FAQ Questions

Home
Up

 

I am in a dilemma about my video card situation.  I have an AMD Athlon XP based computer. I am contemplating an ATI Radeon of some sort just because of the lower price or an nVidia GeForce ti4200 to replace my nVidia TNT m64 video card. My final option is an nVidia GeForce Ti4600 just to get away from having to upgrade the video card for a while.  I donít play video games very much so I am not worried about frame rates.  

Fast video cards are not solely about video games. The computer processor sometimes has to wait until the video card is through with its task, to move on to other tasks. If the video card becomes a bottleneck, it will slow all of your components regardless of what kind of program you are running. Intense video usage by a program is not just limited to video games either. Some CAD programs are harder to run than many games. You want your system to perform better, but you havenít done the thing that will improve your performance the most and with the biggest bang for the buck, replace your video card. While the TNT line of nVidia video chips was a good one, it certainly can't keep up with the current line from almost any vendor today.

If you replace your card and video games are not you priority, get the best Radeon you can afford. All in Wonder models feature TV output plus video recording and playback. They usually donít compare in frame rates with nVidia cards, but they are more than adequate for game playing. The newest Radeon's are faster than GeForce 4 Ti4600's, and just as pricey. The nVidia GeForce FX cards are very fast, but are very noisy and overall run second to ATI's Radeon 9800 Pro. I own a Radeon 9500 Pro and am more than pleased with it. The knock on ATI has always been their drivers. The only problem I have had with their drivers has been when I have tried replacing another brand of video card with an ATI card once. I have not had any problems when I did a new Windows installation from scratch or did a proper uninstallation of any previous drivers, which is always recommended.  

I wouldn't recommend the nVidia GeForce 4 MX line of video cards as they lack pixel and vertex shader support. Even the nVidia GeForce 3 line had support for shaders. The GeForce 4 MX's do have the newer anti-aliasing engine. If the jaggies are your main concern, and you have GeForce 2 or earlier, then go ahead and get one, as long as it's really cheap. A better choice would be a GeForce 3 Ti200 or GeForce 3 Ti500 which are relatively inexpensive.

If you want a real kick ass 2D card that does 3D too, Matrox is light years ahead of the others. A lot of people think the Matrox cards have much better image quality. The Parhelia line of cards from Matrox feature three video display outputs supporting up to three monitors. With monitors with narrow edges that were all the same size, that could make for quite an immersive experience. The 3D performance of the card is only adequate, but adequate these days is awful good. I have owned two older Matrox video cards and was very pleased with them. Their 3D performance doesn't stack up real well against nVidia or ATI, but that is not Matrox's goal currently.

AF 09/14/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list

Sometimes when I use my optical disc drive, I get a message from Windows that says I need to insert a disc when there is already one in the drive or that the disc is not readable. Other times the drive icon disappears from My Computer and Windows Explorer. What is wrong?

There are several things that can be wrong with your CD/DVD ROM reader to make its operation intermittent. The first thing I would check would be the cabling. The IDE (or other style disk controller) wiring could be suspect. I have had problems with both ribbon and rounded style cables. Make sure that the cable is plugged in all the way and oriented so that the striped wire is closest to the power connector on IDE drives, or pin 1. If the drive works some of the time, then the master/slave/cable select (or drive number) setting is probably OK. Try replacing the IDE cable with a known good cable. If it is a new drive, make sure that the master/slave/cable select is set correctly. If you use master/slave settings, you should have one master and one slave, if you have two devices on that IDE cable. If you have cable select chosen on one device, both devices should be cable select.

Check the power cable. Make sure that it is all the way in and fairly tight to remove and insert. If you have fans or other peripherals that have a pass through power wire that connects to another optical drive through the power cable, remove them and reconnect the power cable to the drive by itself. I try to use the extra power cables in the case to run any accessories like fans that have a power connections, so that any loose connection on them does not affect the drives. If it is a fan, you can see that it is not turning and you can fix it easily. It isn't quite as simple with a disc drive.

The drive optics could be dirty. I do not recommend using a CD/DVD cleaning disc for any optical drive. A photo optics brush or even a blast of compressed air can dislodge any dirt on the drive optics. Be careful.

Optical drives have a fairly high failure rate, especially older drives. The easiest way to check the drive is to try another optical drive in it's place. If it works, then it very well might be the drive itself causing the problem. If everything checks out and you still have troubles, you probably need to buy a new drive. 

AF 09/14/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list

I recently noticed that when I used the scroll wheel on my mouse, it was slow and jerky and my processor usage went up to 100 percent. You told me to update my video drivers and I thought, ďahh, that canít be itĒ.  I decided to re-format my hard drive because it was time anyway. I installed everything one at a time until the problem showed up again, which of course it did after I installed an older video driver!  I ended up downloading the very latest driver for my video card and when I installed it, everything worked fine. What caused this to happen?

Sometimes the cause of hardware issues in computers do not seem to be directly related to the problems that you might be experiencing. The root cause of problems like you had are shared internal memory and hardware addresses. It's basically like two people are trying to talk on the phone to two different people at the same time with their hands over their ears. They know they are talking, but they don't know that no one else can hear them or that everyone else is talking too. Video drivers have been historically notorious at causing or being involved in that sort of problem. I must say that most newer video drivers are much more resistant to this kind of thing than in the past, but never say never. I use a Logitech USB First Mouse and have never had any problems with nVidia video drivers.

AF 09/14/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I downloaded a file from the internet that was a whole concert in one large MP3 file. I want to break it up so that I can access the songs individually on a CD. How can I do that?

