Question of the Week Archive

Q: I bought a new Dell Computer and it went dead after I had it for only a couple of weeks. After going through two days of troubleshooting with the Dell technicians, they finally agreed to replace the tower (hard drive?). My question: they want me to send my old one back to them, which i don't mind but i have all my personal stuff on there, including credit card, bank account numbers...all my personal and banking stuff. Would I be safe in sending it back with everything still on it?

A: Do you have a choice is the real question. Under the warranty agreement you have to spend hours on the phone with Dell technicians, (many of whom are in India using American names), they decide when your computer is really toast. In the past they have sent out local service people under contract to Dell to repair a computer. In your case, I can only guess that the system was new enough to warrant total replacement.

As for credit card numbers, bank accounts, etc, remember that most credit card companies and banks have a policy that you're only out $50.00 (or less in some cases) if your the victim of identity theft. Check with you banks to confirm this.

As I see it you have a couple of options:
1) Send the computer back and not worry about the personal information.
2) Call Dell back (ask for a 2nd level technician) and ask what their policy is for protecting your personal information.
3) Ask that 2nd level technician if you can take out and keep the hard drive from your current computer (I think this one is a long shot).
4) Change the pass codes to all your accounts

It's possible, depending on the problem, the hard drive may be toast anyway, if that's the case you have nothing to worry about. You might also want to think about getting a 3 year warranty through may need it.

Q: I am currently using Norton Anti-virus and have an urge to try a different anti-virus program. I have 3 machines to protect, so the cost is a factor. Do you have a favorite one to recommend or do you think I should stay with Norton? Simple to use would be a big plus.

A:  I suggest AVG's Free Anti-virus software as a replacement for Norton and many other paid anti-virus programs. It works well and seams to do a good job (I am currently using it on my own laptop.)

Before downloading AVG, you need to go to the Windows Control Panel and to the Add/Remove manager to remove Norton (it may be listed as Symantec). Once removed be sure to reboot your system before downloading and installing AVG.

If for some reason AVG installs and does not update properly, remove it through the Add/Remove manager, then download it again and reinstall it. This has happened to me and downloading it again seams to do the trick.

Q: My CPU Usage is 100% all the time and I believe that this is a reason my computer runs very slow. We have a cable modem and the computer is only 2 years old (Dell 256). At work I notice that my CPU is only between 10-20%. What can I do to correct this, because even with the modem it takes a long time to access anything, like Office or even the internet?

A: Good question, how many applications do you have open at one time? It's possible your answer may be "a lot", or it's possible your memory is either damaged or insufficient.

Right click on "My Computer", click properties and see how much RAM is listed. The problem sounds like your computer doesn't have enough memory to support the programs being opened, so it's laboring to store the programs and data on the hard drive (virtual RAM) because it can't store it in RAM memory.

Q: I have asked this question many times. No one has ever explained to me why I can't view my DVD-RWs on my old 98SE computer. It is 6 yrs old computer. It will play my own DVD-R fine that I made on my newer computer with a burner. Is it because of the Win98SE or the age of the DVD/CDROM drive?

A: Good question here's the simple answer. The problem is not with your Windows 98 machine, it's actually the design of your DVD Player in the Windows 98 machine.

A DVD-RW and CD-RW are both written with a laser (the same as when burning a CD-R and DVD-R), but because the RWs are rewritable, the laser is actually running at less power during a RW burn. That lower power burn, which is actually creating little pit marks on a DVD or CD, can only be read by a DVD or CD unit that does RW writing. That's because the laser pits are not as deep in an RW to allow the continued erasing and re-writing of the RW.

Replace the DVD player in the Windows 98 machine with a DVD-RW (make sure you have Windows 98 drivers) and you'll be able to see the DVD-RWs.

Q: 1. How can I save the e-mails in my folders?  I can't find where they are listed to save that folder.  Is there any way to keep spam from your e-mail short of changing your email address?

2. I am killed by pop-ups that take over my computer.  I have Ad-aware SE Personal, Spy-bot, Yahoo's spyware toolbar and Norton's--none of these are keeping these pop-ups from coming up.  The 2 most annoying are the Slim-patch weight loss [it talks] and the computer repair ones that try to scare you into downloading their program on your hard drive--oh, a new one "Related Sites".

A: 1) I really need to know what e-mail program you're using; Outlook? Outlook Express,etc. That said generally I would suggest going to your file tab, selecting export and back up the folder (in the case of Outlook, you want to make a .PST backup.

2) There are a number of ways to limit spam, first and foremost, don't use your e-mail address to register for anything on the internet. You can use e-mail washers like I Hate Spam.

3) For popups, go to Google and download and install the toolbar.

4)Also make sure you are using a free program like Ad-AwareAd-Aware to get rid of spyware.

Q: I have heard it said that all information could be recovered even if you deleted it.

