BOOT CAMP 180 (21/06//01)




From the thousands of emails letters and faxes sent to us every year we are able to get a fairly good idea of the kind of PC maladies troubling Dotcom readers. For the second year running we've compiled a list of the Top Ten Traumas along with the best solutions that we, and our knowledgeable correspondents have come up with.


Before we get down to business with this week's batch (five more next week), we have noticed a couple of trends. There has been a big reduction in the number of problems concerned with hard disc space (or rather the lack of it) and running heavyweight applications, reflecting big increases in PC speed, memory and storage capacity, which for the first time in a long while has outpaced developments in software. Not so welcome has been a jump in the number of virus-related problems, and judging by the number of infected emails we receive, many people are not taking even basic precautions. Finally, on a positive note we are seeing far fewer problems related to improperly installed and uninstalled software, which suggests that instruction manuals are getting better, more people are reading them, or PC software is becoming less flaky; we live in hope…  



Some things never change though, and the number one problem for the second year running is the Windows disc defragmenter or 'Defrag' system tool hanging of freezing when it has only processed a few percent the disc drive's contents. This is almost always caused by programs running in the background or problems with the hard disc file structure so always run Scandisk first and in Windows 98 use Disc Cleanup, which you will find in Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools. Before you try again switch off the screensaver and disable any virus scanner or firewall programs you may have then press Ctrl + Alt  + Del to bring up a list of running programs. Use the End Task button to closedown everything except Explorer and Systray. If that doesn't work try deleting the Applog folder in C:\Windows, which stores information about the programs you use (don't worry, it will be recreated). Failing that try running Defrag from Windows Safe Mode (Press F8 at start-up).




Windows Millennium Edition has been a bit of a mixed blessing. Generally speaking it's worth having on a fast new PC where it mostly lives up to its reputation for being more stable than its predecessors and we're suitably impressed with new features, like System Restore and the new Media Player. On the other hand a lot of people upgrading to ME from 95 or 98 have suffered a fair number of problems, mostly concerned with software and hardware incompatibility. To be fair the number of complaints and tales of woe have been dropping off recently, which suggests problems are being slowly resolved. Nevertheless, our advice is not to bother upgrading to Windows ME, especially if your present PC is slower than 600MHz and give it a miss if you depend on software that's more than a year or two old, that's not verified as being ME compliant, and it's not very DOS friendly.




A PC that refuses to shutdown can drive you potty! You do everything by the book and close all running applications before clicking Shutdown, and it hangs! The only way out is to switch the PC off then when it restarts it runs Scandisk and Windows has the nerve to tell you off for not shutting down properly…


There are lots of reasons why Windows won't do as it's told and go away – Windows 98 SE in particular – and there's far too many to list here, however Microsoft has compiled a set of guides for troubleshooting shutdown problems and they can be found on the following web sites.


Windows 95:



Windows 98:



Windows 98 SE:



Windows ME:



Shutdown problems on Microsoft applications:





This year we've had a flurry of requests to sort out a problem that begins with a very specific error message during start up: ‘There are no spare stack pages. It may be necessary to increase the setting of 'MinSPs' in system.ini to prevent possible stack faults'… It often happens after a new item of software has been installed, though sometimes it appears for no apparent reason. It's all to do with 4-kilobyte chunks of memory, called Stack Pages that Windows allocates for emergencies, when loading files called device drivers. Normally Windows creates just 2 Stack Pages, and when they get used up the error message appears. The solution is simple, open Notepad then look for the System.ini file, which you will find in the Windows folder. (You may have to change the 'Files of Type' setting to 'All Files', in order to find it). When it is open scroll down the list to find the heading [386Enh], at the end of that section type in the following command 'MinSps=4' (without the quotes), click Save and restart the PC. If the message reappears you can increase the number of Stack Pages, but it must be in multiples of 4 (i.e. MinSPs=8, MinSPs=12 etc.).



This one just won't go away. A steady stream of readers still write in to complain that Windows Dial Up Connection stubbornly refuses to remember their password, no matter how many times they click the 'Remember Password' box. Over the years we have come up with various solutions, and the list keeps on growing. There's nowhere near enough room to list them all here, so if your dial up connection is suffering from amnesia have a look at the Microsoft Knowledgebase article, which covers all 9x, ME and 2000 versions of Windows.



Next week – Top Ten Traumas -- Part 2





Over time the files on a PC's hard disc drive become disorganized - 'defragging' the drive restores order and speeds up reading and writing data. To defrag your PC click on Start then Programs > Accessories >System Tools



Utility in Windows responsible for connecting a PC, via a modem, to the Internet



Windows utility that checks the integrity of data stored on a hard disc drive, identifies problems, and where possible, puts them right. (Click Start > Programs > Accessories >System Tools)



Here's a quick and simple little timesaver that will help you to make more efficient use of Windows Explorer. If you are looking for a file or folder in a large directory, rather than spend time scrolling through the list simply click into the Explorer window and type the first letter of the name of the file or folder and hey-presto, Explorer immediately whisks you down to the first file starting with that letter.

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