BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2002

  

 

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! help column. 

 

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:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=KB;EN-US;Q238096&

those struggling with Windows ME should find a solution at:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=KB;EN-US;Q273746&

and even Windows XP isn’t immune from the occasional ‘hang’, see:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;Q307274

 

 

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.

http://bandwidthplace.com/speedtest/

http://promos.mcafee.com/speedometer/

http://www.numion.com/YourSpeed/Checkup.php?L=uk

http://www.testmyspeed.com/

 

 

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 try.

 

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.

http://www.southbaypc.com/AutoSizer/

http://www.jiisoft.com/iemaximizer/index.htm

 

Next week – MAKING YOUR OWN CDS AND DVDS

 

JARGON FILTER

 

FIREWALL

Program that monitors an Internet connection, preventing unauthorised access to files on your PC whilst on-line

 

PATCH

A program or file intended to fix or work around a problem in a software application

 

VIRUS SIGNATURE

A distinctive section of code within a virus program that scanner software uses to identify them 

 

 

TOP TIP

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!

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