Computer Questions?

8:47:00 PM |

The following computer questions are some of the ones I get the most from users. Hopefully, there's a question and answer here which you will find helpful.

Should I defrag my computer?
Windows XP will tell you if your hard drive needs to be defragmented, so there's no guesswork. To check, do this:
  1. Go to Start, All Programs, and click on Accessories.
  2. Find Systems Tools, Disk Defragmenter and click on it.
  3. Run an analysis first by clicking the Analyze button. Go do something else while it runs.
  4. When it is done, there will be a message that says whether you need to defragment or not.
  5. If it says that you should, click on the Defragment button, and again go do something else while your computer runs this.
For Vista, it's a little different:

  1. Go to Start, All Programs, and click on Accessories.
  2. Find Systems Tools, Disk Defragmenter and click on it.
  3. Vista will ask you for permission to continue. Click Continue.
  4. Vista doesn't give you the ability to choose to defragment, it just assumes you want to and presents a schedule to do so. You can stick with the suggested schedule, or modify it.
  5. If you want to kick off the defrag process immediately, click the Defragment now button. It will then ask you which drive you want to defrag. Uncheck the drives you don't want to defrag, and then click OK.

How do I see how much space I have left on my hard drive?
I get asked this computer question after I've told someone they are having speed problems because they are out of hard disk space.
  1. Click on the Windows start button. Find My Computer and click on it.
  2. Find the C: drive and right click on it. Choose Properties from the menu.
  3. The free space will show as the pink part of the circle.

How do I change the background picture on my Windows desktop?
  1. Right click on the Windows desktop (where there is no icon).
  2. Click on Properties from the menu that appears.
  3. Click on the Desktop tab.
  4. Click the Browse… button and find the new picture you want to show on the Desktop.
  5. Click on the new picture and then click Ok.
  6. Click Apply and then Ok.
Change Desktop Picture

How do I find out how much RAM I have?
  1. Click on the Windows start button. Find My Computer and right click on it.
  2. Choose Properties from the menu.
  3. On the System dialog box, look on the bottom right hand corner of the General tab.

How do I add a new font to my computer?
Go to my Install Fonts page for these steps.

PrinterHow do I find drivers for my printer or other hardware?
  • This is one of those computer questions that has a whole bunch of other questions behind it; what kind of printer? What operating system are you using? etc.. Generally though, the best place to find hardware drivers is on the hardware manufacturer’s website. For example, if you buy an older HP Deskjet 932 printer at a garage sale, you can go to and visit the support or driver download section. Or go to Google, and type in "hp deskjet 932 driver" and Google will bring back many places to get that driver.

Should I turn off my computer or leave it on at the end of the day?
  • Computer questions can spark off huge debates, and this is one of them. Some camps say leave your computer on, some say turn it off. I say reboot it at least every couple of days to clear and reset RAM and keep the computer running well. And at least once a week, shut it down completely for the night as it gives the computer a chance to cool off.

    Why doesn’t my BACK button in Internet Explorer work sometimes?
    • This is not an Internet Explorer issue. Some websites write their web page code to load the page several times to try and keep you there. To get around this:
      1. Go to the top left hand corner of your browser window.
      2. Click on the black triangle next to your back button. It will show you a list of the last 10 web pages you have accessed during this Internet session. (If you close your browser window, this list is cleared.)
      3. Scroll down until you get past the website page that you are trying to leave and click on any previous page you came from.
    This is also a great way to quickly go back to a previous web page. The picture below is an example of a list of sites visited during an Internet session.

    How do I tell how big a file or folder is?
    • Right click on the file or folder and click on Properties. On the Properties dialog box, in the middle of the General tab, it will show the size.

    My computer won't hold the correct date and time. I have to keep resetting it. Why?
    Your computer's CMOS battery is dying. You'll need to replace it.

    How does a flash drive work?
    • A flash drive is a small device that can be used as a file storage place. It plugs into the USB ports on your computer and once loaded, it sets itself up as another drive letter (usually E: or F:). You can then copy files to and from it just like any other drive. I use my flash drive for all sorts of computer tasks: copying files to take to another computer, storing computer questions, etc. It's basically a portable storage method like a CD or a floppy disk, but much better.

    The Windows Taskbar is in a strange place. How do I move it back to where it was?
    Some computer questions are better answered in person, but I'll give this one a shot.. Here's how to drag it back:
    1. First, make sure the task bar isn't "locked" in place. Using your mouse, right click on the taskbar some place where there is no icon ( in the blank space on the bar). A menu will come up and it should have a setting called "Lock the Taskbar". If that setting has a check next to it, the taskbar is locked in place. To remove the check, left click on the setting, and the check will be removed.
    2. Once you have made sure the taskbar is unlocked, you can now move it.
    3. To move it, use your mouse to left click somewhere on the task bar where there are no icons (again in a "blank" space). While holding the left mouse button down, move the mouse down as if you were dragging the bar with it. The bar won't seem to move, but as you "drag" closer to the bottom of the screen, it will suddenly "pop" into place at the bottom of the screen.
    4. Once you have it in the place where you want it, you can lock it there so this doesn't happen again. To lock it, right click on the taskbar and the left click on the "Lock the Taskbar" option to place a check by it.

