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Computer Care: If your computer crashes, you may have to rebuild it
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As I turned my computer on recently, I was greeted by that omnipresent Microsoft logo. Half a minute later I was still staring at it. Nothing else happened and I realized that was all I was going to see.

I had a sinking feeling I was in for a long afternoon. My computer crashed. After a brief contemplative moment of why, I got to work.

If it should happen to you, you have options. You could call someone like me or attempt to fix it yourself.

With lots of problems, your computer may be infected with a virus or assorted spyware. You may not be able to navigate, move your mouse or close boxes down. In this case, it would be easier to reformat and reinstall than to try to solve all those problems independently.

First and foremost, be sure your system is backed up. Copy your data to CDs, a flash drive or external hard drive. Remember to get your photos, e-mails and anything else important off of your hard drive before it's too late. When you reinstall the operating system, everything will be lost. Everything.

Second, have a recovery disc that you either got from the PC manufacturer or one that you created. Some PCs come with a second partition that has a recovery setup on it. Either way will suffice.

Aside from a backup of your OS, you'll need all the device drivers on a CD. Without them you won't have sound or an Internet connection among other things. You'll also need the discs for the programs you installed, such as Office or Photoshop, as well as your anti-virus and spyware programs. Simply copying from the Program Files folder won't work in most cases. When an application is installed, it goes to various places on your hard drive.

To be sure you can boot to a disc, you'll need to access your Basic Input Output Setup. When your computer boots up, you'll see instructions flash on screen for a few seconds. It will say something like, "Press F12 for Setup." It may be the Delete or Escape button or another F key. Whichever, access the BIOS and find Boot Order.

Some PCs have a prompt for Boot Order, saving you the trip into Setup. Follow the instructions on how to place the CD drive first, not the hard drive. If you make changes, be sure you save them by pressing F10 before you exit.

If you have a rescue partition on your computer, usually your D drive, access it and initialize the recovery. If you have the discs, put the OS disc in the CD drive and reboot. You'll see, "Press any key to boot from CD." I've had folks ask which key that is. That would be the space bar. Tap it after the prompt and the CD will start spinning.

Once you're in, you'll have to answer a few questions. It will tell you that are about to lose all data. Say that you know. Then you'll have to choose where to install it. Choose your C drive and go to town. Aside from then having to choose a time zone (GMT-5 hours is Eastern Time) and naming your system, the rest is done automatically.

You will eventually need to reinstall your printer, so find that CD, too. Be advised to run the install disc before you connect the USB cable to the printer. Whatever else you have to put back on your system, reinstall your anti-virus program last. It gets in the way of other programs' installers.

Keep an eye on the install process. Most of us click Next and OK without much consideration. One of those pages most people disregard places the program you're installing in the startup group. That's the group that loads with Windows. All those icons on your task bar by the clock are the culprits. You don't need every program to run all the time. They run in the background whether you need them or not, sucking away precious system resources, slowing your system down. So just don't check that box giving them permission to do so.

If you need to run a program, click its icon on the desktop or from the start menu.

As long as you're taking the time to rebuild your system, treat it as you would anything else you might rebuild. Take your time. Make it cleaner and stronger -- better.

By the time you've completed the task, your computer will be trouble-free and run faster than it ever did before.

Arthur Glazer is freelance writer and computer technician whose column appears biweekly and on Readers are invited to submit their computer questions or problems to Arthur for future columns.

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