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August 2001

Windows Assistance

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Print Your System Configuration August 31, 2001
To learn about your complete system configuration and have a hard-copy record, including all of the hardware & device descriptions, memory / IRQ / DMA assignments, and software drivers with version information, right-click My Computer icon, select Properties, then Device Manager tab. Click Print, select All Devices & System Summary, and print to your printer. note: This cold take many pages.
Starting In Safe Mode August 30, 2001
If your computer is giving you trouble, and you need to restart it and run some diagnostics programs, you might try starting your computer in Safe Mode in order to minimize any potential hardware or driver conflicts. When you start your computer in Safe Mode, Windows loads only the bare minimum of drivers and hardware devices, so that you can examine and isolate problems with greater accuracy.

To start in Safe Mode, shutdown and restart your computer. Then, hold down the Ctrl key (98/ME) as Windows loads. (With some computers, you can hold down the F8 (95) key instead.) You'll be prompted to choose a new startup mode. Select 3 to start in Safe Mode. Safe Mode displays your screen in 640 x 480 resolution, and you'll notice that Windows loads much faster without all those extra drivers.

(Note: If you receive a "stuck key" error message, you've probably pressed the Ctrl key too early in the boot process. Try again with slightly more delay.)

Troubleshooting Boot August 29, 2001
If Windows fails to boot properly, press F8 (95) or the Ctrl key (98/ME) while it boots for the Windows StartUp menu, and pick the Logged (\BOOTLOG.TXT) option. It attempts a normal boot but records the status of every step Windows takes during the process. You can use this option to log a failed boot. Then, reboot to Safe mode if necessary and use a text editor to open BOOTLOG.TXT (in your root directory). Search for "fail" to find the boot steps Windows had trouble with. Failed steps are often excellent clues to the cause of the problem.
Creating A New Toolbar August 28, 2001
If you have a folder that you access so frequently that it deserves its own Toolbar, you can give it one in Windows 98. Right-click on the Taskbar and select Toolbars, New Toolbar. Navigate to the folder you want as a Toolbar and select it. The contents of the folder are displayed as part of your Taskbar, and you can move your new Toolbar to other edges of the desktop and resize it the same way you can your Taskbar.
Bring Order to Shortcuts August 27, 2001
If you drag and drop a file onto the Start button, Win98 and the IE 4.0 Windows Desktop Update add a shortcut to the top of the Start menu. But if you just drag the file over the Start button without dropping it, the Start menu will open and you can position the new shortcut exactly where you want it. You can also hover over submenus to open them and then drop the shortcut.
Printing Font Samples August 24, 2001
These days, most computers come pre-installed with a bounty of printer fonts. Knowing how they will all look when they print can be tough. There's an easy way to print samples of the fonts on your computer. Go to Start, Settings, Control Panel and double-click the Fonts folder. Hold down the Ctrl key and select the fonts you want to print by clicking with your mouse. Next, right-click on one of the selected fonts and choose Print. You'll have to click OK in dialog boxes for each font you selected, but once you do that, your printer will go to work printing sample pages for each font.
Setting Modem For 10-Digit Dialing August 23, 2001
Many large cities, such as Washington, D.C., are moving from seven- to ten-digit dialing for local calls due to the overwhelming demand for telephone numbers in this frantic digital age. If your area is making such a switch, or if you happen to be traveling with your laptop to a place that uses ten-digit dialing, it's not difficult to configure your dialer.

First, you'll need to know the area code that requires ten-digit dialing. When you're in that area code, open your Internet Connection and click Dial Properties. Enter your present area code in the I Am In This Country/Region and then click on Area Code Rules. Check the Always Dial The Area Code box in the When Calling Within My Area Code section, and click OK twice.

Modem Troubleshooter August 22, 2001

If you're having trouble connecting to the Internet with your modem, you might try running Windows' Modem Troubleshooter utility as a first step. Though it addresses only a handful of the most common problems, the Troubleshooter just might have the fix you need to get back online. It's worth a try, for the desperate, anyway. 

To access the Modem Troubleshooter, go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, and select Modems. Click the Diagnostics tab and then the Help button. Modem Troubleshooter will launch in an Internet Explorer browser window (though it's accessed from your hard drive and not the Internet, naturally).

