I have a couple of good cleaning programs to protect my computer (which are usually recommended by you!). But occasionally, I get suckered into running a ‘free trial’ of a program (like a registry cleaner). I may have just run my cleaner and have been given a clean bill of health, but when I run the ‘free trial’, I invariably get hundreds of errors. Why?
What you’re experiencing is what leads me and many others to avoid recommending entire classes of registry and system-cleaning utilities.
It’s not just a few bad apples that spoil the entire bunch; in this case, it’s often difficult to find an apple worth biting into at all.
A screen shot, screenshot, or screen capture is a way to “take a picture” of your computer screen (or a portion thereof).
Why would you want to do that?
Well, let’s say you’re trying to explain a computer problem to a technical friend of yours, and you’re trying to describe what you see on the screen — the dialogs, buttons, messages, whatever. You’re not sure of the terms to use, and your friend is having a difficult time understanding your description.
And of course, your friend insists that the exact wording of everything you see is incredibly important (for the record, he’s right.)
You know what they say: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And it can go a long way to eliminating miscommunication.
Let’s take a picture of your screen you can email to your friend.
My C: and D: drives have many gigabytes of .DAT files under “Documents and Settings”. I’m trying to free up space on the C: drive. Can I delete any of these files? I really don’t know what they are, how they got there, or why they occupy so much space on my computer!
I don’t know.
Honestly, I have no idea either what they are, how they got there, or why they occupy so much space. That’s the problem with “.dat” files — there’s no way to know what they are without more information.
But I do have some ideas on how to determine if deleting them is ok, and ways to do it safely — and those ideas apply to any file type, not just “.dat”.
I have a document which was created in Word and has 226 pages. When I send it to a client who is using a later version of Word, it looks totally different and has over 330 pages. How can I send the client the document without it changing? Also, they wanted a pdf version, which looks nothing like the Word document. How can I get the Word document to look like the pdf?
Word documents were never intended to do what you’re doing. They were never meant to distribute documents to others for reading.
Your client is on the right track: that’s exactly what PDF is for.
My machine wasn’t completely broken, but it wasn’t well. Months of turning things on and off, installing and uninstalling, and just generally “fiddling” while researching and documenting Ask Leo! articles left this particular Windows 10 installation a couple of features short of a full package.
This presented a great opportunity to experiment with the “nuclear option” built into Windows 10: “Reset This PC”.
Surprisingly, there’s now what I’ll call a “light” nuclear option, in addition to the traditional “delete everything and start over” approach.
In order to prevent malware from replacing critical system components with compromised copies, Windows works very hard to maintain the integrity of the system files on your machine. If you try to replace one of the “protected” files, you may get a message that the operating system has put the old approved version back. That’s “Windows File Protection”, now called “Windows Resource Protection”.
Unfortunately, there are occasional ways around system file protection. Sometimes it’s as simple as a hard disk error causing a system file to be damaged and become corrupt.
As a result, automated checking is nice, but sometimes you need to take matters into your own hands.
The Windows 10 set-up and upgrade process really, really encourages you to associate your computer with a “Microsoft account”, and use it to sign in to the computer from then on. Many people find this near-requirement inconvenient, and even a potential invasion of privacy. They would prefer, instead, to continue to use a local machine account for signing in.
While it’s difficult, after the fact, to disassociate the computer from a Microsoft account, it turns out it’s fairly easy to return your sign-in to a more familiar “local machine account”.
OK, so CHKDSK ran when my machine rebooted, and displayed some stuff. Problem is I have no idea what it displayed, since it then proceeded to reboot the machine when it was done. How do I get it to stop, pause or otherwise let me see what it did?
It’s not obvious, I can tell you that.
For a recent article on CHKDSK, I carefully timed taking a few screen shots of CHKDSK as it was running in a virtual machine so I could capture the results.
Besides not being useful to the average user, it turns out that was overkill. You don’t need to go to those lengths to get CHKDSK’s output. In fact, you can almost ignore what it displays on boot.
