tools > Folder Options > View tab > Advanced Settings), right click drive icon, select Properties, select Sharing /Security tab and lick Share this folder.


If you see a Security tab click that then the Advanced tab and the Owner tab. On the Name list click your username and select Replace owner and click OK.  In XP Home in order to access the Security tab you need to boot the PC into Safe mode.



A PDF in the Works

Hello Rick, BT doesn't send me a paper bill any more but I can print one on-line if I want. Problem: when I try to view and print the PDF download it attempts to open in Works Word Processor (I use Works Suite and XP Pro) instead of Adobe Reader and of course I get a 'cannot open file" error message'.  Any idea why this happens?  If I save the file to My Docs and then open with Adobe all goes well and I can view and print OK.  Your help would be appreciated.

David Taylor.


A. It's all down to a sometimes-cranky feature in Windows called File Association. Basically this means that whenever you double-click a file to open it, Windows checks the extension (the last three or four letters of the filename, after the dot) against a list it maintains, to find out which program is needed to open the file. If it doesn't recognise the extension, or it hasn't been associated with a program (something that normally happens automatically when the program is installed) you get the 'cannot open'. It can also happen if the file extension has been wrongly associated with another program, which is what seems to have happened in your case.


The solution is simple and in XP all you have to do is associate the file extension with the correct program, which in this case is Adobe Reader. To do that open Windows Explorer and go to Tools > Folder Options and select the File Types tab. Scroll down the Extension list to PDF, highlight the entry, click Change and Windows should suggest Adobe Reader, select it and click OK. In Vista it's even easier, just right-click the file and select Open With. Adobe Reader should be on the list, if not select 'Chose Default Program' and use that to select Adobe Reader. By the way, I'm not a big fan of Adobe Reader, it's slow and pretty intrusive so why not check out Foxit Reader, there's more about it in my PCTopTips Archive.



A Question of Identity

Hi Rick, I have bought a wireless ADSL Router and thanks to your "Wireless Networking" Boot Camp articles 455 - 459 I have it up and running on my desktop and laptop. I now want to set up WPA PSK security. These may be silly questions but can you tell me: can I pick any alphanumeric letters and numbers for the SSID or should I use hexadecimals? Also, should the new SSID name be the same length as the present default name (9 characters) set by the manufacturer?

Raymond Payne


A. The SSID or Service Side Identifier is simply the name you give to your wireless router. It’s the name that’s displayed when you do a ‘Site Survey’. It has no particular security implications, so there’s no harm in leaving it on the default, except that it can help you to identify your network if there are others in the vicinity, using the same model wireless router as you. Where I live I can pick up SSIDs from at least half a dozen SKY and BT networks and several Netgears, so giving yours a recognisable name makes it easier to find in the crowd. As far as I am aware the limit for the number of characters you can use for an SSID is 30, though it may be fewer on some models, and I’m not aware of any models that require or have the option for a hexadecimal SSID.


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