Enabling Cursor Trails August 21, 2001
Farsighted folks who have trouble reading the fine print on their computer monitors can also have trouble finding their cursor. The easiest way to keep from flinging your mouse back and forth wildly in order to see the cursor is to enable pointer trails. With pointer trails, your cursor leaves a faint image trailing behind wherever it moves on the screen. This mildly psychedelic effect can be yours simply by going to Start, Settings, Control Panel, and double-clicking the Mouse icon. Go to Motion and click Enabled under Cursor Trails. (With the Microsoft IntelliPoint mouse, you'll find the option on the Visibility tab under Trails.)
Opening Start Menu Using Keyboard August 20, 2001
As a rule, operating your computer from the keyboard is faster than working with a mouse, so any time you can execute a task using the keyboard only, you're saving yourself a little time. Remember that your Start menu is available to you at any time, no matter what program you're using. You simply press the Windows key to access Start menu functions. Then use the up and down arrows and the Enter key to launch programs, open the Control Panel folder, or anything else you want to do from the Start menu.
Using Phone Dialer August 17, 2001

As long as your PC is connected to a telephone line via an internal modem, you can use Windows 98 to dial all your telephone numbers for you, meaning you'll never need to remember another telephone number again. The program you'll need to work this magic is a Microsoft accessory known as Phone Dialer, and you can find it by choosing Start, Programs, Accessories, Communications, Phone Dialer.

Using Phone Dialer, you can save your eight most frequently called numbers by clicking one of the Speed Dial buttons and entering a name and telephone number. Better yet, you can use Phone Dialer to keep a log of all outgoing telephone calls made with the program. To log calls, go to Tools, Show Log to display the Call Log window. Choose Log, Options and check the Incoming Calls check box. Phone Dialer will keep track of who you called and when.

RAM And The Clipboard August 16, 2001
Whenever you're doing work that involves cutting large files to your Clipboard, remember to purge the Clipboard after you finish your work by copying something small to it. The Clipboard is stored in RAM (Memory), and if it's full of a massive file such as an image file, it can make your system behave a bit sluggishly. Type a few letters into a text editor and cut them to the Clipboard to free up that precious memory.
Set Default Folder Attributes August 15, 2001

Microsoft gave us a whole new way to set folder defaults in Windows 98. Open the folder for your C: drive, and without opening any other folders, arrange and configure it exactly as you'd like all your folders to appear. When you've got the C: drive folder the way you like it, choose View, Folder Options, and click the View tab. Next, press the Like Current Folder button to create the new default setting, which will be permanent (unless you hit the Reset All Folders button). You'll notice that when you deviate individual folders from these settings, those folders will retain the changed settings as long as you have "Remember each folder's view settings" checked under Advanced Settings. If you want them all to look exactly the same no matter what, remove the check beside Remember Each Folder's View Settings

Note: Some people report that their systems do not retain certain views, such as the Details view. But on my PCs, I have found that following these steps correctly does, in fact, make Details and other settings the default.

Save Desktop Real Estate August 14, 2001
Too often desktops get cluttered with shortcuts to applications and documents as well as documents. For the ones you use often and need quick access to, move them to the Quick Launch area located on the taskbar. Right click the icon and drag it to Quick Launch, release and  choose the appropriate option (move, copy or create shortcut). From the Task Bar Properties check Always On Top and Auto hide. Now you have quick access to your application and documents plus additional desktop space.
Monitor System Performance August 13, 2001

System Monitor (C:\WINDOWS\SYSMON.EXE or Start>> Programs>> Accessories>> System Tools>> System Monitor) lets you track an array of performance measures for your system and network. You can save the results to a text log.

My favorite is Dialup Adapter: Bytes Read / Sec. To view: From Edit menu select Add Item. From the Category list select Dial-Up Adapter and from Items list select Bytes Received / Second.

Changing Drive For Virtual Memory August 10, 2001

If you have more than one hard drive on your computer, you probably want Windows 98 to use the faster drive for its virtual memory capabilities. Having a faster drive for virtual memory can speed performance by decreasing the time needed to access temporarily stored information.

To change this setting, go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, System. Click the Performance tab and then the Virtual Memory button. Check the Let Me Specify My Own Virtual Memory Settings and choose the new drive from the Hard Disk pull-down menu. When you finish, click OK.

