General Tips and Tricks:

Run System restore from a command prompt in safe mode:


 Always use a "Surge Protector" for your computer. Some have a battery back-up unit to supply power to your pc for a few minutes during power outages. If you use this kind, ONLY plug your monitor and pc into it, or you won't get a few minutes of power, because it'll be trying to give power to everything that's plugged into it. The best kind of unit, also has a phone cord suppressor it in, that you connect your modem through it. The discharge from a lightning strike can hit your pc by either the power or modem cords. Using one of these will help protect your system. Otherwise, during severe weather, UNPLUG BOTH the power cord and your modem cable. We change allot of modems and motherboards on computers that have been shorted out by the electrical discharge of lightning coming through these cables. A few seconds disconnecting the cables, could save you hundreds of dollars later.
 If you're opening up your system to change a modem, soundcard, etc. wear an anti-static wrist strap! Or at least keep one arm or hand on the metal frame of the case to ground yourself as you replace parts or move the cables around. Radio Shack sells the straps for around $10. Cheap insurance to help prevent killing your system. If you're having trouble browsing the internet or sending & receiving emails, and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) says you need to remove your anti-virus program and or firewall, DON'T DO IT! Ask them if they use them at their business and they'll say yes. So why if they use them, should you take them out of your system?
 When youíre on line, open your email program and then minimize it using the "-" button in the top right corner which will bring it down to your tool bar and every 5 minutes itíll check for new messages. If you find that sometime you can't download your emails, or the same ones download every time, go to Log in and check your email and delete the ones you don't want by checking the boxes. One of them maybe too large for your ISP to send to you, or it's screwed up where it can't be sent to you. Those you don't check are still available to download.
 WARNING!!! If you have your email program set to automatically send receive emails when the program opens, some emails may come in BEFORE your anti-virus programs have a chance to scan them. This was recently found out through several lab tests using several brands of anti-virus programs. Check your settings (tools-options) and uncheck the auto feature or at least change the send receive time to 5 minutes. IT USED TO BE that you could only receive a virus thru an email attachment, but over the past few years, virus and Trojan horse programs can be "streamed digitally" when your browser opens web pages, viewing downloading videos with Windows Media Player, Real One Player, Apple's Quick Time Viewer Player, and especially through all of the instant chat programs. Also a "cookie file" can be downloaded onto your system to report back to anyone, including hackers. See our Ad-Aware write up on the Free Software links page. We recommend using the latest version of anti-virus software, such as Norton-Symantec Anti-Virus 2004, because they have improved them to scan all of your computers "ports" to block viruses, Trojan horse and worm type of programs. If you use Symantec's Internet Security 2004 program, it includes Anti-Virus, Parental Controls, Ad Blocking, Email spam filtering and Privacy Controls for around $50. (You must un-install your current anti-virus program before installing the new one). Use Ad-Aware to get rid of those cookie files that spy on you. Make sure you check Microsoft's Update page, download and install all of the "Critical and Recommended Updates" for your version of Windows. Also upgrade your browser to the latest version. Check-out Symantec-Norton's Internet Security web and test your system and see what a hacker can see on your system. If you're using Windows XP, don't bother using its built-it firewall, itís useless and it causes more problems than doing any good. If you are using Windows 98, Me, XP, you select which programs load up in your RAM (memory) when you start up windows. This eats up your "resources". From the Start-Run command, type in the word msconfig and select then run. On the start-up tab, UNCHECK only the programs that you don't need to start at boot up. (This does not delete the programs and only uncheck what youíre sure of). Then restarts your system. Check the box to not show the System Configuration box each time. Windows XP doesn't use resources like 98 & Me, but this helps also for faster start ups. Adding RAM to a computer helps it allot.
 Create "Restore Points" in Windows Me and XP. System Restore
is located in your systems tools folder. (Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools). You can create a restore point before you load a program just in case that program screws things up. Just give it a name such as "before xyz program name". Windows creates "check points" but these can not be used as restore points. Those with Windows 95, 98 or 2000, you can use Symantec-Roxio's "Go Back" program if you want to do the same thing. Gateway Computers uses it.
 Regularly clean the dust out of your system.
If you use a can of compressed air, ONLY use it when the computer is cold. You don't ever want to spray cold air on hot micro-chips. Also be careful not to blow off and plastic jumper caps. Make sure all fans are working and there's proper air flow through the system to help cool it. Don't blow air into your CD, CDRW, DVD drives. Instead buy a CD-DVD Lens Cleaner disc, about $10.00 at Wal-Mart, Kmart or Target etc. Have you ever, or when was the last time you cleaned your system, especially the CPU fan? Make sure the fan on the rear of your case is drawing hot air out of the case. If you have a fan in the front, it should draw air in the front and then out the rear fan. We recommend cleaning all of the fans and heat sink every six months.