Leo, I bought one of your books and I see that I can download the book in .mobi format from you. You say that’s the Kindle native format, which is great since I have both a Kindle reader and a Kindle reading application on my smartphone. Only one question: after I download it how do I get the book from my computer to my Kindle?
Turns out there are at least two different ways to get that book onto your Kindle.
And then of course you can also read the book without a Kindle device at all.
My system, Windows XP Professional, won’t load. When I turn it on, I get this message, “Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \Windows\System32\config\system.” And I don’t have an installation disk. I read some of your material and it looks like I have the i386 folder in the right place but I can’t get to a command prompt. I have a rescue and recovery disc, but the only thing it will do is let me load the original backup created when I bought the system back in 2008, or bring the system back to its original factory state.
I really don’t want to do either of these two things. I researched the problem, and I could repair the five registry files with a series of DOS commands (from a Windows paper) if I can get to the recovery console and then just restore the system to a previous restore point. After reviewing the material, from Microsoft, I think I can do it. But I want and need to upgrade my system so it occurred to me to just buy Windows 8.1 and do a clean install and then restore my backup that I made about a month ago but I’m concerned that I might overlook something.
All of the programs that I use also have to be reinstalled or redownloaded and installed so I’m looking at perhaps hours and hours of work. So I really have two questions. The first one is there a handy informational guide to a clean install that will bring the system back to nearly what it was before but with a brand new system. If I decide to fix the system instead, can I buy a non-OEM installation disk for Windows XP Professional or does it absolutely have to be an OEM disk that is compatible with my machine?
Unfortunately, the file that’s missing or corrupt is actually the system registry or one of the major hives of that registry. On my Windows XP machine, it’s something like 30 MB in size, so it’s not something that you can just recreate with a simple command.
I run Windows XP Professional on my Dell OptiPlex desktop. I also have a 1 TB My Passport removable drive for storing my data by just copying to the drive. I discovered two folders suddenly appearing on the folders on that drive. Four additional folders have now been added to the previous two. The folders have these numbers: 9c132e36a0fc6471430a1e192 and similar. Each folder contains two folders names amd64 and i386. Only the first folder with the top numbers contain some data. Access is denied each time I want to delete them. How can I delete them and prevent further incursion of these folders on to the removable drive?
This isn’t some kind of malicious incursion. It’s actually expected. It’s simply a side effect of how some software setup programs operate and how sometimes they don’t clean up after themselves.
Leo, I’m still on dial-up and I’m quite happy with it for all I do on the net or with email. However, I recently bought a new desktop for my wife and this one comes with Windows 8.1 in 64-bit so most of the programs we use with Windows XP, 32-bit, do not work anymore with a 64-bit version of Windows 8.1. My wife mostly needs Microsoft Word and Excel, which is incorporated into the Windows Works program which we are willing to buy.
However, this program is about 800 MB large and to download it on dial—up would take about a week. The computer store told us that Microsoft would be selling this program on a CD and they gave us a telephone number to call. We called Microsoft; they’re telling us that they do not have a CD for this program. Now, what’s someone living in the sticks with only dial-up supposed to do? The store would not do the downloading and put it on a CD either. I never thought about the possibilities about 32-bit versus 64-bit when I bought the PC. Would you have any idea how to get around all of this?
There’s a little bit of confusion in the question and I want to clear up as much of it as I can.
I think that the problem has nothing to do with 32 versus 64-bit. Most 32-bit programs actually run just fine in 64-bit Windows. I use many 32-bit programs myself on my 64-bit installation of Windows 8.1.
The problem really might be some confusion around the program called Works.
I’d like to reinstall Windows XP on one PC and Windows 7 on another. Both have become very slow and I’ve done almost everything written about to speed them up. I have the original discs for them. However, what I don’t have are the discs for much of the software. I read your articles on that so I’ll be getting discs in the future. So, how can I reinstall Windows as well as the software on the PCs? On the XP PC, I really only want to keep Office 2007.