I upgraded my computer from AOL 7.0 to 9.0.  Because, my computer has limited space left for saving information, I deleted 7.0 before installing 9.0. There was no way, 7.0 could coexist with 9.0 because I kept getting a prompt I did not have enough memory to install 9.0.  I successfully installed 9.0.

I discovered once in 9.0, I did not have access to Email I had been storing for 3 years. I also did not have all my favorite websites I have been accumulating for 4 years. The only thing I did have was all the addresses in my address book.

I had been compiling E-mail correspondence that I will include in a book I am writing. Is the information hidden somewhere in my hard drive?

A: What ever you do as of right now don't add or delete anything or defrag the system. That may decrease your chances of recovery…which by the way are slim. But let's not give up hope yet. First of all you did not say what operating system you're using. If it's XP or ME you're in luck. You can restore the computer system to an earlier date (before you deleted AOL 7.0).

Now if you're running Windows 98, you can check out WinRecovery'>Win Recovery that should hopefully help.

Also something to look at is Norton System Works. It's possible that you could install Norton System Works (on a second hard drive that I would suggest you install as a slave drive to give you more room and at the same time keep from over writing what might be left of AOL 7.0) then use one of the features to search for the AOL files that were deleted.

Q: I'm thinking of using Firefox but I'm illiterate about these things. Once I download the browser, then what? I use Bellsouth DSL. Can I make this my homepage? What do I do with Microsoft Internet Explorer? Can I completely delete it from the computer?

A: Mozilla's FREE Firefox is a faster better browser when compared to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. It's much less susceptible to attacks and popup ads. It also allows tabbed browsing which will allow you to have multiple browser windows open at the same time.

To use it, go to the link and click on the free download button. You can download the Firefox program to the download section on your hard drive. After clicking on the Download link, click on Open and then click on the next button. It's that simple.

Firefox will also ask if you want your favorites imported (I suggest you do that). As for Microsoft Explorer, don't try to remove it because it can make your operating system unstable.

Q: I am 59 years old and a new computer user (WindowsXP). Currently I use Mozilla Foxfire, Lavasoft Ad-aware6 +Adwatch3+Command Anti-Virus. Too much stuff? Not the correct stuff? Or enough stuff? Any suggestions - I am a security freak and will check everyday for viruses, spam, scam, hackers and hi-jackers.

A: I'm a big fan of a high level of protection for your computer as long as the programs your using don't slow down the system as they compete for resources. For example a program like Norton System Works is a perfect example of too much, it can really slow down a system (glad you're not using it).

You can also make a strong case that Internet Explorer has seen better days; it's a target of security attacks and bloated to the point of being a slow load. On the other hand I'm glad to see you're using Firefox, it's a great alternative for an Internet Browser. Ad-aware is a great choice for removing spyware.

I'm afraid I'm not completely up to speed on Adwatch3, or Command Anti-Virus. If you paid money for them, use the programs until their license expires and then remove them and try one of the free programs linked to our WAVE 3 webpage.

Number one on that page (AVG) is a great antivirus. Ad-aware (number 6) may be all you need to remove spyware.

You don't mention if you're using high speed access or dial-up. If you use High Speed I'd suggest using the free version of Zone Alarm's Firewall (number 9). Read the tutorial on their website to get a sense of how it works. I'm also a fan of bi-weekly external virus scans. House call (number 2) and Panda (number 3) both do a great job of double checking that your anti-virus is working properly.

Overall, congratulations on what you've already accomplished with the computer and thanks for checking with us.

Q: What is your advice on letting the PC run or turn it off when not in use.  I mainly use the one at my office and sometimes the one at home will go two days without being turned on.

A: Much has been written about which is better for a computer when not being used. I've always compared the motherboard of a computer to a light bulb. Look at a bulb and notice when it burns out. Usually it's after being repeatedly turned on and off over a period of time. Look at what's happening. The filament of the bulb is expanding and shrinking as the filament heats up and cools down. Finally during a surge of electricity the filament has become weak and breaks. Now compare that to a computer's motherboard, every time it's turned on it heats up and, well, you get the picture.

Of course you have to compare that to the theory that if you're not using the computer it's a waste of energy to keep it turned on and leaving it on puts undue wear on the computer.

That said, I personally leave it on all the time. I use it daily so that's a factor because I want it ready to go when I sit down (yes I can be very impatient).

Q: A few days ago a friend used my PC and now everything is larger than it was before. My AOL window almost takes up the whole screen. I can't seem to fix it. Please help me.

A: That's a common problem when software that's loaded resizes your screen resolution. The easiest way to solve the problem is as follows:

1) Right click anywhere on your computer screen desktop (not near an icon) choose properties and then left click on the settings tab.

2) In the area where you see screen resolution, slide the little pointer towards the "More" tab one notch.

3) Go one size at a time and click OK after each increase.

4) Continue to do that until its back to your normal size.

5) If for any reason during the process the screen scrambles, leave the computer alone for 15 seconds and the screen will return to the last good resolution.


