Enough of you have e-mailed me with your computing questions that it warrants a column. Here are the top six.
What is the "Blue Screen of Death?"
You boot as usual, but are then sucker-punched by this granddaddy of error messages. There’s a cryptic message on a blue background telling you something is wrong and that Windows has shut down. You don’t know what it is or how to fix it. There’s no "next" button and you can’t continue.
Short of banging your head on the monitor, you don’t know what to do.
Copy the error message. If you can reboot successfully, Google that message. Just copy the STOP code, with the number like 0x00000024. Sometimes it’s followed by a brief description as in, "STOP: 0x00000050 FILE_SYSTEM." Take this information and Google it. Use another computer if you have to.
There are lots of Web sites, including Microsoft’s, that will explain what the messages mean and how to fix them. Browse a few sites to see what they suggest and get to work.
An alternative is to see if you can access the system via Safe Mode by tapping F8, then do a rollback with System Restore. This won’t fix the problem, but will ignore it so you’re at least able access the computer.
How do I reset my modem, and why do I need to do it?
Whenever there is a signal loss from your ISP, you will probably have to do this. If they lost the Internet, so will you.
You can call tech support and wait for an hour, but this is all they’ll have you do. Unplug the power cords from the back of the modem and the router, if you have one. Wait about a minute. First, plug the modem back in. That’s the one with the cable or phone line connected to it.
Wait about a half minute until the lights stop flashing, then plug the router back in. Wait another half minute or so and refresh your browser (F5). If that fails, reboot your computer and you’re back online.
How do I change the desktop image?
In XP, right-click on a blank area of the desktop and choose Properties. Next, click on the Desktop tab. From there you could either choose one of the systems choices on the left or click the Browse button and navigate to one of your own. Be careful not to use a multi-megapixel image as it will use system resources unnecessarily.
In Vista, right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize. Among the choices there, you will find Desktop Background. Click that and you will be able to use one of their images or color schemes or choose one of your own.
Do I have to double-click each time I want to open something?
No you don’t. In XP, open up My Computer and find your way to Tools, then Folder Options. On the General tab, click the radio button that allows single-click and point to select. Click Apply and OK.
In Vista, open any folder and click on Organize, then Folder and Search Options. Under the heading entitled, "Click items as follows," change the preference from double to single-click with point to select. Click Apply then OK.
My printer is suddenly not responding and everything appears to be installed properly.
Try this. Open a command prompt (from Run, type cmd and hit Enter). Type, net stop spooler. Hit enter and wait for verification. Then type, net start spooler. Hit Enter and again wait for verification. You are simply clearing the print queue and restarting it. Now try to print something.
Here’s a quick tip for stretching the ink in your printer’s cartridge. Go to the settings area of the printer software and chose draft mode. Unless you’re printing a resume or handing something in to the boss, this lighter setting will really make a difference.
Alternatively, there is a program called Ink Saver (www.inksaver.com) that has a sliding scale allowing you to choose how much ink you want to save for each document. It’s not a freebie, but will pay for itself in no time.
How do I stop programs from loading with Windows?
The short version is to go to the startup tab. In XP, from Start->Run or in Vista from the search bar: type msconfig and go to the Startup tab. Uncheck all that you do not want to start when the computer boots. Hit Apply, OK and let it reboot.
Your system will now run faster.
Microsoft plans to release Windows 7 in about a year. Just as we finally figure out XP and Vista’s idiosyncrasies, we’ll be learning a new and hopefully better way to compute. After the latest OS debacle, the next Windows should be worthwhile. We can only hope.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.