The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 091 12/07/08 


POST Traumatic Drop Syndrome

I have an eighteen-month old laptop, which I may have dropped once. Anyway sometimes when I turn it on, it goes beep - long beep – short beep and shows a black screen. If I turn off, cut the power and turn it back on it eventually comes back to life. It is getting worse and I now need to do this 15 or 18 times. I have tried the Repair and Start Normally options but the problem persists. Any advice would be appreciated.

Chris Hayes, by email


Apologies in advance for the acronyms but the beeps sound very much like POST (power on self test) error codes. POST is a series of checks carried out by the BIOS (Basic Input Output System), which is a diagnostic and configuration program that runs immediately after you press the PC’s On button. These tests are only concerned with your computer’s hardware at switch-on, before Windows loads, which is why the Repair options at Windows start-up are no help.


The meaning of the POST codes vary according to who made the computer and BIOS program and it could be something really simple and easy to fix; the fact that Windows eventually starts is quite encouraging. There are some common POST error codes for popular BIOS’s on Computerhope.com  (http://tinyurl.com/tc5y), though I couldn’t see yours mentioned so you really need to consult your PC or BIOS manufacturer’s customer support.



What is my PC Doing?

My PC spends an awful lot of its time chuntering away whether I am working on it or not. Is this normal? I have no idea what it might be doing and equally no idea how to stop it. 

Pat Hunt, by email 


An occasional flicker from the disk activity light is normal (except when downloading, saving or opening files etc.,) but if it’s winking away all of the time then something may be wrong. One possibility is a malware or Spambot infection and your PC is busy uploading data from your PC or sending out spam messages. However, if you have a regularly updated antivirus program and a firewall and your security measures are up to date this is fairly unlikely. See what happens when you unplug your modem or Internet connection. If it stops then further investigation is needed.


Insufficient system memory or RAM is another common cause of constant disk activity. Basically your computer is struggling to handle all the data generated by your programs and is having to shuffle it back and forth between the hard disc drive and RAM. If your PC has less than 1Gb of RAM then upgrading to 2Gb (or 4Gb in the case of Vista) usually does the trick. 



Out With the Old

Please can you tell me how to archive my old E-mails, so that I can recall them if necessary to read again or forward etc.  My computer is getting slow now and I feel it must be due to the 800 odd e-mails I have stored in folders in Outlook Express. I am using Windows XP professional.

G .E. Gale, by email


Outlook Express can get a bit sluggish at round the 10,000 message mark but even then it has no impact on Windows performance so it seems that you have other issues, but more on that in a moment. To answer your original question, the simplest way to backup your emails is to copy the Message Store Folder to an external medium, such as a CD, DVD, pen drive or hard drive. E-mails in the Store Folder are encrypted but you can easily ‘Import’ messages back into Outlook Express and read or reply to them at any time. There is a simple to follow guide in Microsoft Knowledgebase article 270670 (just type ‘ms kb 270670’ in Google Search)


As far as the reduction in performance is concerned, try some of the steps outlined in Boot Camp articles 355 – 357 (XP Tuning Tips) which you will find in the Daily Telegraph Digital Life Archive (http://tinyurl.com/cczzr)



No Defense for Colorful Spelling

Why do I have to suffer American English (spelling etc), and not 'English' English in Windows Vista Mail? I think I have exhausted all methods of trying to sort this problem and of course have checked all the settings accordingly.

Rex Leyland, by mail


This has been a long-standing gripe for many Vista users on this side of the Pond and it doesn’t appear that Microsoft is going to do anything about it, any time soon. Unlike Outlook Express, which checks spelling using the dictionary in Word or Office, Windows Mail in Vista has its own dictionary, which uses American English, and as far as I am aware there is no way to change it.


There are a number of workarounds, though, and the simplest one is to retrain the spellchecker. Whenever it stumbles across an ‘English’ spelling, ‘colour’ for example, just press the Add button and it won’t trouble you again. Otherwise all you can do is switch to another email client. Windows Live Mail (free from Microsoft at: http://tinyurl.com/2k3jpk) has a UK dictionary option, as does Mozilla Thunderbird, (also free, from: http://tinyurl.com/3buruj), which is the companion email client for the excellent Firefox browser





© R. Maybury 2008 2306


Search PCTopTips 



Digital Life Index

Houston 2006

Houston 2007

Houston 2008


Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME








 Copyright 2006-2008 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.