On the Windows 7 PC, however, I have the disc for Office 2007 Pro but not for several software packages that I bought and downloaded. One in particular was actually expensive – Dragon Naturally Speaking. I installed Macrium as you suggested. I wasn’t sure from your articles if I could somehow use the backup from Macrium to reinstall just the software. I found some freeware that allowed me to obtain the keys to some of the Microsoft software on the PCs but for no other legitimate third party software. Mainly, I want to keep Nitro PDF Pro, Wondershare Video Converter and Dragon Naturally Speaking. Everything else I can probably live without even if I bought it.
The very short answer to your dilemma is that strictly speaking you can’t do what you are trying to do. I’ll review how to prevent this in the future at least, and throw out a couple of ideas or straws you can grasp at.
I bought a new HP desktop, which now comes in 64-bit. I also have all kinds of CDs with software from the old PC (a 32-bit machine) which is now outdated and does not work properly in the new 64-bit unit anymore, specifically, Word and Excel. Talking to the computer shop here, they’re telling me that all newer software now comes only as a download where they sell you an activation code and you then go download the software yourself. I don’t like this system at all. I would like to have this software on CD. They also mentioned that Microsoft could sell you a CD for the software. Now I tried their website for this but I got stuck and got nowhere.
It’s true that the world is most definitely turning towards more and more online delivery. Many software packages have been online or ‘download only’ for quite a while. As of late, manufacturers are beginning to assume that we all have super fast Internet connections, and thus are making even large packages online only.
At first blush, that would appear to be the case for Office 2013, but there may be some options.
I need to reinstall Windows, but I don’t have an installation disc. I never got one. What do I do?
It’s becoming more and more common to have a completely legal installation of Windows without installation media such as CDs or DVDs. This can cause some panic when you’re later instructed to make sure that you have media ready before installing some other software or hardware or if you ever find yourself needing to reinstall your system from scratch.
Let’s look at how to prepare for this day and what straws you may have to grasp at should you arrive unprepared.
I have one MS DOS program that is invaluable to me. However, it won’t run on my Windows 7 OS. Can I install Windows 98 on an external drive that I then use for backup and run the DOS program on this drive? If not, could I move the backups off of the external drive and install Windows 98 on that drive and then the DOS program?
Unfortunately, you’re not going to get the scenario that you’ve described working. You’re going to have to actually reboot into Windows 98. You might be able to do that off of an external drive if you’ve got Windows 98 completely installed on that drive, as well as the program. I don’t think you even have to move your backups for it to work.
But before you go down that road, I want you to investigate a different solution.
When I was downloading a driver to put the sound back in my system, something called “driver wiz” wound up on my system. When I went to the Control Panel to remove it, the command “move” or “remove” is no longer there – just the word “change.” When you click on Change, it tries to install the program driver wiz. I found out that I’m not the only one having this problem. Can you help?
What you have is a classic PUP – Potentially Unwanted Program.
Unfortunately, there’s rarely any “potentially” about it. The programs are unwanted. They’ve been getting more aggressive and people are saddled with all sorts of things that they really don’t want.
Can I move Office 2010 to another computer? I’ve got it on one computer and I want to move it to another. If I uninstall from the first, can I just use the setup again and install in on another computer? I really don’t want to have to buy it again.
Most licenses allow you to do pretty much what you’ve described. You’re allowed to have Office installed on one computer at a time. You will need the original installation media that you used to install Office 2010 the first time.
When diagnosing a system problem or even just monitoring the health of a working system, it’s useful to peek “under the hood” to see what’s going on.
Windows 7 added a handy utility called Resource Monitor that does just that. It provides more information than the existing Task Manager without getting into all of the esoteric and often confusing detail of Process Explorer.
Resource Manager is a useful tool to have in your back pocket.