 For those of you with high speed internet access
and you want to leave your systems on all the time, but don't want it connected to the internet, do this. If you show your connection icon by your clock, right click on it and choose "disable". When you want to go back on the net, right click on it and choose "enable".
 For those of us who are using a dial-up access, do you get knocked off line allot, especially right after connecting? It could be "Line Noise" on your phone line. In some cases your might need a "Modem String Value" to be entered, check with your ISP Tech support. Also call your phone company and ask them to check your computer line for noise. ***DON'T tell them itís your computer line, they might not check it. Instead tell them it's your fax line and your faxes are garbled up when you receive them. Also try this: Open your control panel and double click on the modem icon. Select your modem and check its properties. Set the PORT SPEED to 57600 (not 115200) and then click on the Advanced button, and then the Advanced Port Settings and set your receive buffers to low. This does not affect your modem speed.
 Some customers are asking us if there's a difference in one brand of modem or another and if the speed is faster or not. Well the answer is: Yes and No. First the No answer: FCC regulates modems to transmit and receive at a "standard" therefore, as long as the modems meet the FCC regulations and standards, they're all the same. Now for the Yes answer: A new modem "standard" is out. This is called "V-92" where the old one is "V-90". This new type of modem "seems to" process data in and out of your computer faster, however the "V-92" standard was designed to allow you to "Pause your internet connection" to answer the telephone, then hang-up and resume. For this to work, your ISP has to support the "V-92" technology. Most do not yet, but will in the next year or so.
 We get asked allot, "Should I, or can I leave my system on all the time?" Allot of companies do, so if you have the extra money to spend for electricity, go ahead it probably won't cost much. If you ask 100 people for their opinion, 50% would say yes, the others no. It's a personal choice. The computer is running on 12 volts like your car, it's the monitor that sucks up the power like a TV set. We do suggest a few things if you do leave them on. Set your power management setting (in the control panel) to power down the monitor after 1 hour. Don't turn off hard drives, use suspend or hibernation modes, they have usually cause more trouble than what they're worth. We recommend restarting your system at least once a day to "refresh" the memory, especially if you have less than 128 mb of ram. If youíre going to use your system several times through-out the day then we do suggest leaving it on instead of turning it on and off to heat-up and cool down several times a day. We don't recommend screen-savers but it's up to you. If you don't, it'll save on your system resources. In Windows 95-98-Me, you want to be as close to 100% free as possible, Windows NT, 2000 Pro and XP, share resources so it doesn't matter.
 Some people ask if they should "format their hard drive every year" If it doesn't have a problem NO!! Don't try to fix a problem that you don't have. That's a last resort option. Microsoft recommends it ONLY if you want to start over from scratch and ONLY if you have all of your software INCLUDING your motherboard drivers. Some people down load or install allot of shareware programs and after awhile the registry can get corrupted by entries that are still there even after the programs were uninstalled. Then maybe a format is in order. Microsoft does recommend clean install of a new operating system if youíre upgrading from say Windows 95-98 to XP, but they do make an upgrade version for those who don't want to format or those who don't know how to do it. Usually the upgrade versions causes allot more problems, than the clean install of a full version copy. The misunderstanding is that when you upgrade from Win 98 to XP, you no longer have 98. That's not the case. When you start having windows problems, you have to figure out if it's a 98 or XP program, or both. Maybe it's caused by XP trying to access some 98 files. Bottom line don't upgrade it unless you really need to, the best is a clean install.
 We're often asked "Is there anyway to speed up my modem connection?" The answer is, YES and NO. The fastest dial-up modem is 56K, (NOT 115,200) by FCC regulations, 54K is max. Some people still use "ISDN Modems" that are faster, but not too many ISP's support them. We suggest the shortest phone cable between the computer modem and the wall socket if possible, because the longer it is, the more "noise" it will pick up like an antenna, and don't use a phone line splitter if you don't have to. Also it depends on the distance between your phone box connection and the main phone line on your street, the type and condition of the cables etc. You can use a "Turbo Cache Program" such as ours. It's a double cache program that's faster and probably the best on the market. AOL & Net Zero's commericals in the shopping mall with two computers browsing is a FAKE!! Watch and see if ANYONE is making those computers change web pages OR are they simply RUNNING A PROGRAM for tv.