Using Find More Effectively August 9, 2001
If you use the Find command from the Start menu and you are looking for a file that contains spaces in the name be sure to use "?" as a place holder otherwise Windows will think you're looking for all instances of the individual words. For example, if you're looking for your favorite old time mp3, "Home on the Range," and you use "home on the range" as the search name you will get every instance for the words home, on, the, and range, even if the letters of the search words are buried in another word (i.e on in phone). Enter the search name  as "home?on?the?range" and Windows will find the correct file.
Capturing A Screen Shot Of A Single Window August 8, 2001
While you may know that you can take a screen shot at any time in Windows 98 by pressing the Print Screen key on your keyboard, you may not have known that you can also make a screen shot of a single window. To make a screen shot of your active window, simply press Alt-Print Screen. This command (as well as the command for capturing a full screen) copies a picture of the window (or screen) to your Clipboard, and you can then paste the picture where you like.
Virus Blocker August 7, 2001

What about the viruses that look like text or picture files being sent in emails, but they're really VB Script files? You can create an added layer of protection against these viruses. (These files extensions could potentially be dangerous to your system if they're really viruses: .js, .jse, .vbs, .scr, .shs, and .shb.)

The problem arises whenever people receive these files in an email and they double-click them. BOOM! Their system gets smacked. This situation occurs because the Windows default for a double-click on these files is an 'OPEN' command. Fortunately, you can change this default to 'EDIT' so that if you double-click on the file, it won't run, but will harmlessly be displayed in Notepad where you can read it.

For Windows Me: Go to the Control Panel and select the Folder Options icon. Now, select the File Types tab and a small flashlight will appear. You may have to wait a moment. Next, when the files are displayed, find ! one with one of the extensions I listed above. Select it, and click the Advanced tab. Now, highlight Edit and press the Set Default button. That's got it!

For Windows 95/98: This scenario is a bit more difficult. Go to an Explorer window and select View, then Folder Options. Click the Files tab and scroll through the file types. You will see the extensions in the small window at the bottom. When you find a file with one of the extensions I mentioned above, click Edit. Now select Edit from within the Actions list and click the Default button. That should set you up.

Getting Rid Of Log-On August 6, 2001

A common question is how to get rid of the Windows password every time you start your computer. If you're the only user, having to press Cancel every time your computer starts is a real pain. Fortunately, it's easy to turn off the Windows password. Go to Start, Settings, Control Panel and open the Passwords icon. Then click the Change Passwords tab and click the Change Windows Password button. Make sure all three fields are completely blank and click the OK button to save changes.

If this didn't work for you, your computer might be setup for multiple users. If you're the only person using your computer and you don't need different sets of saved preferences, you'll want to change this setting. Go to Start, Settings, Control Panel and open the Passwords icon. Then click the User Profiles tab and click the All Users Of This Computer Use The Same Preferences And Desktop Settings button. Click OK to exit and save changes.

Turning Off CD-ROM's Autorun August 3, 2001
If you're tired of CDs starting up automatically every time you insert them into your PC's CD-ROM drive, there's an easy way to turn off this feature. Go to Start, Settings, Control Panel and open the System icon. Click the Device Manager tab and click the View Devices By Type radio button. Click the plus sign next to the CD-ROM drive, right-click your CD-ROM device, choose the Properties button, and then the Settings tab. Uncheck the Auto Insert Notification box and click OK twice. Your CDs will now load as usual, but your drive won't launch them without your say-so.
Eliminating The Recycle Bin Confirmation August 2, 2001
The Recycle Bin provides a nice safeguard against accidental file deletions, but having to confirm your deletions might be a bit too cautious and could slow down your work. And really, how often does the warning message actually prompt you to do anything about what's in your Recycle Bin anyway? So, if you want to save yourself a little
time, turn off the Recycle Bin Confirmation box by right-clicking on the Recycle Bin and choosing Properties. Click the Global tab and uncheck the box labeled Display Delete Confirmation Dialog Box.
Quick Launch August 1, 2001

Quick Launch is one of the Toolbars that can be added to the Taskbar. Items in Quick Launch can be launched or started with one click. This is Windows Assistance's favorite Toolbar. To enable Quick Launch right-click any blank area of the Taskbar and select Toolbars>>Quick Launch.

Quick Launch shows only the Icons of items to be launched. To see the shortcut name hold your mouse pointer over the Quick Launch shortcut. The name will appear quickly.

To add items simply drag any shortcut to Quick Launch. A thick vertical bar will tell you where in Quick Launch you are placing the shortcut. 

To remove a shortcut from Quick Launch simply right-click the shortcut and select Delete.

Remember Quick Launch is just a folder of shortcuts and can be used just like any other folder. See July 26, 2001 tip on creating shortcuts to special folders such as the Quick Launch folder.

july 2001 tips