Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Microsoft Windows and topics that are common to all versions of Windows

26 Drives? Is there a way around the 26 drive limit in Windows?

26 drives appears to be the limit within Windows, with drive letters assigned A: to Z:. There are alternatives to 26 drives that are, effectively, limitless.

64-bit and 32-bit: Which Do You Want? Which Do You Have?

With Window Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8, the operating system is available in two different "flavors:" 32-bit and 64-bit. I'll look at why you'll want one over the other and how to tell which one you already have.

Are Limited User Accounts effective?

Limited User Accounts in Windows restrict the ability of malware to cause problems on your system. Unfortunately, it may also limit your ability as well.

Auto Start: How do I run a program automatically when Windows starts?

There are several ways to auto start a program under Windows. Unfortunately, only one of the auto start methods is easy.

Can I Control the Volume of Podcasts I Download?

Can I have too many drivers?

Can I install Windows XP over my wireless connection?

Can I keep my old Windows XP and ignore this Microsoft Deployment Toolkit notification?

If your Windows XP machine is running without problems, you can probably keep it for some time - just beware of notifications telling you to upgrade.

Can I make a desktop icon for a web page shortcut?

Adding shortcuts to your desktop for programs, documents or even specific web pages is very easy.

Can I move Windows from one hard drive to another?

While moving Windows from one hard drive to another is theoretically possible, it's likely to have issues and is not recommended.

Can I move an installed application to another drive?

Because of the files an installed application usually leaves behind, it's prohibitively difficult move it to another drive.

Can I move or delete my I386 directory to free up some space?

Can I password-protect a folder?

Keeping data on your computer secure is important. Being able to password protect a folder seems an obvious approach. Unfortunately it's not that simple.

Can I reassign my drive letters?

Drive letters, like C:, D: and so on are assigned by Windows to reference your hard disks. They are not cast in stone: drive letters can be changed.

Can I reinstall Windows XP SP1 over Windows XP SP2?

Can I revert from Windows XP and NTFS to Windows 98?

Reverting to Windows 98 from Windows XP and NTFS can be done, but it's a lot of work and not recommended.

Can I use my Webcam as a Motion Detector and Security Monitor?

You'll need some tools to get yourself started, but it is possible to use a webcam as a motion detector and security monitor.

Can NtUninstall folders be deleted?

Folders called $NtUninstall******$ can appear in your Windows directory. We'll look at what they are, and whether or not they can be safely deleted.

Can you copy a program file to another computer and run it?

Installing programs through their native installation steps often makes changes to your PC that allow them to run. There is, however, one type of file that may work.

Do "Fix All Your Windows Problems" utilities work?

'Fix All Your Windows Problems' is a claim made by many products and utilities, and it's best viewed with skepticism. We'll look at how to evaluate some of those claims.

Do I need to do something about the upcoming change to Daylight Savings Time?

The rules for Daylight Savings Time in the United States change in 2007. Most people need do nothing, but it's important to know if you're most people.

Does IIS Support URL Rewriting?

URL Rewriting is a powerful way for webmasters to control what a URL really represents. IIS requires an extension in order to support url rewriting.

Does Windows XP Home support booting from CD-ROM?

Does a file's name matter?

Renaming a file is easy, but is it the right thing to do? The answer is yes, but there are guidelines to keep the file easily usable.

How can I identify this blank taskbar item?

How can I rejoin two files into one?

Not only is it possible to rejoin two files into one, you already have the tool on your machine to do so.

How can I tell what's taking up so much disk space?

How do I Paste into a Windows XP Command Shell?

How do I automatically close a program so that its data can be backed up?

It's important to close a program before backing up so that its data files can be backed up. You can close a program automatically or on a schedule.

How do I change Windows sounds?

Changing the sounds that Windows plays on certain events is easy - once you know where to look.

How do I copy preinstalled software to another machine?

How do I delete a file in use?

Windows will prevent you from deleting a file that's in use by a running program. If you can't find or shut down the program a different approach is needed.

How do I disable the Windows Messenger service?

Windows Messenger service is almost never needed, and is exploited by spammers when it's running. Follow these steps to disable Windows Messenger service.

How do I download Process Explorer?

How do I find the Windows CD Key from the CD?

We'll look at where to find your Windows CD Key.

How do I fix "COM surrogate stopped working" when browsing pictures?

"COM surrogate stopped working" may mean that two pieces of Windows have stopped talking with each other. There are several repair options to try.

How do I get the File Save or File Open dialogs to show details by default?

File Save and File Open dialogs in many applications are similar to Windows Explorer. Changing the default look of File dialogs is more difficult.

How do I get the entire Programs menu to always display?

How do I install programs on an alternate drive?

There is no safe way to move program files to another drive without reinstalling; but it may be possible to free up some drive space in another way.

How do I keep my machine working after Windows XP support completely stops?

As support for Windows XP comes to an end, there are several alternatives, including: just keep using it!

How do I keep the "Connection Status" window from popping up?