I’ve had so many problems with Windows 7 not responding that I’m now wondering if I wouldn’t be better off to reinstall and put the stuff that is normally backed up – programs, documents, and pictures – on a USB flash drive. That way, it would be easier to reinstall Windows 7 in the future and just plug in the USB drive to use the programs or documents. My laptop acts like it has a virus, but I have Avast AV real-time installed and I’ve done scans with several other online AV scanners. They’ve all found nothing. If I leave it idle for a little while, then it will not respond. I thought it was a Firefox problem, but IE also crashes. If I have everything but Windows on a USB stick, then I could reinstall Windows 7 anytime easily. Do you think this is feasible?
This scenario both will and will not work. Ultimately, it seems impractical and it’s not going to help your fundamental issue, which sounds like a hardware problem. I’ll talk about that first.
Every time I turn on the computer, a window called “C:\documents and settings\Ruth\Local settings\Application Data\Amazon” opens on the desktop. I tried to remove this through Control Panel > Add and Remove programs, but I can’t find it. I also can’t find local settings. I think that it started to appear after I downloaded a Kindle book via USB to my Kindle device.
If it’s just a folder in Windows Explorer opening when you log in, that’s not a program, so you’re not going to find it in the Control Panel. It’s not something that was installed, so there’s nothing to uninstall.
But this is interesting. Let’s talk about what it might be and what you can do to fix it.
Hi, Leo. I have a sticky situation here. My daughter accidentally overwrote a written document and lost 60 pages of her story. We’ve tried recovery tools, such as Recuva and Undelete. She may have recovered some of it, but she’s unable to open it. It’s a Word Perfect 12 document and when we try to open it, it says it’s an “unsupported format.” We cannot understand how it was saved or recovered in a different format. Just to let you know we have it still. I’ve tried emailing it as an attachment to different people who are better at computers and no one so far has been able to open it.
Your situation is actually not that uncommon.
These days, file formats are complex and the programs that read them are often unforgiving when there’s something wrong with the file.
When only portions of a file are recovered, some of the information that the application relies on to open and interpret the file is so badly damaged that the application can’t even recognize the file to open it.
Typically, that happens when the first few pieces of the file are missing. But it actually can happen if any piece of the file is missing, out of order, or just otherwise unrecoverable.
It’s no secret that crap (pardon the language) piles up on our computers over time. Temporary files that don’t get cleaned up properly, assorted caches, histories, and backups of files that we might never need all seem to accumulate and can even negatively impact performance.
I use the word “crap” here specifically, because that’s what that initial “C” in CCleaner originally represented – “Crap Cleaner.”
Regardless of the political correctness of its name, then or now, CCleaner is a useful tool in managing the accumulation of “stuff” on your computer that might be doing nothing more than wasting space.
In the past, we’ve focused on running CCleaner as needed to clean things up when we think of it or encounter a problem.
The beauty of computers is that they’re very good at doing things automatically. That includes not only creating crap, but cleaning it up as well.
Using Windows XP, Home Edition, 32-bit. I had my computer formatted and the technician lost my Corel Windows programs and Veritas to burn music CDs. Is this normal for it to happen?
Well, yes and no.
It’s important to realize that formatting a computer erases everything that’s on that hard drive. You start with a hard disk that contains Windows, other applications, and data and after you format, you have an empty hard disk. That’s normal. That’s expected. That’s what formatting means.
What concerns me here is that the technician should have told you.
What is wssetup.exe? A search on the internet tells me that it could cause problems, but I can’t find where the program is or how to get rid of it?
Wssetup.exe sounds like the setup program for an application with the initials W.S. Have you installed anything with these initials lately?
My guess is that wssetup.exe is benign, but of course we can’t know for sure. While you googled the file name, there’s actually no guarantee that this file is the same as the one whose information you found online. Software companies aren’t required to give program files unique names, and neither are malware developers, for that matter. Anyone can name a file how they like.
So, it sounds like you need to do a little research.