There are lots of music editing programs available that will do the job, one way or another. I use Sound Forge by , and it does it without much trouble. The full version of Sound Forge runs about $300. There are many plug-ins available to add things like noise reduction and amp modeling. The stripped down version, usually called Sound Forge XP runs about $75 to $100 retail. I have also seen it included with CD burners and sound cards. It should be capable of breaking up long files as well. Cakewalk Pyro is a music CD product that can split long audio files into separate files (songs) and burn them on a CD. It is bound to be simpler than using Sound Forge, but won't allow quite as much control. 

Sound Forge and other editors will allow you to edit wave files and newer versions will load mp3's and other formats directly for editing. If the program will not load MP3's directly, you can use a ripping program like Audiograbber to convert between music formats. Sound Forge can add effects, re-EQ, etc. and break up long files into multiple selections so the individual tracks are accessible on a CD. 

Sound Forge 5 does it this way:
Once you load your file and see your sound data, you can make a marker by pressing M or by right clicking the time scale at the top of the window and selecting ADD MARKER/REGION. If you press M, the marker will appear where the current selected location is. You can make as many markers as you want, move them where you want, name them what you want, or take the defaults. Change the properties of the marker by right clicking on the marker. You could make a marker between songs on a live performance or at interesting points in the recording.

Under SPECIAL->REGIONS LIST, you'll find a command called MARKERS TO REGIONS that will allow the markers to be turned into regions. You can extract the regions to separate files. That should be under TOOLS->EXTRACT REGIONS. Save the wave files to a folder on your computer. Those wave files can be burned to a CD with any audio CD burner program, including Sound Forge. 

If your sound editing program does not support regions or something similar, you can do it by cutting and pasting. 

Select the first song in the file by finding the end of the song and dragging the selection from the end of the song to the start. That way you won't miss any of the beginning. Be sure to select both left and right audio channels. Use the cut command in the program. Using the Windows standard CTRL+X keyboard shortcut usually works. In most programs, you can click on a NEW icon on the toolbar, or select FILE->NEW at the top of the program toolbar. Create a new file in whatever format you need. You can then paste the sound data that you cut into the new file. The keyboard shortcut CTRL+V can be used to paste any song data that you have copied, usually. Repeat until all sound information has been cut and pasted into a new file by itself. Save the new files with sequential names like song01, song02, etc. Burn the files to your blank CD in the order that you created them.

Make sure you set the delay between tracks to 0 seconds on your CD burning software or you'll get short silent gaps in between songs in live concerts. It is usually set to 2 seconds by default in most programs.

The HELP section of the program might explain it better. Sometimes books are available for individual programs. Sound Forge Power! by Scott Garrigus is the book I use for Sound Forge 5.0.  

AF 09/28/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I am having trouble with my Emcee MMDS/MDS television transmitter. I think the power amplifier drawer is bad. I want to operate the transmitter section by itself. I want to short the interlock cable connector to see  if it operates OK without the power amp. What  pins do I need to short  on the interlock to accomplish this? 

Short pins 1 to 2 and 4 to 5 on a female DB-9 connector. If you are running into an external diplex filter, attach the visual output of the transmitter/upconverter drawer directly to the diplex filter. Connect the female DB-9 connector into the interlock DB-9 port on the rear of the transmitter. Power the transmitter on and adjust the A/V delta on the transmitter, as close to -15dBm as possible.

If you do not use a diplex filter, you should make sure that the modulator has both aural and visual loops attached on the modulator, usually an SA 6340. Most times you will find the visual loop closed but the aural output might be open. The only output with any signal will be the RF output on the 6340 once both loops are closed. Connect the RF output to the visual side input of the transmitter drawer only. Make sure you turn the aural side power level all the way down. Then connect the antenna wave guide cable to the visual RF output connector. Connect the shorted connector to the interlock DB9. Power the transmitter on and adjust the A/V delta on the 6340.

Simple.

AF 09/28/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I want my home theater system to sound better in the low frequency range. I installed two sub-woofers on one sub-woofer amplifier. I have both wired out of phase with the other. The amplifier is connected to the sub-out jack on my surround receiver. It sounds like crap and only adds a little bass. What is wrong?

The reason it sounds the way it does is that wiring any speaker out of phase with other speakers in the system is always wrong unless the you are trying to eliminate sound for a specific reason, like feedback. If you re-wire both speakers in phase, plus to plus, minus to minus, you will find that the bass frequencies return. 

Bass frequencies are very non-directional to the human ear, so using both channels to produce the sub-woofer frequencies is not necessary. Some stereo amplifiers can be bridged by one speaker. Back before using sub-woofers was popular, wiring a full range speaker across both left and right positive terminals yielded what was referred to as the center channel. It consisted of the sum (L+R) of the the sounds of both channels. Some single voice coil sub-woofers work the same way as does the center channel in surround sound. There are dual voice coil sub-woofers that allow both left and right channels to be hooked up at the same time to a stereo amplifier. 

Speakers generally are available in three different impedance values, 4 ohm, 8 ohm, and sometimes 16 ohm. Attaching multiple sub-woofers wired in series increases the impedance of the speaker circuit resulting in lower volume levels (series 8 ohm + series 8 ohm = 16 ohm). Wiring sub-woofers in parallel allows higher volume levels, but will lower effective speaker impedance (parallel 8 ohm + parallel 8 ohm = 4 ohm). 

Using combinations of series and parallel can achieve specific impedance levels with multiple speakers. The combined circuits will interact to produce the desired impedance. 

Be careful when attaching multiple speakers to any amplifier. Too much impedance can dramatically affect volume levels and might lead to audio distortion. Low impedance produces higher volume levels and might also cause distortion. Some audio amplifiers can run at low impedances. Some just melt.

 AF 09/29/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I have the Klez virus on my computer. My friends and co-workers are receiving multiple copies of the virus per week from me or from my Internet Service Provider's domain. I am afraid my Internet service provider will shut me off soon if I don't get rid of it. I am running Norton and McAfee anti-virus programs and neither help. What can I do and how can I keep from getting it again? 

