Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 028, 23/02/09 & Houston 119 07/03/09



Sounds Personal

Do you know of any method of selecting different warning tones for PCs? For example: the pathetic little tinkle just before my notebook’s battery dies would be much more effective, and noticeable, if I could replace it with a Klaxon. Also, why isn’t there an alarm clock facility built in to Vista, or for that matter XP?

Peter Vick, by email


You can easily change all of the Windows pings and dings by going to Start > Control Panel > Sounds. Select the Sounds tab, on the list select the 'event' that you want to modify and click the 'Sounds’ drop-down menu and take your pick from what’s on offer. Click the little 'Play' arrow to hear the chosen sound and when you’re happy with it click OK.


Sadly there’s no klaxon sound on the list but you can easily make your own, here’s how. Open Windows Sound Recorder (Start > Programs > Accessories; in XP it’s in the Entertainment folder); now find a freeware klaxon sound on the web (try the one at: Click the Record button on Sound Recorder, play the Klaxon Sound on the web page, stop the Recorder and using the slider bar and the Edit menu trim off the silence before and after the Klaxon sound. Finally save the edited clip as a *.wav file in the Media sub-folder in the main Windows folder. Your klaxon clip should now appear on the Sounds drop down menu. You can do this with any sound that you can hear through your PC speakers, a clip from a CD or DVD for example, or even a home made sound effect, using a microphone.


For reasons best known to Microsoft they've never included an alarm clock with Windows but both XP and Vista have a built in-utility called Task Scheduler and this can be programmed to make a sound, launch a program or carry out a set of instructions at preset times or dates. You will find it on the Start menu under All Programs > Accessories > System Tools. There are also countless freeware clocks and calendars on the web, so it's really not a problem. Try Alarm, there's a link to it on the PCTopTips website at:



Switching Hitch

I'm a cost-conscious pensioner and have just bought a domain name to facilitate easy future switching between broadband suppliers, without having to change email addresses each time. I was all ready to take up the new ISP’s January discount offer when my wife pointed out a problem. She runs a B&B and is concerned that she'll lose potential bookings because our existing email address is featured in the 2009 printed guides already in bookshops. Is it possible to arrange for future enquiries to that existing address to be re-routed to a new address once I switch? Otherwise, she'll insist I wait until October before switching.

Mike Sanders, North Yorkshire


You will have to wait, I’m afraid. Unlike mobile phone numbers, which you can take with you when you switch providers, an email address is tied to the ISP’s domain and there is no mechanism, or indeed any incentive for an ISP to let keep your address when you leave.



Frustrating Freeze

My desktop PC runs Windows XP and has an intermittent problem whereby the screen occasionally freezes both when in use and when standing idle. Sometimes it will be OK for a couple of days, other times it will happen several times in one day. There is no link between the problem and any particular application, nor was the problem triggered by installation of any new hardware or software. There is no shortage of memory and in all other respects the PC is running OK. A local PC repair shop has had a look and can’t see any problem. Any advice would be much appreciated as it is driving me mad!  

Alan Muggridge, by email


If the ‘freeze’ is temporary and the hard disc activity light is constantly on then it may be due to a program hogging resources and normal operation usually resumes after a short delay. There’s any number of possibilities but a shortage of RAM memory is a common cause (not free disc space). Check the processes tab in Task Manager (press Ctrl + Alt + Delete) and look at the numbers in the CPU column. Most of the processes should be at or around zero when the PC is idling, even with a couple of programs running, anything else is suspicious, with the exception of ‘System Idle Processes’ which should be high (it’s badly named, it actually means free resources).


If the freeze is permanent and can only be resolved by switching the PC off then you might find a clue in the System logs, which records Windows and program faults. Go to Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Event Viewer and look through the Application and System logs to see if there's any reported errors at the times when the freeze occurs. Right click the entry and select Properties and you’ll get an explanation, of sorts, and a link to Windows Help and Support. If it’s a common problem you may find a solution there.



How Did I Do That?

Some time ago, I managed to send an email to a friend in which I referred to a web site that she would be interested in.  I managed to somehow ‘pin’ the web address to the name of the site, so that when she clicked on it, she was connected straight way with that site. The trouble is I have forgotten how I managed to do it.

George Gilder, by email


Well done for doing it the first time round, and I bet you’ll kick yourself when I remind you. In Outlook Express and Windows Mail all you have to do is highlight the name of the website in the message window then go to the Insert menu. Select Hyperlink, in the box that appears type or paste the web address and click OK.





© R. Maybury 2009 0202


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