BOOT CAMP 250 (05/11/02)
TOP TEN TAUMAS, part 2
This week we conclude our short series on the most common PC
problems, as suffered by Connected readers writing into our Faqs! Facts! Fax!
6. SHUTDOWN PROBLEMS
It’s hard enough sometimes to get Windows to start but when
it refuses to go away that can really be annoying… Usually the only solution is
to disconnect the power and the next time you boot up you have to sit through a
Scandisk session that scolds you for not shutting down properly. The bad news is
that there’s a zillion things that can stop your PC from shutting down but most
of them are well documented and there’s a useful set of ‘Troubleshooters’ on the
Microsoft web site, Windows 98 users should visit: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=KB;EN-US;Q202633&
Windows SE users go to:
those struggling with Windows ME should find a solution
and even Windows XP isn’t immune from the occasional ‘hang’,
7. INEXPLICABLE ERROR MESSAGES
In an ideal world, when a computer crashes or misbehaves a
simple message would appear on the screen, telling you what’s wrong and how to
mend it… Unfortunately, as every Windows PC user knows the vast majority of
error messages are complete gibberish, even experts who have been around
computers for years can find them hard going. The trouble is there’s so much
that can go wrong, and not just with Windows, but all of the programs and
peripherals connected to the average computer as well. It would require banks of
powerful computers and a huge database to diagnose and interpret the millions of
possible fault conditions.
Fortunately such a facility exists; it’s the Internet. No
matter what ails your PC someone, and probably lots of people, have been there
before, and there is an excellent chance the answer to your problem is out there
somewhere, if you know what to ask and where to look. The first step when
confronted with any mysterious error message is to get to a working Internet PC,
go to the Google web site and enter a few key words or phrases from the error
message into the search box. Nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with
several pages of ‘hits’ pointing you to a manufacturer’s web site or forum where
you should find help and support.
8. VIRUSES, WORMS & HOAXES
Many readers live in constant fear of attack from all of the
viruses and worms floating around the Internet. It’s true that lots of people
were caught out by worms like BugBear; it’s a wonder the whole system didn’t
collapse under the weight of all the extra email but it shouldn’t have happened!
At the very least make it a rule never to open an unexpected attachment, even if
it’s from someone that you know. The vast majority of email mass mailer worms
are spread by attachments and almost all of them exploit loopholes in Outlook
Express that were known about and fixed a couple of years ago. Updates and
patches are freely available from the Microsoft web site; you should make a
habit of visiting http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.asp
every few weeks for the latest information. Anti-virus software can be set to
automatically download virus signature files every week and if you’re really
worried you can cut the risk of infection to almost zero by switching to
alternative email client and Internet browser software (see Boot Camps 245 &
245). Finally, beware of hoaxes! Never,
repeat never delete files on your PC without checking first, and certainly not
on the say so of an email message, even if its from a friend or colleague. To
check what the file does simply type the name of into Google.
9. INTERNET CONNECTION SPEEDS
No you are not imagining it, your Internet connection speed
is slowing down. It can be caused by all manner of things including anti-virus,
firewall and pop-up stopper programs. Your whole system might be slowing down
under the weight superfluous programs running in the background or it could be
that your ISP’s server computers are suffering an overload at certain times of
the day. But whatever the reason it’s helpful to be able to test your PC’s
connection speed every so often, to establish some benchmarks, and help you to
track down the cause of the slowdown, by removing or disabling programs,
changing your ISP or upgrading the modem. To get an accurate picture you need to
conduct speed tests on several sites and different times of the day, here’s a
small selection to try, and see also this week’s Top Tip.
10. INTERNET EXPLORER WINDOW RESIZING
This one drives a lot of people crazy. You click on a link on
an Internet page and a new browser window open but it doesn’t fill the screen,
so you click the maximise button or drag the borders of the page to fill the
screen, but for some perverse reason IE won’t remember the new setting and it
happens again the next time a browser window opens! It actually happens by
design but there are a number of fixes, unfortunately none of them, apart from
third-party software utilities, seem to be permanent but they’re all worth a
Drag the borders of the newly opened browser window to the
edges of the screen, do not use the Maximise button then go the File menu and
select Close (not the X button). Now press F5 or go to Refresh on the View menu
and then click the link once again and the new window, and subsequent windows
should all open maximised.
Drag the window to the maximum size then hold down the Ctrl
key and click the Close Window X to store the setting.
Double clicking the title bar at the top of the page is a
quick way to maximise a window.
Hold down Ctrl + Shift + Alt whilst using the mouse to
manually resize the browser window, then – still holding the keys down – click
the Close X button.
And if that doesn’t work, have a look at these two programs,
which claim to solve the problem once and for all.
Next week – MAKING YOUR OWN CDS AND DVDS
Program that monitors an Internet connection, preventing
unauthorised access to files on your PC whilst on-line
program or file intended to fix or work around a problem in a software
A distinctive section of code within a virus program that
scanner software uses to identify them
If you really want to know what’s happening on the web have a
look at: http://www.internettrafficreport.com/.
This site displays an almost live report – updated every 5 minutes -- of
Internet traffic and connection speeds around the world, along with lots of
graphs showing trends over the past 24 hours. A bit geeky perhaps, but well
worth a look, especially if your connection speeds are down, it may not be your
PC or ISP’s fault!