The Klez virus is a well crafted virus, if there ever was one. It contains its own e-mail program. The virus copies your e-mail address book and sends copies of itself to anyone on your list. It takes random phrases and familiar messages from files and e-mails on your hard drive, and uses them in the titles of its e-mails to your friends and co-workers disguised as messages from other people on your mailing list.  It does that so that it does not identify its true source. It sends e-mails that contain those familiar messages that might have a higher likelihood of being opened. There are some pre-configure messages also that might ask you to play a new game it has created. There is one message that pretends that the virus it carries is a removal tool for itself. It works, because Klez is everywhere.

Running both the Norton and McAfee programs at the same time probably doesn't hurt anything, but also doesn't provide any more support for virus detection than running one. It also could create a conflict between the programs so that if a virus slips through, neither would catch it. I have never known that to happen, but why risk it? The Klez virus can also disable existing anti-virus programs. So it is likely neither program is operating anyway.

Like most other Macro and Trojan Horse virus', if you get the virus, installing a copy of the latest anti-virus software will NOT help until the Klez virus is removed. Removal procedures are fairly simple. After you have a working and up-to-date anti-virus program, it will be more difficult for the virus to get in.

In most cases, just previewing the e-mail message will not allow the virus in. Opening the attachment to the e-mail is usually the source of the infection. There are new virus' that are capable of spreading just by viewing or pre-viewing the e-mail, but to my knowledge, Klez is not one of them. Resist the urge to open attachments from anyone unless you are running current virus definitions. Do not open any attachment from someone you don't know, especially if you are unsure of the content of the message or the attachment.

I prefer Norton Anti-Virus. I have worked with McAfee Anti-Virus and do not question its abilities. I have seen several magazine articles comparing the McAfee and Norton Anti-Virus programs. Norton is always rated the better product. I wouldn't say the difference is all that much though. If you are more comfortable with the other anti-virus products, like McAfee and Dr. Solomon's, etc, you should check their website for removal instructions. I suspect they are similar to Norton's. The main reason I recommend Norton is the user interface is easier for me to operate. The other reason is I like the pretty yellow box, instead of the mean red one.

  1. Acquire the Klez removal tool, FixKlez.com, at Symantec's web site. Symantec makes Norton Anti-Virus. CLICK HERE to go to the Norton Klez removal site. The file is small enough to fit on a 3.5 inch floppy disk. Copy the file to the floppy disk. In most cases that is the media that you would want the file to be on when you use it. 

  2. Read all instructions concerning the use of the removal tool. Print them for reference later.

  3. Reboot your computer. In Windows, as the operating system just begins loading, press the F8 function key. You should be presented with a startup menu. One of the choices will be SAFE MODE. Select the corresponding number for it. Your computer will begin to load. SAFE MODE is a diagnostic tool that is designed to use only standard drivers. It limits Window's functionality, but that is what is needed sometimes. It is useful for removing bad drivers, bad installs, and some virus'. 

  4. Insert the floppy disk. Use MY COMPUTER or WINDOWS EXPLORER to access the disk drive that contains the FixKlez.com program, most often the A: drive.

  5. Open the FixKlez.com program. Follow the instructions on-screen to begin the virus cleaning. The operation should not take very long and will give you feedback as to whether the virus was found and how many files were deleted or changed.

  6. Restart your computer and allow it boot up normally.

  7. At this point you should not have the Klez virus anymore. Now you need to protect your computer from getting it again

  8. Un-install all previous anti-virus programs. They are probably disabled and might be damaged beyond repair.

  9. Install a current version of Norton Anti-Virus. I recommend the newest version, but anything since Norton Anti-Virus 2001 has e-mail filtering. I believe that that is the key to stopping Klez before it has had a chance to execute and spread.

  10. Update the virus definitions immediately after installation. New installs of Norton products offer automatic update, but any Norton Anti-Virus installation that runs on Windows can be updated by acquiring the latest definitions from the Norton download site. CLICK HERE to go to the Symantec download site. 

  11. Do a complete virus scan of your computer immediately, to make sure they are no other current virus  threats. Do a complete scan weekly and keep the auto-protect enabled. Keep your virus definitions up-to-date. Most virus' will be caught by the definitions, rather than those that are identified by the programs heuristics. You can continue to go to the Symantec download site to update your virus definitions. I recommend monthly updates, but more if there is an immediate threat. You should replace your anti-virus program when there is a compelling reason to do so. Norton releases a new version every year. I only buy the yearly update if the price is right. Otherwise I wait until there are some features or functions that I want or need.

The site to download Symantec program updates, virus definitions, and virus removal tools is http://www.symantec.com/downloads/ .

The KLEZ removal tool information and download site is http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/w32.klez.removal.tool.html

A good article on the Klez virus is, Are you the Klez monster?

AF 10/13/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I want to clear the contents of my Palm handheld computer and start all over again. How can I do that?

There are two ways to clear a Palm PDA's memory. If you have an older Palm, you can just remove the batteries and wait a few minutes. On a newer rechargeable Palm, if you can find a way to keep the Palm powered on, then you can run the batteries out. Usually leaving it sit outside the charger for a couple of days, will do it. If you are in a bigger hurry than that, you may also perform a hard reset on the Palm. 

This is how to perform a Hard Reset on a Palm handheld.

WARNING: There is a risk of data loss. Performing a hard reset will delete all programs and records stored on the Palm handheld. I strongly recommend you perform a HotSync operation, if possible, before performing a hard reset.

  1. Remove the stylus from the handheld.

  2. Remove the stylus pin by twisting the upper end of the stylus counter-clockwise. On older models, you can straighten a paper clip and use it instead.