Hi, Leo. In the past, manufacturers, particularly laptop manufacturers, such as Acer, used to provide a number of CDs that would allow the new user to at least do two things, for example: repair his operating system but retain all of his private data or secondly restore his computer back to what it was when he first started it up. In later years, those discs weren’t provided but the manufacturer would advise the user (in a manual that may have been overlooked) to create his own discs by using the software that was included in the installed package. Not only would the OS be included on those discs but all the other software and drivers that had originally been installed. Is there a simple program one can get ahold of that folks could use to create discs that can be used in this way?
The short answer is absolutely yes. Not directly in the way you describe, but to the same effect.
And anyone who knows me already knows what I’m about to say.
Leo, I did what you did (referring to replacing my hard disk on my machine with a Solid State Drive) two years ago. I’ve had a minor problem ever since I made the switch. All the software that I install wants to install and use the C: drive, which is too small to hold all of that information. How do I change the default installation location from C: to F: which is my actual one-terabyte hard drive?
What you’re doing is kind of tricky. There’s no global setting where you can tell Windows, “Install new stuff here.”
It also depends on the program that you’re installing.
The other issue is that you’re somewhat defeating the purpose of the SSD by not installing your software on it. This is the drive where your machine can load files and access programs more quickly than if they were installed on a traditional hard drive.
In your case, there are two things that I suggest you do.
I try to limit the number of programs I install on my system. It’s a 64-bit Windows 7 system with SP 1 and 12 GB of RAM. I do this because I feel intuitively that the more programs I install, the more quickly Windows reaches that corrupted state that we all know too well, and has to be reinstalled from scratch. I really could make good use of quite a number of programs I don’t have installed but I worry about hastening corruption. I do assume that I can load as many portable applications as I like without worry. Am I on the right track? Or is my thinking just incorrect?
Installing lots of software is usually not a terribly destabilizing thing. Sure, there can be bad software out there. It’s usually not the amount of software but the specific software that ends up causing problems after you install it. Obviously, the best approach to saving yourself from those kinds of scenarios is a good backup system.
The vast majority of Windows default settings boil down to a matter of personal preference.
Over the years, as I’ve installed Windows over and over again on new machines, test machines, and more, I’ve slowly adapted to simply accepting the default settings rather than re-applying a large number of customizations every time.
There’s one setting that I and many other security-conscious folks feel that Microsoft simply got wrong. It’s a setting that you should probably change right away.
You don’t want Windows Explorer to “Hide extensions for known file types”.
OK, I admit it, I’m a geek. And part of the reason I say that is because I actually have Process Explorer as an auto-start entry on my two primary machines. It runs automatically whenever I boot up. Not only do I find that I refer to it that often, but I’m just the kind of person who likes to know what’s going on inside his computer. You know, a geek.
Now, you may not need or even want to know what’s going on under the hood. Let’s face it, for most computer users you shouldn’t have to. Computers are supposed to “just work”, and you should never need to be bothered with things like processes or resource utilization or what not.
And we all know how well that’s working.
This is where process explorer comes in. Process Explorer – or frequently just “procexp” – provides a window into the world of all the programs running on your computer, and offers up a level of detailed information that Task Manager could never hope to approach.
When I am online for any length of time I start losing RAM, any thing I am doing online starts to slow down! I recently installed an extra 512MB of RAM but didn’t seem to help much. The only thing that seems to help is to shut down AOL, wait about 5 minutes and restart. Then all is OK.
If you believe you’re losing available memory, or RAM, there are some fairly easy ways to see who’s eating it up. And yes, programs that use more memory than they should can easily contribute to a machine slowing down more and more the longer you use it.
Hey Leo, what can I do, when I close out of an existing saved Word document, to stop the “Do you want to save changes to your document?” window from coming up every time, even when I haven’t made changes or touched a thing?
Microsoft Word asks if you want to save changes if you try to close or exit with a document open that Word thinks has changed.
Chances Word is correct, and it has changed. Even if all you did was look.