 Do you want to read what's displayed on your monitor during the boot-up process, but it's too fast to read it? Just press the "Pause Break" key on your keyboard. Re-press it again to continue the boot-up. It's a good thing to check it now and then. Do you see a listing for all of your hardware, your cd-dvd player, cdrw, etc? If not, something might have happened to either that unit, or the ribbon power cable thatís connected to the missing item.
 Some of you have emailed us asking, "Why does my modem automatically dial-up to the internet when I don't want it to" Well to be honest, there's a little computer geek inside your system that's trying to call home, or call out for a pizza. One option is to download the "Ad Aware" and "Spybot" or Microsoft's Defender Program program to delete the cookie files and trojan horse programs off your hard drive. You can find it on our free software links page. Another possibility might be a program like Real Player, Quick Books etc. Check the programs "Preferences or Properties" section and disable the auto-dial or Start Center features. If you leave your system on all the time, who knows what, where, or who your computers calling in the world. Also don't check the auto-dial box on the dial-up connection or on the connection tab in the internet options program inside your control panel. Note: The AVG Anti Virus Program can be set to auto dial up to get updates and then hang up.
 Speaking of the dial-up connection to the internet, if you want your kids to be able to use your computer but not the internet, then don't put a check in the "save password" box on the connector. If your kids don't know your password, they will not be able to connect to the net.
 MAKE BACK-UPS OF YOUR DATA OFTEN!!! Do you know when your system will be infected with a virus that won't allow it to boot-up, or when youíre hard drive will crash? Neither does anyone else. Make regular back-ups of your important files or folders, or "Image" a copy of your hard drive onto a DVD, cd-rw disc or even another hard drive. How important is your data to you or your business?
 Do you have your system inside of a computer desk so you can hide the tower? Make sure there is open space all around and on top of the computer. In fact, remove the back panel in that section so the computer can cool off. All computers generate heat, especially the new Pentium 4 and Athlon XP systems. Sometimes an alternate fan should be installed to help remove the heat from inside the case. If you have a fan on both ends of your case, make sure each fan draws air out through the fan NOT through the front fan, through the case and out the rear fan! This will bring in dust, hair, lint, etc to collect in the CPU fan which will over-heat and cause your CPU to burn out. It then could possibly burn out your motherboard also.
 If you're using a 12"-15" monitor and you need more screen area to view your work or web pages, there's several options. The first obvious choice is to buy a 17" or larger monitor. The other choices are, to change your display settings from the standard 800x600 to 1024x768. Although this might make your desktop icons smaller, it'll give you more display area to work with. You can increase the size of those icons. But remember those are only "short-cuts". In Windows XP, only the recycle bin is there by default. If you want the others, you have to turn them on or create the icons. After all if you using a beautiful wallpaper, why cover it with icons anyway? The other option is to adjust your Internet Browser for maximum viewing. If you're using version 5, 5.5 or 6, push the "F11" key to increase to size and then push F11 again to return it back to normal. Did you know you can move your "toolbars" and make more room? Most people don't know this trick, because they're "locked" by default. Open your IE browser and then select "View" then "Toolbars" on top. Only have standard buttons and address bar checked. Then remove the check next to "lock toolbars". This way, you can drag the address bar up to the top and place it next to the "help" button. On the second toolbar, remove any buttons you don't need. Most people use "bookmarks so remove the "links" button along with the "cut copy and paste" buttons, you can use your mouse for that easily. Click on the view and toolbars buttons again and then choose the "customize" button and then add remove buttons.
 The "Heart and Brains" of your system is called "The Registry". You should make a back-up copy of it in case you ever have to restore it due to corrupt data or a computer virus. In Windows Me and XP, they have a program called "System Restore". Save the back up copy in your "MY Documents" folder.
 1. From the START button, click on RUN and enter scanreg. After you're told that there's no errors, click YES to back up the registry then click ok.
 Now if you have to restore the registry, this is where most people miss it.
 2. Shut down the system but RESTART IN MS-DOS MODE. And click ok. At the C:\WINDOWS> prompt, type scanreg /restore (put a space between the g and /) and press ENTER. Select the date off the list and press ENTER again.
 If your Windows 95-98 system doesn't boot up, try booting up into "Safe Mode" using the F8 key, Control key, etc depending on what your computer manufacture's keyboard button is programmed to use. Check your manual. Some systems use F5, F10, and F1. If that doesn't work, you'll have to try to fix your Registry or at least Repair the system by putting in one you created above. (Write the date down somewhere safe of the one you created because Windows will create some also, but they maybe unusable which is causing this problem). Restart your system and at the MS-DOS Command Prompt, and enter scanreg /fix and press Enter. If that doesn't work, then repeat the process but use the scanreg /restore and press Enter. Pick the date you made. For Windows Me, boot up into safe Mode and then at the Start button click on Run and enter this command: scanregw /fix with a space between the w and / and then press enter. If that doesn't work, repeat the process with this command: scangw /restore with a space between the w and / and then press enter. Choose the one you created. Then reboot normally.