  3. Press and hold down the power button.

  4. On the back of the handheld, use the stylus pin to press and release the reset button. Most times the reset button is recessed or in a tiny hole on the back of the Palm.

  5. Continue to hold down the power button until the Palm OS logo screen appears.

  6. Release the power button.

  7. At the Erase all data? screen,  select YES

  8. Follow the onscreen prompts to complete the Setup screens.

NOTES:

  • If the Erase all data? screen does not appear, the hard reset has not been successful and must be performed again.  

  • If the handheld is inoperable and will not reset, charge the handheld or replace the batteries and try again.

AF 10/15/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I have several computer and electronic parts that I would like to use but cannot find the manufacturer and part number to obtain any drivers or manuals for them. How can I find out who made my parts?

Electronic devices that might cause interference with radio's, TV's, and safety related devices are required to be registered with the FCC, who are in charge of assuring that these devices meet RF emission standards. 

If after close inspection, you cannot determine the manufacturer of a device, the FCC is a good source on the internet that can provide enough information usually to begin your search for drivers or other resources.  If the device has an FCC ID  number stamped on it or on a sticker with a number, you can enter that number at an FCC web site and find who the original manufacturer is, or at least claims to be. Sometimes the device can be made under a sort of general FCC ID and will only contain an FCC compliance sticker or logo. If that's the case, you'll have to find the specifics using another method. Try Prayer.

Almost all electronic devices have an FCC ID number. If the device has one, go to the FCC web site of the Office of Engineering and Technology and input the number you found on your part and start the search. You will receive what information that the FCC has on the device and the manufacturer. Sometimes it can be a dead-end if the manufacturer is no longer in business. I have had some difficulties making sense of the numbers on some parts and it took me a few times to get a result. Keep trying if you don't get a hit in their database. If it has an FCC number, there should be some information available on it. 

You can search the internet with any information about the manufacturer or specific part number that you got from the FCC site. You might actually find what you are looking for. I would say my success rate of finding device drivers for computer parts this way is very good. 

The Federal Communications Commission Office of Engineering and Technology FCC ID web page is http://www.fcc.gov/oet/fccid/.

 

AF 10/25/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

If I install a driver or program that disables my system, System Restore in Windows XP will let me roll my system back to a time when it worked. Although I really like System Restore, I understand that System Restore uses 2 percent and the Recycle Bin uses 10 percent of my disk by default. That's a lot of wasted disk space on my 80 gigabyte hard drive. How can I reduce the amount of space these utilities use?  

System Restore (available in Windows ME and XP) and the Recycle Bin , set at their default values, can take up a lot of disk space on a large hard drive. On your 80 gigabyte hard drive, the amount of space allocated to each, would be by default:

  • System Restore    1.6 GB  !

  • Recycle Bin          8.0 GB !!

To reduce the amount of wasted hard drive, open up Control Panel -> System -> (Windows key + Pause/break) System Restore tab, and move the slider until you're a little more happy with System Restore's disk space usage. To turn down the Recycle Bin's disk usage, right click the Recycle Bin -> Properties, and move the slider from 10 percent to something a little lower. Make sure you leave enough room for your deleted files, but somewhat lower than the default size.

Personally, I want all the restore points I can get on my C: or system drive. I am not sure why I would need any restore points for any other drive. 

I leave my system drive set 2% and disable System Restore on all non-system drives.

I would think 1 GB for a Recycle Bin would be more than enough. That's what I have mine set at.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

The Windows key on my keyboard seems to be almost useless. Is there anything that can be done with that key?

There are a number of shortcuts that use the Windows key on newer PC keyboards. Here are some of the better ones:

  • Windows key + Pause/break: Opens System Properties 

  • Windows key + l: Locks your workstation 

  • Windows key + d: Minimizes all windows 

  • Windows key + e: Opens Windows Explorer 

  • Windows key + r: Opens the Run dialog 

  • Windows key + f: Opens the Search Window  

Pressing and releasing the Windows key at any time you are running Windows, is like pressing the Start button. That can be useful if your mouse becomes disabled. I sometimes find it more convenient to do it that way, rather than use the mouse. Using the arrow keys and the TAB key, you could navigate through the menus and start a program or shut down your computer if needed.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I understand Windows XP can optimize my installed programs according to which ones I use the most. How do I optimize my computer?

One of Windows XP's features is that it places commonly used files on the faster sections of your hard drive to minimize load times. The good news is Windows does this automatically, but it only does it every three days. If you want to manually start the operation, go to the Start Menu -> Run (Windows key + r), and type 

Rundll32.exe advapi32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks

You should see some hard drive activity as your apps are rearranged on your drives. You can also make this command into a shortcut and run it manually whenever needed. I am sure it would be possible to run it more regularly with a program scheduler.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I would like to sort my photos and music files so that I can find them more easily. Do you know any way that I can do that in Windows XP?

If you have a big folder full of images from your digital camera, or unsorted MP3s, the "Show in Groups" folder option might be useful to you. It allows you to group your files in the Explorer window into similar categories instead of just listing them in the order you specify in the "Arrange by" menu. If you want to use Show in Groups to organize shots you took with your digital camera, choose Arrange by Modified to sort your photos based on the day they were shot, then check "Show in groups" to group them by day. It's also convenient for music: Use Arrange by Artist with Show in Groups to group songs by the same artist together, or Arrange by Album to group songs from the same album.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

Every time a Windows XP program crashes, I get a message asking if I want to report the crashes specifics to Microsoft. Although I appreciate that Microsoft wants to fix these problems, I find the constant prompts annoying given the frequency of Windows lockups and crashes. How can I stop this prompt from occurring?