There is an easy way to prevent the "Connection Status" window from popping up.

How do I login automatically with Windows XP Pro?

Automatic login most commonly happens when there's no password - but Remote Desktop requires that you have a password. TweakUI provides the solution.

How do I print just portions of an email or web page?

Printing a portion of document can be tricky. For email and web pages, printing a portion boils down to one of two approaches, depending on how close to the original you want things to look.

How do I recover my lost photos on my hard disk?

Recovering lost photos from a hard disk error, or a user error, can be tricky. Immediately stop using the disk and we'll look at the next steps.

How do I remove Windows XP SP2?

How do I report a bug in Windows?

If you find what appears to be a bug in Windows, or any product for that matter, reporting it can be surprisingly difficult. I'll look at why.

How do I schedule a program to run on my machine periodically?

How do I tell if I have 32 bit or 64?

Determining whether or not your process or operating system is 32 or 64 bit is very easy with the aid of a tiny tool, and knowing where to look.

How do I transfer my documents and programs from my old Windows XP machine to Windows XP Mode on my new machine?

Transferring data files is easy - just copy over the files that you know you need. But programs are an entirely different ball of wax.

How do I turn off the Windows firewall warning?

If the Windows firewall is not enabled, Windows will warn you. You can tell Windows that you know what you're doing and don't need the Windows firewall.

How long can I keep running my copy of Windows?

Windows has what's called a 'lifecycle' - a series of stages beginning with release. I'll review what happens as a version of Windows nears end-of-life.

How should I reinstall Windows?

There are different ways to reinstall Windows. Which is appropriate depends on the problem you're attempting to solve.

I have Windows 98 - how do I get Windows 98 Second Edition?

If you have Windows 98 the benefits of Windows 98 Second Edition can be found by visiting Windows Update.

I have no C: drive, but some programs insist on it. What can I do?

I have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Do I still need SP2?

I keep getting "A fatal exception OE has occurred at 0028:C02A0948 IN VXD VWIN32" - what can I do to fix it?

There are a variety of reasons why vwin32 errors might occur, but there are fixes to those said errors.

If I have nothing to hide, do I still need a Windows password?

A Windows login password can be a minor inconvenience that can be disabled. Unfortunately, not having a Windows password does increase risk, even if you think there's nothing of importance on your machine.

Is it OK to leave software I don't use on my machine?

Software often accumulates on your machine, and much of it remains unused. You can leave it alone, but there are things to check for.

Is it safe to post a picture of the product stickers when I auction a software package?

There are several stickers containing important information on product boxes. Some are generic and safe to display. Others are most definitely not.

Is there a way to shutdown my headless Windows XP Pro machine remotely?

Is there a way to suppress the dialog box when remotely rebooting a Windows XP machine?

Some methods for rebooting a computer remotely will cause a message to be displayed on that machine's console. That message can sometimes be disabled.

Is this Macromedia Flash potentially unsafe operation message legitimate?

If Macromedia Flash is crashing or faulting, the best and possibly the safest thing to do is to simply reinstall it.

My registry scanner reported hundreds of errors! How do I know which to fix?

Registry scanners often report hundreds, if not thousands of issues. Should you fix them, and if so, which? I recommend fixing none of them. Or all.

Scandisk runs a long time - how long should it take?

The size of your drive may affect how long scandisk takes to run, but an unusual amount of time may signal an additional problem.

Should I reinstall Windows from a fresh boot, or by running the installer from within Windows?

Should I use Windows File Compression?

Windows File Compression automatically compresses files so that they take up less space. In the best circumstance Windows File Compression can free up a lot of space - but frequently it's not as much as you might expect, and there is cost.

Should I wait for Windows Vista?

Shovelware: What do I do with all this extra software on my new machine?

Shovelware - lots of extra software you didn't ask for - appears on almost every new machine these days. I look at why shovelware exists, and what you might want to do about it.

So just what *is* the I386 directory anyway?

What Windows Services can I turn off?

What are "LSASS", "LSASS.EXE" and "Sasser" and how do I know if I'm infected? What do I do if I am?

LSASS is a Windows component shown in error messages, often due to a virus infection such as Sasser. Learn about LSASS, LSASS.EXE and how to stay safe.

What can I uncheck in MSCONFIG's Startup List?

MSConfig shows many of the items that are run automatically when you start your machine. What you need and what you don't depends on many factors.

What does "This file does not have a program associated with it" mean?

File associations tell Windows what program should operate on what file based on it's filename extension. Sometimes these get lost or confused.

What if I *want* Windows Picture and Fax Viewer?

Many people prefer alternatives to Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. Others prefer it. Here's how to reset it to be the default image viewer.

What is a valid Win32 Application?

Windows performs a series of checks when it runs a program to ensure that it is indeed a program. If the checks fail it's not a valid application.

What is the UserData directory in my Documents and Settings?

What processes in windows task manager should I be wary of?

What will happen when Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP?

As official support for Windows XP is phased out, what you can expect from Microsoft will change. Fortunately, it will phase out over a fairly long time.