 Do you have, or have you made a "Start up Disk" lately? Floppy disks are notoriously known to be bad when you need them the most. However I still recommend have one made and then keep it in a safe cool place where nothing will sit on top of them. With some CD-RW programs, you can make a bootable cd start up disk. Use a new formatted floppy or format one yourself. For Windows 95-98-Me, go into the control panel and double click on the add remove programs icon. Click on the start up disk tab and then insert your floppy disk into the drive and then create it. After it's done, open the windows on the disk to make it "write protected" and put it somewhere safe and cool.
 Should you "Partition" your hard drive? That depends on your needs. Most companies use what's called "RAID" which uses 3-5 hard drives to insure operation and they make daily or at least weekly backups of the data. You can partition your hard drive to create a safe place to store your data. That way, if your "C" drive with windows had to be restored, the "D" drive (or whatever you name it) would not be involved. If you're starting with a new or formatted hard drive, you can partition it using the "fdisk" DOS Command. Otherwise you'll need some other program, such as Partition Magic (Version 7 or 8 for 2000 and XP). You would move your "My Documents" to be redirected to the "D" drive instead.
 Did you install any "Windows Updates" or upgrade your browser and now you can't view certain web site pages? The problem might be a corrupt "Hosts" files. Try this: open a folder such as "My Documents" and then click on the "Tools" tab then "Folder Options" and change it to "Show all hidden files and folders" Click apply and then ok. Then use the windows search program, Start-Search and enter "Hosts" and check your "C" drive if that's where your windows files and folders are located. RENAME each HOSTS file to "OLDHOSTS" by right clicking on the file icon and left click on rename. Then restart the system and windows will recreate those files again.
 We get allot of calls from "gamers" who ask how they can tweak their systems for playing games. Well depending on the speed of your system, the best thing is getting more RAM and a good video card. The prices run form $75 to $500 for a video card, so the choice is yours. Sometimes when you buy a high-end video card, it can have software conflicts with you games. Check out your game manufactureís web sites FAQ section and see what they recommend before you spend allot of money on a video card that might give you headaches! Also buy a PCGammer or Computer Gamming magazines and check out their suggestions and tests sections.
 Are your menu windows opening slowly? Right click your mouse on a blank spot on your desktop and then left click on "Properties". Then click on the "Effects" tab. Uncheck the box that says, "Animate windows menus and lists" (Windows 98). For Me and 2000 Pro, uncheck "Use transition effects for menus and tool tips". For XP, click on the "Appearance" then "Effects" tab and uncheck "Use the following transition effect for menus and tool tips."
 Have you cleaned your keyboard lately? Did you know that cigarette ash conducts current, and when it falls into your keyboard, it can short it out? Use a lightly damped rag to wipe off the keys when the system is turned off and use a can of air to blow out the dust, link and ash from under the keys. BE CAREFUL not to blast the keys with too much air or get too close to the keys, damage can and will occur the membrane under the key pad.
 Would you like to get to the "Windows Explorer" page without using Start-Programs-Accessories-Windows Explorer or creating a desktop icon? Simply open your "My Documents" folder and click on the "Folders" button on the toolbar.
 CD-R or CD-RW Drive isn't Recognized as Recordable. Even though you have a CD burner, sometimes when you try to save data to a CD-R or CD-RW disk, you may find that the option to send data to the CD-ROM drive is not available. That's because the drive was recognized as non-recordable. To fix this problem, you may need to edit the registry. Instructions for doing so are in KB article 316529 at:;en-us;316529
 Doing an Operating System Repair instead of Reformat
 Some licensing issues are involved. If you replace the motherboard with one that uses the same chipset, it will probably boot without having to format and reinstall. If you run a Repair from the XP installation disk instead of formatting and reinstalling clean, your devices will be reregistered with the existing CD key. For more info, see this KB article on how to replace the motherboard on a computer running Server 2003, XP, or Windows 2000:;en-us;824125
 Can't Install XP on Computers with i815 Chip Set
 If your motherboard uses the Intel i815 chip set and you have a USB keyboard and mouse attached to it when you try to install Windows XP, you may find that the computer hangs during setup, or finishes the setup process but stops responding during startup when you try to boot the operating system. This happens because of a BIOS setting that you need to change. For instructions, see KB article 282195 at:

How to reinstall Windows without reactivating

Need to format your hard drive and reinstall XP, and don't want to have to go through the product activation process again? You can save the activation status info and then restore it after you reinstall the operating system, as long as you haven't made any changes to the hardware. Here's how:
Before reformatting, in My Computer, double click the drive letter on which you installed XP, and navigate to WINDOWS\System32.
Click "Show the contents of this folder" if necessary.
Copy the following files to a floppy, USB drive, CD/DVD or network location: wpa.dbl and wpa.bak.
After reformatting and reinstalling XP, select NO when asked if you want to activate Windows now.
Restart in Safe Mode.
In My Computer, open the WINDOWS\System32 folder and rename the existing wpa.dbl and wpa.bak files (if you have them).
Now copy your old wpa.dbl and wpa.bak files to the System32 folder.
Restart and you should not be requested to activate again. This only works when you reinstall Windows on the same computer and the hardware remains the same.

Why can't I play my WMA file?

When I try to play a WMA file in Windows Media Player, I get a message that says "A security upgrade is required to play this file. Do you want to download this upgrade? What does this mean? Is this download safe? Should I click Yes?

This happens when you try to play copy protected content in Windows Media Player 10. If you click the "yes" button, you will probably get a message that says "This computer is not authorized to play this song. In order to play this song you must first purchase it. If you already own the song, sign in to listen to it." At that point, you're given two choices: buy the song for $.99 or click the "I already own this song button." If you click the latter, you may be asked to install the MSN Music Assistant and the digital rights management components on your XP computer may be upgraded by creating a unique identifier and sending it to the MSN server. To download the Assistant, you'll have to sign into MSN with a Passport or Windows Live ID.

If you get a message that you're unable to upgrade the DRM components, it may be because your LAN settings in Internet Explorer are configured to automatically detect a proxy server. To fix that, click Tools | Internet Options, click the Connections tab and then click the LAN Settings button. In the dialog box, uncheck the box labeled Automatically Detect Settings.

Do you receive an "NTLDR is missing" error message when you start your computer? Check out Microsoft's solution here.

Do you receive an "Out of Memory" error message appears when you have a large number of programs running? Check out Microsoft's solution here.

ActiveX control is downloaded twice

Sometimes you may find that when you visit a web site containing an Active X control with IE SP2, the control gets downloaded two times because of the way the Active X auto-blocking feature works. Find out how to prevent this from happening by reading KB article 922659 at:

Recover lost files

It's happened to the best of us. You accidentally delete the only copy of an important document you need for work. Or even worse, you have a fight with the girlfriend/boyfriend, get mad and systematically put all your digital photos of her/him in the trash - then want them back after you make up. Whatever the situation, it's no fun to lose data, but thanks to the way computer file systems work, deleting something doesn't always mean it's gone for good. Often you still get it back - if you have the right file recovery software. Our favorite is File Rescue Plus:

How do I get rid of Raze wallpaper hijacker?

QUESTION: My desktop background has been replaced by a red background with a black rectangle in the center. A message that flashes says " DANGER SPYWARE". There is a link that says RazeSpyware starting at $49.99. How do I get rid of this background??