Windows Error Reporting is supposed to help Microsoft track down bugs inside Windows and applications, but when you're in a hurry to print something and an application keeps crashing and generating those annoying error report messages, you don't really care about helping Microsoft fix any bugs. You can turn off error reporting entirely by going to System Properties (Windows key + Pause/Break), clicking the Advanced tab, then clicking the Error Reporting button.

You can either disable error reporting entirely by selecting that option, enable it for programs only, operating system only, or you can select to the "Choose Programs" option and specifically choose the apps you want to include or exclude from the annoying error reporting process. That way, if you have an application that causes a lot of errors and you've already sent Microsoft several reports, you can disable the feature for that program and never see the prompts again.

There must be some benefit to allowing Win XP to send the error report to Microsoft; the company could see whether a patch is needed to make Win XP more compatible with some applications. On the other hand, if your programs do this often enough, having to answer the error-report prompt constantly gets annoying. 

My preference is Windows operating system only.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

Occasionally while I am typing, as I reach for the SHIFT key, I sometimes push in the CAPS LOCK key. This can very annoying. Is there a way to stop this from occurring or is there any way that I can be warned when it happens?

Writing in ALL CAPS is the written version of screaming at someone. If you accidentally press the CAPS LOCK key, you can avoid this unintentional faux pas by holding down the NUM LOCK key for five seconds to enable Toggle Lock. Toggle Lock is a handy built-in Windows feature that makes your PC beep whenever you toggle CAPS LOCK, NUM LOCK, or SCROLL LOCK on or off. 

Some bundled keyboard software utilities can also be made to alert the user when keys like CAPS LOCK are pressed. I use Logitech's iTouch software and it displays a warning on the monitor screen when CAPS LOCK, NUM LOCK, or SCROLL LOCK are pressed. 

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I use Microsoft Outlook for my mail, contacts, and task manager. I want to reformat my hard drive and reinstall all of the programs on my computer. I cannot find where my information is stored and am not sure how to restore it once I am done reloading Outlook. I also want to set up Outlook so that my data is stored on a second partition instead of my C: drive. How do I restore my Outlook data?

Microsoft has never been real open about the placement of the Outlook data file. For the important data that gets stored in this file, I would think that Microsoft would want to be more clear in its file locations and its later restoration in case of a computer failure. Maybe they don't want us to know how much space a bloated Outlook data file can take up. I've seen some 300 to 500 meg files. Try backing that up to floppies.

Usually depending on the operating system, the folder that contains your Outlook files is in your profile in ..\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. The personal Outlook file on your local drive would be in:
x:\
Documents and Settings\your profile\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
if you use Windows 2000 or XP. 
(x:\ is the drive that your profile is stored on; your profile is the account name that you use when you log onto Windows NT, 2000, or XP) 
In other versions of Windows it can vary, but you can search for the path \Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook or for the file type, PST. You can also right-click Outlook Today in the Outlook Shortcuts bar, then click Properties and click the Advanced tab. The filename field gives you the path to the PST file.

In most cases you might find that OUTLOOK.PST is the name of your Outlook data file. Other times you will discover that it is named MAILBOX.PST. Either way, the PST files are what are important when you reinstall Outlook. To find the PST files, do a search for them and go to the folder that contains them. 

You will usually find two PST files. Besides the above mentioned data files, you may also find a file called ARCHIVE.PST in the Outlook folder. It is important that you backup this file if your previous installation was set to use the ARCHIVE function in Outlook. If you don't, anything that was archived and removed from your original PST file, will be lost. Outlook will just start a new file if you don't restore the ARCHIVE.PST file. You might also see other PST files. In most cases you should back them up as well to restore their data later. It could be data from an Outlook plug-in that you might find you need.

After you reinstall Outlook, if the path to the PST files remains the same, all you need to do is copy the old PST files to the newly created Outlook folder, start Outlook, answer all the startup questions sufficiently to proceed to the application. When Outlook opens up, all of your Outlook data is restored except for shortcuts in the Outlook bar, which might or might not work if they appear at all. They are easy to replace.

If that doesn't work, close Outlook and copy the old PST files to the Outlook folder again. If the new file that was just created has the same file name, you will be asked if you want to replace it. Say yes to the prompt and when you open Outlook, all your data should be restored.

If your old PST file name is different than the newly created PST file, you can either delete or move the new file and rename the old file the same as the new one. An example would be renaming OUTLOOK.PST to MAILBOX.PST and copying it to x:\Documents and Settings\your profile\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook.  That should also make the restoration operate. You can also just delete the newly created PST file and restart Outlook. The program won't find your PST file, because you just deleted it, and will ask you where it is. You can then browse to the folder and select the PST file that contains your data. 

Outlook does not care where your data file is located or what name it has as long as it remains a PST file. If you want to locate the PST file in another folder, a different drive, or on another computer over a network, all you need to do is make sure you have sufficient space available on the drive and in the case of having the file on another computer, that the drive or folder is shared on the network and is available when needed. Microsoft frowns on the intentional relocation of any PST file on a network drive. I have never experienced a problem doing this. The difference in startup times is minimal and the benefit of having the PST file on a network drive with regular backup is very beneficial.

Reinstall Outlook and copy the PST file to your desired location. Start Outlook and answer all the startup questions sufficiently to proceed to the application. Close Outlook and then delete the newly created PST file in the x:\Documents and Settings\your profile\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder, or wherever the file was created. When you open up Outlook, the program won't find your PST file and will ask you where it is. You can then browse to the drive and folder to select the PST file that contains your data. When you restart Outlook, all of your data should be restored correctly except for shortcuts in the Outlook bar. 

