Sunbelt Weekly TechTips #37

Test your memory
Recently Tom (my husband) started experiencing some weird problems with his primary computer. Windows would reboot by itself for no reason, programs wouldn’t install, etc. After a lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, he was able to track down the problem: some of his memory had gone bad for some reason. He switched it out with the RAM from another computer and the problems magically disappeared. Memory problems can emulate many other problems, though. If you suspect you might have bad memory, you can use Microsoft’s Windows Memory Diagnostic to test your RAM for errors. Check it out here.

Computer Shutdown Day: Was it a big bust?
Saturday, March 24 was declared Computer Shutdown Day by, well, the folks at shutdown.org (warning: you may find some of the words/content on that site offensive). The idea was for everyone to go 24 hours without using their computers. I admit it: I didn’t do it, and based on the amount of spam that came in, I wasn’t the only one. Did you shut down for the day? If so, was it a good experience or a bad one? Or were you one of the many folks I talked to who said that, despite a fair amount of publicity, they had never heard about the effort? Great idea, or just silly? 

Should you buy software on eBay?
eBay can be a good place to find a bargain, but sometimes those “great deals” are just a little too good to be true. The risk is especially high when it comes to buying software, since it can be impossible to know whether the programs you’re buying or legal or not, and some may even have embedded viruses or spyware. A “gray” area is the selling of OEM versions of software, which are supposed to be bundled with hardware. Read more about the problems here.

Why is the Apple pot calling the Vista kettle black?
Sure, the Apple commercial is cute. You know, the one where the dashing, “hip” guy representing the Mac shakes his head in amazement as the nerdy PC guy’s “bodyguard” – who presents Vista’s User Account Control (UAC) protection – throws up “Cancel or Allow?” dialogs whenever PC tries to do/say something. If you haven’t seen it, you can view it here.

Cute, but is it really a fair representation of the difference in intrusiveness between Vista’s and OS X’s security? My good friend George Ou says maybe not. Read his take on it here.

Installing the wrong program no longer kills my computer
You may hear some folks complain that their favorite third party programs don’t work on Vista. And it’s true that a lot of the “little” applications and utilities, especially freeware, haven’t yet been updated to work with the new OS. I’ve tried a fair number of such programs to find that they either wouldn’t install or wouldn’t work after installation. But something I noticed and really appreciated is that not one of these failed installations hosed my computer. Instead, I just got an error message or the program refused to run. The rest of the operating system was unaffected. That’s a welcome change from earlier versions of Windows. The infamous “blue screen of death” is a thing of the past – and I’m not sorry to see it go.

How to install the upgrade version of Vista on a wiped disk
You qualify to buy the upgrade version of Windows Vista because you have a copy of XP, but you don’t want to run the upgrade and have all that old code floating around in your Vista installation. Upgrades are notorious for having more problems than clean installs so you’re perfectly willing to bite the bullet and go through all the configurations to get your preferred settings back. But will you also have to pay more for a full copy of Vista? According to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at CNET, here’s how to do a clean install of Vista with the upgrade copy.

How to change the system/boot drive letter in XP
If you break a mirror volume or for some other reason the drive letter of your system and/or boot drive gets changed so that the drive now has the wrong letter (not the one assigned to it when you installed the OS), you’ll find that the Disk Manager won’t let you change the letter of those drives. This is to protect you from making changes that render the OS unbootable, and you should make those changes only if the drive let gets changed as described above. To do so, you have to edit the registry. Be sure to back it up first.

  1. Log on with an administrative account.
  2. Click Start | Run and type regedt32.exe to open the registry editor.
  3. Navigate to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM
  4. In the right pane, click MountedDevices.
  5. On the Security menu, click Permissions and ensure that Administrators have full control.
  6. Close regedt32.exe and run regedit.exe. Navigate back to the same registry key.
  7. Locate the drive letter you want to change (such as \DosDevices\C:), right click it and select Rename.
  8. Rename it to the letter you want it to have (such as \DosDevices\D:).
  9. Close regedit.exe and run regedt32.exe again to change the permissions on the key back to Read Only.

You’ll need to restart the computer for the change to take effect. Be very careful about renaming drive letters of system/boot drives.

Possible security vulnerability in Windows Mail
Vista includes a brand new built in email program, Windows Mail, which takes the place of Outlook Express. It has some impressive features, but it’s possible that it can be exploited by attackers who send malicious links in email, to allow them to run applications on the user’s computer without permission. Read more about it here.

How to aggregate the bandwidth of two modems.
If you’re in one of those unfortunate areas where broadband Internet connections aren’t available, it’s possible, if you have two phone lines, to use two modems and get double the bandwidth from a dialup connection.  If your ISP supports a feature called Multi-link, you can indeed install two modems in your computer and combine the bandwidth of two physical links into one Internet connection. Here are the instructions for using it with Windows XP Home or Professional edition.

Erase files from a CD-RW disc in XP
If you have a CD recorder installed on your computer and it supports CD-RW (rewritable) discs, you can erase the data on a CD and use it again for something else. You don’t even need third party CD burning software to do it. Just following the instructions in KB article 306641.

Gain access to the System Volume Information folder in XP
XP deliberately makes it difficult for you to access the System Volume Information folder, which contains data used by the System Restore feature. It’s a hidden system folder and there’s one on each partition on your computer. How to access it depends on whether your XP computer is using FAT32 or NTFS. For instructions in both cases, see KB article 309531.

Deb Shinder

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