ANSWER: Raze is one of those products that purports to be a legit anti-spyware tool but uses scummy tactics of its own, in this case by holding your desktop wallpaper hostage until you buy their program. It works like this: Raze infects your computer with a Trojan that adds an HTML page in your Windows directory as index.html and installs it as your wallpaper. The page contains messages saying your computer is infected and prompts you to download Raze to protect yourself. The program has NOT checked your computer and the messages that you're infected are fake.You can get rid of it by downloading CounterSpy, and run it during the 15-day full-function trial:

In case of emergency: get notified

This public service web site will send you a notification when there is a local, regional or national emergency, to your pager, cell phone or email address. You can select which types of emergencies you want notifications for (severe weather, homeland security, cyber threats, missing children/Amber alerts, even organ donations). You can have the notices sent to your email address, cell phone, pager or fax number. You can also block non-emergency content during specific hours (such as when you're sleeping or when you're at work). Check it out:

How to change the location of the print spool folder

XP uses the spool folder on your hard disk to store queued print jobs. Without it, you'd have to wait until printing was finished to use other programs on your system. The spool folder is located on the partition where your Windows system files are installed, but if this partition gets low on free space, you can move it to a different location. This can also speed up performance. Here's how:

First, be sure you're logged on with an administrative account.
Click Start | My Computer.
Select the drive where you want to store the spool folder.
Click Make a New Folder under File and Folder Tasks in the left pane.
Type a name for the folder.
Click Start | Printers and Faxes.
Click File | Server Properties, then click the Advanced tab.
In the Spool Folder field, enter the path to the new folder you created in step 4.
Click Apply.
After any documents currently printing have finished, click Yes.
Click OK.

How to Thwart Wireless Thieves

Think your neighbor is surfing on your dime, connecting to your wireless network without permission? Our recommendation would be to encrypt your transmissions, using WPA, to keep him out altogether. That way, you not only avoid the load on your bandwidth, but also the liability problems that could occur if he uses your network for hacking, launching attacks, downloading child porn or other illegal activities. But we have to admit that the solution used by the author of this web site is a lot more creative:

How to Use FolderShare to Transfer Big Files

Sometimes you need to send or receive files that are very large in size, even after they're zipped. Your ISP or the sender's/recipient's on the other end may not support file sizes that are over a certain limit (usually a couple of MB), and you might not want to set up an FTP server for security reasons. One solution is to use FolderShare, a file synchronization service that was recently acquired by Microsoft and is now in beta as part of the Windows Live family. You can download the software for both Windows and Mac OS X. Here's how to use it once it's installed:

If you haven't used FolderShare before, on the Welcome screen, click "I don't have a FolderShare account." On the New Account Information page, choose a nickname and password and type in your email address. You also have to check a box certifying that you're over 13 years of age.
The software will connect to the FolderShare server and create your account.
On the "choose a computer name" page, the default is your computer's name on the network. Accept the default and click Finish.

Now you'll see a flashing icon in the system tray. You can click a FolderShare library if you've been invited to share one, or click My FolderShare to go to the web site and set up a folder to share, sync your folders, share your folders with friends on the Internet, or access your files. FolderShare operates like a private P2P program. Those you invite can share items in the folder(s) you designate to share, but can't access anything else on your computer. You can find FolderShare here:

How to troubleshoot hardware and software driver problems in Windows XP. Click here:

How to Start and Run the XP Recovery Console

The Recovery Console is a tool built into Windows XP that will allow you to repair problems when your XP computer won't start. Here's how to start it:

Insert the Windows installation CD in your computer's CD-ROM drive.
Reboot the computer from the CD.
At the Welcome to Setup screen, press F10 or R for Repair.
On a dual boot system, you're prompted to enter the number of the Windows installation that you want to log onto.
Enter the administrator password when prompted.
You can use the Recovery Console commands to change file/folder attributes, run batch files, change the boot configuration, run chkdsk to repair disk problems, copy and delete files, disable and enable services, manage disk partitions, overwrite the boot sector, repair the Master Boot Record, format drives, and more. For a complete list of Recovery Console commands, see this Microsoft article:

How to change taskbar grouping behavior

You can configure the taskbar Properties in XP to group similar items together (for instance, all open Word documents) when the buttons start to get too small. By default, the items are group in the order they were opened (the one opened first is first in the group, etc.). You can change the grouping behavior by editing the registry. Here's how:

Open your favorite registry editor and navigate to this key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced
Create or open the DWORD entry called TaskbarGroupSize.
In the Value Data field, enter one of the following values, depending on how you want items to be grouped: 0 = group by age (this is the default); 1 = group by size, largest first; 2 = group any group of two or more; 3 = group any group of 3 or more.
Close the registry editor.
You have to log off and log back on before the change takes effect, and it only applies to the user account logged on when the change is made.