If the ARCHIVE.PST file is to be located in the original path, just copy it to x:\Documents and Settings\your profile\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook or your original Outlook folder. If you want to move the ARCHIVE.PST file to another drive or folder, you will have to tell Outlook where you've put it or Outlook will put it's new file in the default location. To change or check the ARCHIVE.PST location, Open Outlook, go to Tools -> Options. Press the AutoArchive button. You can either browse to or enter the new path for your ARCHIVE.PST file in the default archive file: field. (Why is there no option like this for the Outlook PST?!)

You can also restore any other PST file by copying it to the original location or to the new location of the your PST file. If it is needed by some other application. You might get lucky and the file location will be where your personal PST file is always, and/or only require that it is where the data is located. Check the application's manual or publishers web site for specifics.

Simple, huh? Well that's Microsoft. What can you do? There should be an easier way. You can also import the PST using the Import/Export Wizard, but it doesn't allow you to change the location and certainly isn't any easier. 

As long as Outlook knows where to look for the file, except for some minor differences, your tasks, journals, notes, mail and contacts should be just as you left them.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I'd like to capture some images from a DVD running on my PC to use on a few of the pages of my personal web site. When I pause the movie, press the Print Screen button on my keyboard, minimize the DVD player, open up a program like Photoshop, and select Paste, all I get is a green box. Why does this happen? Is there any software available that will allow me to grab images from a DVD?

This happens because the Print Screen button captures the windowed image from your video RAM, which, as you have observed, doesn't contain any of the information coming from your DVD decoder. If your DVD decoder sent its signal through the video subsystem in route to your monitor, the full-motion video stream would hog all the bandwidth, leaving little room for anything else. So most hardware and software DVD decoders use a much more efficient method called video overlay that sends the video stream directly into the VGA signal, bypassing your videocard altogether. That's why you can have your color mode Set to 256 colors yet still get true-color images from your DVD player window. This process is accomplished using a technique called colorkey, which selectively replaces a specified pixel color (usually magenta or near-black, but in your case, green) with video content after it has passed through video RAM. So your software player fills its window with green pixels, which are then replaced with video from your decoder. 

In order to capture the video from your DVD, you need to disable hardware acceleration in the DVD player application you use (if the option is available), which will force the decoders to write to standard video memory. PowerDVD offers this option, which is very handy for taking a few shots while you watch your movie.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

Whenever I start my computer, I'm asked to choose from a menu for which operating system I would like to run. Both choices are Windows XP Pro, but one is from a failed installation that doesn't work. I would like to get rid of that menu choice, or just run the good one by default instead of always having to choose. How do get rid of the failed installation choice in the menu?  

Changing your boot options in Windows is easy. You can change the options by editing the boot.ini file on your c: drive with Notepad, or Control Panel -> System -> Advanced,  then press the Settings button in Startup and Recovery in Windows XP. Your first option will be to change the amount of time that XP displays the startup menu, but I recommend just editing the boot. ini file. Press the Edit button, then look under the [operating systems] section. The lines that start with multi(O)disk(O).., are the ones that control what shows up in the boot menu, and should be in the same order that they are when you are at the selection screen. Simply delete the one that doesn't work, and you should be be rid of your extra menu choice.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I have loaded a lot of programs on my Windows XP computer. Each one has added something to the startup it seems and now my computer starts up a lot slower than it did. I would like optimize and speed up my boot process. Is there an easy way to do that?

An application called Bootvis is available on the Microsoft web site at http://download.microsoft.com. The software analyzes your PC's boot process and checks for slow-starting drivers, apps, and even OS components. If all you want to do is make your PC boot faster, download Bootvis and run the program. Then go to Trace -> Optimize. If you want to see how much faster your PC is after Bootvis has done its job, go to Trace -> Next boot -> Driver Delays.

Bootvis will restart your system and monitor the way each driver and TSR program loads, then it will optimize their positions on your hard drive. This will allow your drive to feed your OS with information as quickly as possible, and should significantly shorten boot times.  

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I installed a game using my CD-ROM drive, but that drive is now failing. I want to run the game from my DVD-ROM drive, but the system tells me that I have to put the CD in the correct drive. What can I do? 

This problem is common to programs that require the installation CD whenever you play. The game can work with the CD only if it's in the drive from which you performed the installation from. Other than reinstalling the game from the DVD-ROM (which can cause you to lose your saved games and seasons), the best solution is to swap the drive letters for the two CD drives manually. In Windows XP, go into the Control Panel -> Performance and Maintenance -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management. Select Disk Management from the Computer Management pane on the left, then find the CD drives in the graphical view on the right. Right-click on each drive in turn and select Change Drive Letter and Paths, giving the DVD-ROM the letter originally held by the CD-ROM drive. You won't be able to change the DVD-ROM to the correct letter until you change the CD-ROM to some other letter first. You can always change it to something else afterwards. 

I use this option to always make my DVD-ROM drive M and my CD-RW drive N. It is very flexible. My M drive is actually the secondary IDE channel slave and N is the master.

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I don't seem to get nearly the battery life out of my Palm III that other people do. I don't use the device very often; I just leave it on its cradle at the office. How can I prolong battery life? 

Newer Palm PDA's, including the Sony Cliť can be left in their cradles; that's how they recharge. But when not doing a hot sync, a model that uses triple-A batteries like your Palm III should be taken out of its cradle. Seated in the cradle (or other docking devices like folding keyboards), the Palm III's serial port remains open so it can detect a hot sync or keyboard command. That means there is some battery drain even though your handheld is turned off.  

Other ways to save battery life are to tap on the Prefs application, and in the General selection, set Beam Receive to Off. Other≠wise, the Palm is constantly monitoring for infrared data. You can always turn it back on when you need infrared transfer. While you're on that page, you might also want to change your Auto-off setting from 2 minutes to 1 minute. That way, the computer will power down more quickly when you aren't using it.  