What's "Invalid startup directory, please check your pif file"?

What's a 'Stack Overflow'?

What's a 16bit MS DOS Subsystem?

There are a couple things to check when a 16 bit MS DOS Subsystem error pops up on your machine.

What's a Batch File?

Batch files are often used to group commands, or make shortcuts to more complex commands. We'll touch on the basics of just what batch files are.

What's the difference between COMMAND.COM and CMD.EXE?

COMMAND.COM and CMD.EXE are versions of the command interpreter for MS-DOS and Windows. They're both available, but you only really need one.

What's the minimum set of processes needed to run Windows XP?

Windows XP is a complex and highly configurable operating system. The minimum set of processes it needs will vary depending on many things.

What's this "Validation Scan" all about?

What's this file that ends in ".dll" or ".exe"?

When given just a file name, it's often difficult to know exactly where it came from or what it does. I'll look at a few approaches to identifying .exe and .dll files.

What's this new 'Security Center' thing in XP service pack 2 all about?

Windows "Security Center" is an attempt to raise awareness about security issues while making it a bit easier to deal with.

When I try to run winn32 I get "winn32" is not recognized. Why?

When I use Start-Run and type in a command, why does a window just flash and disappear?

Start-Run, or the Run item on Windows Start menu is a way to run any program on your machine. Some will work as expected, but Start-Run of others just produces a quick flash. We'll look at why, and what to do instead.

Where can I find Unix Tools for Windows?

Unix and Linux include a number of very useful programs. Windows has some that are similar, but you can also find actual Unix tools for Windows.

Where did the Windows backup utility go?

If you have Windows XP Home, the Windows backup utility can be found in the install CD.

Where is 'C:\DOCUME~1'? I can't find it on my hard disk.

Error messages frequently include filenames of the form 'DOCUME~1' which seem nowhere to be found. They're actually there, just by another name.

Where is Task Manager?

Task Manager can be found or started in a couple different places in Windows.

Where is it alright for svchost.exe to be?

Svchost.exe is frequently spoofed by viruses attempting to hide. The official copy should be in your Windows\system32 folder, but there may be others.

Where'd this message box come from?

Why can't I find or delete 'bridge.inf'?

Why can't I open this file?

There are lots of reasons you might not be able to open a file. In this article we look at programs that refuse to open files marked "read-only", and what to do.

Why can't I undelete these files?

Deleting a file doesn't necessarily remove the data from disk. It then becomes a race to recover it before it's overwritten by something else.

Why didn't Microsoft fix this horrible bug?

Not all bugs will be fixed - or fixed quickly. Not all bugs are even actually bugs. I'll look at why some bugs might never get fixed.

Why didn't Vista fix my pet peeve?

Windows doesn't fix all bugs on each release. We'll look at some of the reasons Windows might not fix something you consider to be an important bug.

Why do some programs work when I'm logged in as one user but not another?

The most common reason that some programs will work when you are logged in as one user, but not another is a choice made when the program was setup.

Why do system cleanup utilities report many errors on a supposedly clean system?

System and registry cleaners often report wildly differing results. The reason? Sales tactics and no clear consensus of what it means to be clean.

Why does IE now require "http:" in the address bar?

Why does Windows Explorer take so long to display sometimes?

Windows Explorer can often take an unexpectedly long time to display its initial screen. There are several common causes of Windows Explorer's delay.

Why does my computer go nuts sometimes?

If you have speech recognition always enabled it can cause your computer to "go nuts" because of the different sounds it interprets as actual words.

Why does my screen resolution change when I run this program?

Why does svchost access the internet?

If automatic time update is turned on, then it may simply be svchost periodically attempting to access the internet.

Why does this error happen in one XP user account and not another?

Why don't installed programs show up for all users?

Why don't running programs show in my taskbar?

Why is 'Communications Port ... preventing the machine from entering standby'?

Because of an interaction with Quicken 2000, your machine may not be able to enter standby.

Why is my system low on resources?

Windows 9x can be Low on Resources if programs use too much of a certain type of memory Windows allocates for its internal management.

Why is only the left hand part of my page printed?

When printing some programs will automatically scale what you see to fit your printer's width. If not, you might only get a portion of what you expect.

Why is there a blank entry in my msconfig startup entries?

Why won't my files open even after they've been transferred to my new PC?

Transferring files from one PC to another is an important part of moving to a new PC. Unfortunately, it's not the only part.

Will Microsoft continue to support activating and patching Windows XP after they stop selling it?

Windows XP will soon no longer be available for purchase. We look at what that implies for Windows XP Support and Activation.

Will someone provide security updates for Windows XP after Microsoft stops supporting it?

Windows XP, at the time of this writing, has a large install base, but no one has stepped up to support this market as it is getting smaller. Should you keep using it?

Windows Installer runs on every reboot - why?

Windows Installer can get into a state where it attempts to run on every reboot. There's a free tool that can help clean up Windows Installer.

Windows XP Home or XP Pro?