Add-on to save documents in PDF format

Unhappy that the "Save as PDF" option was taken out of Office 2007 (due to threats of a lawsuit by Adobe)? Microsoft is releasing an add-on to add that functionality back. You can read about it here:

Files that are automatically skipped by the backup program

If you use the backup program built into Windows XP, it's important to note that certain files are skipped by default during the backup and restore process. These include files that are locked by other applications, as well as other files depending on permissions, temporary nature and remote registry files. To find out more about this, see KB article 104169 at:

Description of Windows File Protection Feature

All editions of Windows XP include Windows File Protection (WFP), which prevents programs from overwriting critical system files, such as .DLL, .EXE and .SYS files that are installed as part of Windows. If you want to know how WFP works and how protected system files can be replaced, see KB article 222193 at:

How to remove invalid entries from Add/Remove Programs

If you use the Add/Remove Programs applet in Control to remove a program, but there are still references to the program in the Currently Installed Programs dialog box, you can edit the registry to remove these invalid entries. As always, be careful when using the registry editor as incorrect use can render your computer unbootable. For step by step instructions on how to perform this registry edit, see KB article 310750 at:

System Restore is suspended

If you try to start System Restore, you might get an error message that says "System Restore is suspended because there is not enough disk space available on the system drive." This can happen even when you do have plenty of available disk space on that drive. There are two workarounds for this problem; to find out how to fix it, see KB article 299904 at:

Access Denied error message

If you try to open a folder and receive a message that says " is not accessible. Access is denied," it may be because the folder was created prior to upgrading to Windows XP, on an NTFS partition. Upgrading to XP changed the security ID (SID) for your user account, so that it doesn't match the one on the folder. Luckily, if you can log on with an administrative account, you can take ownership of the folder so you can access it. For instructions on how to do so, see KB article 810881 at:

How to Find Out if your Processor is Overheating

Here's a handy little free utility that will read the sensors built into your motherboard and warn you if your processor is overheating. It works on all Windows operating systems from 9.x to XP (we haven't tried it on Vista yet):,7309-order,1-page,1-c,alldownloads/description.html

WGA validation check is wrong

I'm trying to download an update from the Windows Update site and when I go through the Windows Genuine Advantage process, I get a message that says "Windows Activation Required. Windows must be activated in order to determine if the Windows product key installed on this computer is genuine." If I try to follow the instructions for activating Windows at the command line, nothing happens.

One known reason that this sometimes happens is because the Wpa.dbl file has been set to read-only. Try this:
Click Start | Run.
In the Run box, type: attrib -r %windir%\sytem32\wpa.dbl
Click OK
Or navigate to the wpa.dbl file in the System32 folder in Windows Explorer, right click the file and select Properties. On the General tab, under Attributes, make sure the Read-only checkbox is unchecked.

If this doesn't work, check out KB article 916247, on how to use the WGA Diagnostics Tool to determine why the copy of Windows has not been validated:

Daylight Saving Time change: how will it affect your computer?

One aspect of a Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandated a big change in daylight saving time, which will be extended by four additional weeks starting in 2007. Well, 2007 is here and the change takes effect on March 11, when DST starts three weeks earlier than usual. Folks with older computers are wondering what problems, if any, the time change will cause. If your computer is relatively new and automatically updated, you probably don't have anything to worry about. Older operating systems may require you to manually update. Microsoft is making update tools available for Windows, Outlook, Exchange and mobile products.

For more info about Microsoft products affected by the change and what you should do to make the transition easier, including links to update utilities, see: All versions of Windows can be updated using the procedure in KB article 914387 at

You're prompted to activate XP every time you start your computer

This is an annoying one. Even though you've successfully installed and activated Windows XP, you get prompted to activate Windows again every time you reboot. This is because a script is interfering with Windows activation. For both a Guided Help resolution and the manual solution, see KB article 312295 at:

Virtual PC 2007: it's out and it's free

Microsoft has released the latest incarnation of its VM software for the desktop, Virtual PC 2007. It allows you to run other operating systems in a virtual machine on top of your host OS. So, for example, you could have Vista running in a window on your XP computer. It's a great way to get acquainted with a new OS without "really" installing it (but be aware that you do need a license for the OS in the VM). The best part about VPC 2007 is that it's free. You can read more about it and download it at:

Copyright © 2001 Jon A Martinez Computers LLC. All rights reserved.