AF 11/26/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I have lost control of the mouse on my computer running Microsoft Windows NT4 Workstation. This happened after I hooked up my PS/2 mouse on the back after it had fallen out while running. I powered it off once to see if the mouse would work again, but that didn't help. , It just dances randomly all over the screen. I am afraid to shut it down again by powering it off and want to shut it down normally. How can I do that without mouse control?

To shut off you Windows NT computer without unplugging it:

Ctrl+Alt+Delete then Ctrl-S -> arrow down (to OK) -> Enter

The first thing to do once you have your system shut down, is to unplug the non-working mouse, plug in another one that you know works. Start up the computer and check the mouse behavior. If the mouse works correctly, it was the mouse. 

If the other mouse still does not work, your PS/2 interface is most likely ruined. You should never plug or un-plug a PS/2 device from your computer while it is on. In addition, if the PS/2 connection falls out accidentally while the computer is on, power down the computer anyway you can, and re-insert the plug with the power off, only. Hope for the best when you power the computer back on.

Although it is somewhat acceptable*** to plug and unplug RS-232C devices like a serial mouse or external serial telephone modem's, PS/2 hot plugging is never recommended. I have seen systems survive a PS/2 unplugging, but it could always turn out bad. Don't do it.

There used to be add-in PS/2 boards to add PS/2 features to older computers. If you can find one now you're lucky.  In most cases repairing the motherboard or adding a serial mouse are the only options to repairing your mouse problem. Adding a serial mouse should cost less than ten-dollars. Repairing your interface could be cost prohibitive.

If you are running an operating system that supports USB, a USB mouse could be used. Unfortunately, Windows NT4 does not support USB regardless of the service pack installed.

***I would say that even if you have serial peripherals, AT keyboards, or VGA video plugs, unplugging them with your system on is a bad idea, just from a static discharge sense. You could zap the port and ruin more that just the connection to your computer. 
If you unplug a USB device, make sure you stop the device in Safely Remove Hardware, usually located in the system tray, first. Even though it is supported, I wouldn't unplug a USB device while the computer is powered on. That's just my opinion.

AF 11/29/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I have a Sony DVR-104 DVD-R/RW. I have heard that the new 4x -R/RW media can cause problems with the drive itself. What does it do and what can I do about it?

The DVD Forum (http://www.dvdforum.org) has standardized a new "High Speed Write" DVD media format, which supports Max 4X record capable DVD-R media and Max 2X record capable DVD-RW media. By using this media with compatible drives, you can write disks in double or quad speed as compared to existing media.

Pioneer recently announced that earlier Pioneer branded and OEM products including the Sony DVR-103 and DVR-104 model DVD-RW drives, may not recognize the new "High Speed Write" DVD media format. There is also a possibility that the drive or media will be damaged if the computer is operated with the new media inserted. It is only blank high-speed write media that may cause damage to the drive or the media. Content already written on new media may be played back on the drives without risk of damage. There is no issue with the Pioneer DVD-RW drive as long as you do not use the new "High-speed Write" media.

According to the report provided by Pioneer, the issue will appear approximately one out of every three times a blank "High-speed write" media (DVD-RW disk) is inserted to the drive. There is also a possibility that the drive or media will be damaged if the drive fails to recognize the media and then is left running with the media still inserted. Damage potential depends on the circumstances, but reports have shown the drive and/or media being damaged within 2.5 hours.

Pioneer and Pioneer OEM's, including Sony, offer a firmware patch that enables use of the new high-speed media on the affected DVD-RW drives. However, the updated firmware only allows "High-speed Write" media to write in single speed for both the DVD-R and DVD-RW media. Although the Pioneer DVD-RW drive is not compatible with "High-speed Write" media in high speed mode, with the updated firmware, the drive will be able to detect the new media. Once the drive can detect the new media, there is no longer the possibility of it causing damage to the drive or the media. Once installed, unfortunately the updated firmware will only allow "High-speed Write" media to write in single speed for both DVD-R and DVD-RW media.

Pioneer and OEM's probably will replace the drive if it is determined by them to be damaged due to this high-speed media issue. It will be necessary to contact the supplier that the drive was purchased from to have the drive replaced or repaired.

If you are having not having any problems now using single speed media, all you really need to do is update the firmware to be protected against potential damage. Avoiding "High-speed Write" DVD media can also be effective, but most single speed media will be harder to get as time goes on. Updating the firmware is the only way to be assured that the drive will be usable in the future.

Although this is a serious problem, it has been described as only damaging the drive after extended periods of failed DVD access attempts using the blank "High-speed Write" media. Removing the blank media immediately should avoid any damage if the drive does not recognize it. Most drives would eject the media normally using the eject button, but there should be a manual release that would allow removal as well. 

AF 12/31/02

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

When I press START -> PROGRAMS in Windows 2000, I get only see part of my installed programs. If I hold the mouse pointer over or click the two down arrows, my installed programs appear. I consider this very annoying. How do I make all of my programs appear all of the time?

I never quite understood the reasoning behind this feature in Windows. It annoys me too. What you are dealing with is called "Personalized Menus". Luckily it can be disabled easily.

Right click anywhere on the task bar. Select Properties from the menu that appears. That will open a properties sheet that contains check boxes. The bottom check box says Use Personalized Menus. Uncheck that box. Click Apply then OK. When you check your program listing , all of your programs will be listed without having to wait for them.

AF 01/02/03

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

When I read tips about how to change entries in my Windows REGISTRY to improve performance or to fix problems using REGEDIT, I am told that I should back up my registry. Sometimes the advice almost sounds as if they don't want to be sued in case something goes wrong. Can I safely change my registry without backing it up or should I pay someone to do it? 

