Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston 058, 20/06/09


Overheating Laptop

My Acer laptop has been overheating for a while now and I can’t be sure if this is linked to the amount of work I am doing or the length of time it is on. I bought a tray with built-in cooling fans but this has made little or no difference. Do you think this is might be a fault?

Kevin Cook, by email


If, as it seems this is a new development then I doubt very much that your workload has anything to do with it, unless you have recently started using some heavyweight graphics or video editing applications. It's usually something a lot simpler, like the airways and cooling fan inside the machine becoming clogged with dust, hair, gunk and fluff that gets sucked into the machine.


The first thing I would do is get hold of an Air Duster. This is a can of compressed gas, available from all good stationers for around £6. All you have to do is give it a few good blasts into the ventilation slots on the underside and sides of the machine. I would do this outdoors as you it can be rather messy… This should help, but it may only bring a temporary respite as the fans in PCs and laptops do wear out and slow down over time, resulting in a loss of cooling efficiency. If the problem persists it may be time to get a new fan fitted but be warned, this can be quite expensive as they are normally buried deep within the machine's innards and even for an expert dismantling a laptop can be a tricky and time consuming business.



XP Annoyances

I have just had a new hard drive for my XP and I cannot find the answers to the following in my XP book, could you help please? 1. I wish to one click always. 2. I have always gone straight to the desktop but now the computer opens with my name and I have to double click that too. 3. I have always had two monitor screens on the base line to indicate when I am online but these no longer appear. I would be so grateful if you could solve these simple but time-wasting problems.

Fay Ives, by email


Three for the price of one eh? Well, here goes. I think I understand what you mean about single clicking and this option is in Windows Explorer. Go to Tools > Folder Options > General tab and under Check Items as Follows click 'Single-click to open an item'.


To disable the XP logon screen go to Run on the Start menu and type 'control userpasswords2' (without the quotes) and uncheck 'Users must enter a name and password...' then click OK. 


To show or hide the double monitor icon in the System Tray go to Start > Control Panel Network Connections, right-click Internet Connections, select Properties and on the General tab, tick the item ‘Show icon in notification area when connected’.



Taming the Taskbar

I prefer to have the Taskbar upright on the right hand side of the screen. My problem is that the order in which the sections appear is inconvenient but I cannot work out how to change them. I would like to put the currently open programs and documents at the bottom of the list, because this is the section most likely to have items added or removed, according to what I am working on at the time. Having it before copy of desktop means that a gap has to be left for extra items to appear, which makes the whole thing look untidy. How can I alter the order of the sections, as I would like them to be?

Andrew Miller, by email


Like you I like my Taskbar on the right side of the screen, it’s dead space on most applications and it adds an extra centimetre or so to the depth of documents and web pages. I find the easiest way to arrange the sections is to stretch the Taskbar so that it’s two or three centimetres wide, then you can see what you are doing. To do that simply move the mouse cursor over the border, click, hold and drag. (The Taskbar needs to be unlocked – right click on it first and make sure it’s unchecked). Above each section there’s a pair of faint dotted lines; move the mouse cursor over the lines above the section you want to move and it changes to a vertical double-headed arrow. Click and hold the left mouse button and drag the dotted lines to the top of the screen. One of two things will happen, the section you want will appear above the other sections, in which case it’s job done for that section and you can move on to the next one. Otherwise two sections will appear side by side. If that happens simply click and drag the dotted lines of the section you want to move, so that they’re underneath the section you want to be at the top. When everything is to your liking reduce the width of the Taskbar, right-click on it and select Lock the Taskbar.



Unrecognisable USB Drive

My USB memory sticks no longer work on my Dell laptop, but work fine on other PCs. The USB ports function for other devices, but all I get is an error message that says ‘the USB device is not recognized’, unknown device.

Bjorn Ramell, Eynsford, Kent


You didn’t say which version of Windows you are using but I’m guessing it’s XP as this is a fairly common problem. One of the commonest causes is a simple intermittent connection, this often happens on older machines, where the sockets have been well used and the contacts are mis-aligned, or dirty. If the drive is recognised when you gently move or apply pressure to the drive then that’s your problem. The socket may only need cleaning but there could be something more serious wring with it, in which case replacing the port may be the only solution. If you have more than one port then you could stop using the iffy one, or permanently connect an external hub and use that instead. Other possibilities include Windows Power Management, which can turn off the hub when it’s not being used or when the machine resumes from sleep, standby or hibernation modes; this Microsoft article should help: http://tinyurl.com/94j7sl. Sometimes shutting down the PC, including removing the power cable from the mains for a minute or two works (don’t ask me why…). As last resort, try re-installing the USB Root Hub drivers from Device Manager (Winkey + Break > Hardware > Device Manager). You will find them listed under Universal Serial Bus Controller. Right click each one in turn and select uninstall then reboot. However only try this if you have the drivers and utilities disc that came with your PC to hand, as you may be asked to insert it.




© R. Maybury 2009 1206

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