    My computer sound stopped working. How do I fix it?

  • Look at the bottom right hand corner of your Windows desktop. There should be a speaker icon in the systems time tray. If it is covered by a red circle with a line through it, it means the volume has been turned off. To turn it back on:

  • Click on the icon and uncheck the box that says Mute. You can also adjust the volume with the slider tool on the same window.

  • Note: If you don't see the speaker icon in the Windows system time tray, follow these steps:
  • Click on the Windows Start button.
  • Click on Control Panel.
  • Click on Sounds, Audio and Speech Devices, then on Sounds and Audio Devices. (If you have the Classic version of the Control Panel on, it will just say Sounds and Audio Devices).
  • On the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties box, click on the Volume tab.
  • Put a check in the box that says Place Volume icon in the Taskbar. (Of course, if you prefer not to see the Volume icon in the Windows system time tray, leave that box unchecked.)
  • Uncheck the Mute box. You should now be able to hear sound on your computer. If you can't, check to make sure your speakers are plugged in and turned on.
  • One "last effort" thing to check: If the computer sound still doesn't work after all of the above has been tried:
    1. Go to the Windows Start button, and then click on Run.
    2. In the Open: field, type services.msc and then click Ok.
    3. In the list of Services, scroll down until you see Windows Audio. Look to the right at the Status column. It should say Started. Look further right at the Startup Type column. It should say "Automatic".
    4. If these two columns don't say Started and Automatic, right click on Windows Audio, and then click on Properties.
    5. On the General tab, Find the Startup Type drop down list. Set it to Automatic. Click the Start Button and then click OK.If it STILL doesn't work, you may have a sound card problem.

    My computer sound works, but it sounds like Mickey Mouse. How do I fix it?

    If your computer sound is reminiscent of someone inhaling helium gas, or a Mickey mouse wantabee, check this:
    1. Click on the Windows Start button.
    2. Click on Control Panel.
    3. Click on Hardware and Sounds. Check to see if you have a Realtek HD Audio Manager choice. If so, click on it.
    4. On the Speakers tab, make sure Karaoke it set to 0. Click Okay. Close the Control Panel. (see pic below)

    If you DON'T have the Realtek Sound Manager, check to see if you have some other sound manager application running, and look at it's settings to see if you can find some tab that may effect the speaker sound.

    If your speakers just sound funny, like they are in a hole, try this:
    1. Right click the speaker icon in the Taskbar and select 'Playback Devices'.
    2. Double click on Speakers to open it.
    3. Click the Enhancements tab and make sure that only 'Loudness Equalization' is checked.
    4. Click Apply to save the change and then click OK in all remaining windows.

    Should I upgrade to Windows Vista?

    1. Upgrading any Windows operating system is not an easy thing to do, so upgrades are usually done to solve a specific problem. But Windows XP SP2 (service pack 2) is stable and works very well, so there’s no problem to fix, and not a lot of reason to upgrade.
      The only reason at this point to upgrade is Microsoft’s announcement that they will no longer offer Windows XP for purchase after June 30, 2008 to consumers. If you are planning to buy a PC after that date, look for a "business" class computer instead of a “home” computer, and ask for the "Vista Business Downgrade Bonus". Both Dell and Lenovo are offering this to customers.
    2. Windows Vista Business is a very large operating system, and it requires specific hardware and a lot of computing resources to run. This means that if you load Vista Business on a PC that was running Windows XP Professional, and do nothing else to upgrade the hardware, that PC will run slower because Vista requires more RAM and processor speed.
    3. In fact, most businesses are not upgrading to Vista. Vista was released in January 2007. Gartner, a leading IT research firm, polled its corporate clients and found that only 1% have upgraded to Vista on internal desktops since its release. Not a ringing endorsement.
    4. Vista was built from scratch instead of using Windows XP as a base. Hence, the design is quite a bit different than Windows XP, and many common software programs are unable to run on Vista. Software companies are not rushing to provide newer versions that do work with Vista, either. If you upgrade, you may find that some of your older software no longer works, and no fix is available.
    5. Your total upgrade costs can be considerable. Vista requires at least 2 GB of RAM, and 128 MB of video RAM just for a start, so you may need to upgrade your computer hardware just to get to a point where you can install Vista. In addition, an upgrade version of Vista costs anywhere from $159 to $259. On top of this, you may have to upgrade your anti-virus software and possibly your printer and scanner because your current equipment may not be compatible with Vista.