I am not one to to tell you that modifying your registry is bad. Just be careful. I never back it up or even give it a second thought to do so. I am always pretty sure of what I am going to do when I do it though. Don't randomly delete anything you don't recognize, but if you see the entry that you want and it should be eliminated, changed, or something added, just do it. I am almost sick of hearing the REGISTRY disclaimer. The Windows REGISTRY has been around for almost ten years now. If you are smart enough to understand the process, you should be able to handle the consequences. Just be sure that that is an accurate description of you.

AF 05/24/03

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I am running Windows 98 SE .Every time I install something new, Windows always asks for the Windows CD. This is not always convenient. Is there something I can do to make Windows stop asking for the disk?

All you need are the contents of the Win98 directory from your install CD. I recommend you copy the complete folder directly from the CD to your hard drive. You can put it on any drive, just remember to change the source path (see below) to reflect where you placed it. I recommend putting it on a non-removable drive. Mine is usually the C:\win98 folder when I do it.  Once you have the files that Windows is looking for on your hard drive, you need to make sure Windows knows where to find them. 

To change the location where Windows 98 or ME looks for the installation .cab files, open REGEDIT by start button -> Run. Type into the box REGEDIT, then press the OK button. Using REGEDIT, browse to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\ Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup

Change the SourcePath key to point to the directory to which you copied your .cab files to, usually:

 C:\WIN98

Use whatever folder name you created. I believe this trick works on most versions of Windows that have a registry. Windows 2000 and XP do not seem to need the disk much. But like the other versions of Windows NT, the files would be found on the CD in the x:\i386 folder.

AF 05/24/03

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

Does the USB cable make any difference regarding versions 1.1 and 2.0? Is there a special cable needed to get the added speed of 2.0, or will any USB cable do the job?

Although USB part manufacturers recommend that you use USB 2.0 certified cables, I have not had any problems using USB 1.0 cables with 2.0 devices. If you don't already own USB 2.0 cables, use the ones you have. 

AF 05/24/03

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I use Windows XP on my computer. When I insert a DVD or CD into my DVD/CD ROM drive, it will start different applications or begin playing music from the disk if it has any on it. Sometimes that is OK, but other times it is annoying. How can I stop my computer from starting the DVD or CD when I insert it?

AutoPlay, which is intended to make life easier by automatically playing audio CDs, opening up an image viewer when a Photo CD is dropped in, can be a convenient feature, unless you swap CDs in and out a lot. Here's how to customize it.

Open Explorer or My Computer -> right-click on your optical drive -> Properties -> Select the AutoPlay tab. Using the pull-down menu, select a content type, and then use the Select an action to perform radio button to indicate how you want Windows XP to handle that kind of disc. Repeat for the remaining five content types and for each optical drive in your PC.

AF 05/24/03

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

Recently, after I upgraded to a cable modem service from a dial-up account. I began to receive spam messages that just pop up on my computer screen. They look like real Windows messages and not like normal Internet Explorer pop-up ads, but they are ads just the same. How can I get rid of these annoying messages?

This spamming technique uses Windows' built-in Messenger service, which sends messages in a broadcast across a network. The way to block these messages is to disable the Messenger service. In Windows XP, you can do this through the Control Panel. Navigate to Administrative Tools -> Services. Double-click on Messenger and click on Stop. Then set the Startup Type to Manual or Disable. Click on OK and the pop-up spam will be blocked.  

Network administrators have used the Messenger service (not to be confused with the MSN Messenger instant-messaging clients) to broadcast notices to all network users, but these days they're much more likely to use e-mail. On most networks, the Messenger service is simply not needed, and it's certainly useless when your system is not connected to a network.

In Windows NT 4.0, 2000, and XP, the Messenger service receives messages from other computers on the network, typically transmitted using NET SEND at the command line. For example, the command NET SEND * testing 123 sends the message testing 123 to all users For more details on using this command, enter NET HELP SEND at any command prompt.

The type of spam described here uses the same service, causing it to pop up un≠wanted commercial messages. Windows 95, 98, and Me do not have this problem, as they receive such Net messages only when the WinPopup applet is running.  

If you're running Windows XP or 2000, the instructions above will turn Messenger off. With Windows NT 4.0, the Services applet is in the Control Panel. If you can't locate the Services applet, launch -> select Services in the index -> select enabling/disabling.

If you don't want to disable the Messenger service, you can prevent its misuse by configuring your firewall to block inbound UDP and NetBIOS.

AF 05/24/03

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I think modified cases are so cool. I want to buy a case with clear side panels and add neon lighting inside to show off my components and wiring. Can you tell me anything about how to go about it?

I have never "Modded" a case and probably never will. I believe in proper cooling, so some of the water (scary?) and air cooled designs for over-clocking are very nice. The reasons I am against clear side panels and neon lighting are based on technical issues. Both RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and EMI (Electromagnetic Induction) are possible by-products of having your computer case made out if anything but metal. If you live near radio, TV, or cell phone towers, you could be in danger of RFI possibly affecting your system. Neon light power supplies, if they are installed internally, give off small electromagnetic waves inside your case. If these waves are close enough to your hard drive, logically they could have some effect on the magnetically stored information on them. Other causes of EMI are electric lines, in and near your house and electrically powered appliances, like a vacuum cleaner.

Yes, you can buy or make a plastic or wood computer case and you will probably never have any problems, that you are aware of, but why risk it unless you're trying to impress your friends. I think it would be more impressive if you explain to them about RFI and EMI.

AF 05/24/03

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list
 

I recently began attending technical college. I would like to find a someone to help me learn and become more skilled at computers, electronics, and other technical issues. Would you become my mentor?

No.

AF 05/24/03

Back to FAQ categories
Back to FAQ list