Ask Rick 2008



Ask Rick 006, 05/12/08


Recovery Position

Is there is anything I can do to retrieve my extremely precious photographs of my family and especially my grandson, on my broken hard drive? Is there anywhere that I could take them that’s not too expensive. I am on a fixed budget, but I’m willing to give up food for a week? My son-in- law is very good with computers, but even he has said that he's not sure what to do to get them back.

Margaret Dawson, by email


Without knowing the precise nature of the fault it’s difficult to say but a total drive failure is comparatively rare. If it is just a system fault – i.e. the drive still works but the boot files or Windows are corrupt then it may be possible to retrieve the images, and any other data on the drive by ‘slaving ‘it on another PC or fitting it into an USB external enclosure. These cost around £10 - £15 from online sellers, slightly more if it’s a SATA type drive. Once installed plug it into a USB port on another computer and it should show up as an external drive and you may be able to open and save or copy and paste the files it contains.


There are several data recovery programs on the market but I have never had much luck with any of them so I’m reluctant to make any recommendations. There’s also no guarantee that they won’t destroy data that may be recoverable by a specialist company.


This is the only option if the drive has suffered a serious electronic, mechanical or catastrophic file system failure. Most data recovery companies work on a no-data, no-fee basis and once they have inspected your drive they should be able to supply you with an estimate of how much it will cost, before they set to work. There are plenty of companies in this field but many of them are geared towards corporate clients seeking to recover valuable ‘mission critical’ data, so they can be very expensive, However several firms specialise in data recovery for home users and I would try DataSavers (



Remotely Useful

My mother who lives 100 miles away is trying hard to master the new skills of using her PC for emails, the web and Word documents.  Is there a way for me to link into her PC from my own machine so I can see what she is doing and help with some tuition? I know the IT departments in large companies can access PC's remotely but I am looking for a low cost solution. We are both using broadband.

Nigel Knowlman, Gloucestershire


We can do better than low cost, how does absolutely free sound? Windows XP and Vista both have a built-in facility called Remote Assistance, and it will do everything that you require, allowing you to remotely operate your mother’s PC from your computer. What’s more it also has a voice facility, so you can talk to your mother as you are showing her the ropes. It’s very secure, you can only assume control of the other PC after the remote user has given specific permission and exchanged passwords, moreover once the link has been broken it cannot be reinstated without going through a security check. Ideally both PCs will be running the same version of Windows, but XP to Vista and Vista to XP hook-ups are possible, though some functions may not work properly. There’s a simple to follow guide in Boot Camp 359, and although this concerns Windows XP the procedure in Vista is very similar.



AutoPlay Won’t Play

When I bought my Windows XP PC five years ago every time I plugged in the memory card from my camera I got a pop-up window giving me a list of options (View, Print, Open etc). A few years ago it stopped. Have I 'unset' something or is there another way of doing it?

Andrew Critcher, by email


This is what’s known as an ‘Autoplay’ function and to switch it back on all you need to do is open Windows Explorer, right click on the memory card’s drive icon, select Properties then the Autoplay tab and check the item ‘Prompt me each time to choose an action’ then click OK.



Blast from the Past

I get the following message each time I start up my XP PC: ‘Insufficient memory to run this application. Quit one or more Windows applications and then try again’ 


I do not know how to get rid of it. The only thing I can think of is that I inadvertently downloaded some clipart software that was starting up each time I opened Windows. I deleted this from the files – there was no program to uninstall – and next time I started Windows this message came up. How can I get rid of it?

Nick Pratt, by email


Nick thoughtfully included a screengrab and the clue was in the error message’s title bar, which says ‘Can’t run 16-bit Windows program’. As you probably know Windows XP is a 32-bit application, so the program that’s causing the problem is either rather old or running in DOS, and is set to launch with Windows. The timing suggests that it probably is something to do with the clipart software you downloaded but deleting it wouldn’t necessarily have removed the startup entry. There are two places to look. The first is the Startup folder (Start > Programs > Startup); if there’s a shortcut relating to clipart software simply delete it. The other place is the Windows Registry, which you can safely access by going to Run on the Start menu and type ‘msconfig’.  Select the Startup list and deselect any items relating to the deleted software. You will be asked to reboot the PC, do so and when Windows loads, on the message that appears tick the box next to  ‘Do not show this again’.






© R. Maybury 2008 1711


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