Q: I am working on a friend's computer that has a virus.  If I take the hard drive from the computer that has the virus and make it a slave and hook it up to a computer with hard drive as master, can I do a virus scan on the one with the virus so that it can quarantine or fix the virus?  If so, how would I make the hard drive that has no virus, but an up-to-date antivirus, check the hard drive that has the virus? Also, is there even a remote chance that the virus free hard drive could become infected?

A: Before buying a new hard drive I would actually start with an external virus scan. Look on the WAVE 3 Technology web page for Top 10 downloads, sign on for a Panda free virus scan (item 3) and after that's finished use the House Call virus scan (item 2).  After they run, you may not need to do anything else. If they find a virus or worm that they can't remove, write down the name or names of the virus or worm, then go to the Semantic web side and search for a removal tool: If all else fails, proceed with your original plan, install the new drive then partition and format it, followed by installing XP and a updated antivirus. If you use Norton make sure you update it at least 4 times (until you're told no new updates are available.) Then make the old drive a slave (make sure you move the jumper on the back of the old drive to the slave position). Then go back to the free virus scans through the WAVE 3 website and run them again. There's always a chance that the old drive will infect the new drive, but before connecting the slave drive, perform all security updates including WindowsXP SP2. That should help reduce the risks of infection. If all else fails, remove the partition on the new drive, restore it, format it and start all over again.


Q: Yesterday I had a problem with only being able to connect to the web after I turn the computer off & back on. I was told the modem was fried open. The problem turned out to be the ZoneAlarm firewall. I accidentally set it to terminate internet connect after 10 mins of inactivity, thinking that if I was on the web & walked away for more than 10 mins it would automatically disconnect for me. But what happened is that when the computer wasn't used for 10 mins it locked out the internet & a little red padlock appeared in my task bar in place of the ZoneAlarm icon. So I changed the setting.

If you have a suggestion on how I can make the internet disconnect after so many minutes, if I should walk away from it for a while, for security purposes & then I can easily reinstate it, I would like to hear it.

A: With the hackers, viruses, Trojans and just plain goobers out there surfing the internet and looking for an open door to a computer system a fire wall is a great idea for anyone who has high speed access. In case you are wondering, a fire wall is either software or hardware that simply puts up a wall to prevent anything going out or coming into your computer. You alone have control over the firewall to allow information in or out of your computer one time, all the time or never.

Zone Alarm's free fire wall does a great job, but I would not use it with a dial up connection. Usually when you dial up your internet service provider you're assigned an IP address, it's a temporary address so the packets of information that your request by clicking on a link know where to find you. Each time you sign on your computer is automatically given a temporary IP address. It's because that IP address keeps changing and because of the slow connection speed that a hacker or abuser of the internet would most likely steer clear of trying to invade your computer.

I really feel a firewall is an overkill of security for a dial up connection. I don't know how long you're online at one time but if your leaving your modem connected to your ISP 24/7 you may want to reconsider shutting it down when you're not online. If you insist on using a firewall I suggest right clicking on the firewall icon and manually turn the firewall off and then launch it again to restart it, or set the timeout feature to 1 hour instead of 10 minutes. I hope this helps.


Q:  I just read how to reformat my hard drive on the WAVE 3 website. I didn't see anywhere that it said what to do if you have XP. My daughter has a desktop that is only 1 1/2 years old. When you turn it on, it says Windows has shut down to prevent hurting the computer (or something to that effect). The only way you can get on is in safe mode. We've tried system restore with no luck. This same problem happened about 6 months ago and system restore worked. Now it won't. I wondered if we could reformat the hard drive. I started the computer in safe mode and put the operating system disk in and nothing happened. Dell told me the disk would do what it needed to. Nothing happened. Have I done something wrong? I'm to the point that I would just like to reformat, but need really easy XP instructions.

A: XP should be a snap to reformat I would typically tell you to put your XP disk or restore disk 1 in the CD, and then restart the computer. Watch the screen and when it says "To boot from CD press any key" press a key. When you press any key drivers will load, follow the instructions.

Now that I've written that, I need to tell you there are a couple of variations to those instructions. First of all Dell's CD may have its own unique instructions so read carefully.

If you placed your CD in the tray and the "To boot from CD press any key" doesn't appear and the computer tries to boot normally then your boot order has to be changed.

Be very careful with what I tell you to do from here on.

1) You need to get into the computers bios (it's main brain), to do this requires starting the computer and then immediately start pressing either the escape key or the F8 or F6 ..the problem is computers differ, sometimes the key to get into the bios is written on the screen as the computer boots normally. So start it up and look for the key to get in. Your computer instructions may also have the correct sequence.

2) Once inside the bios be careful, look for a tab that will give you the option to change the boot sequence.

3) Normally the sequence should be 1) a drive 2) hard drive and 3) cdrom. You need to change the sequence to 1) a drive 2) cdrom and 3) hard drive.

4) When you do that save and exit the bios and start the computer with the CD in the tray, you should see the  "To boot from CD press any key".