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Troubleshooting Your PC For Dummies®

Book Description

Troubleshooting your PC isn’t as hard as you think. In fact, with a little help from Troubleshooting Your PC for Dummies, 3rd Edition, you can save yourself lots of time, money, and headaches by diagnosing and fixing those snags, glitches, and predicaments that would otherwise drive you crazy. Bringing a touch of humor and a strong dose of sanity into play PC expert Dan Gookin makes it easy!

This fully updated edition features new and expanded coverage of laptop woes as well as Internet and e-mail issues, broadband connections, spam blocking, and security concerns. You’ll find answers to all of your questions about getting out of PC pickles, recognizing when you’re headed for trouble, keeping Vista on the straight and narrow, creating a safe and secure PC environment, and even preventing problems down the road. Discover how to:

  • Remove documents from the file menu

  • Recognize warning signs of hard drive failure

  • Stop a program that’s misbehaving

  • Reclaim missing Internet passwords

  • Distinguish hardware problems from software problems

  • Mediate conflicts between Windows and your applications

  • Solve startup problems

  • Diagnose email calamities

  • Troubleshoot Internet connection malfunctions

  • Understand puzzling error messages

Complete with lists of essential rules of tech support and things you should never or always do, Troubleshooting PCs For Dummies, 3rd Edition, gives you the tips, tricks, and solid knowledge you need to keep your PC healthy and strong for years to come.

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
  2. About the Author
  3. Publisher's Acknowledgments
  4. Introduction
    1. About This Book
    2. How This Book Works
    3. What You're Not to Read
    4. Foolish Assumptions
    5. How This Book Is Organized
      1. Part I: What the @#$%&*!?
      2. Part II: Troubleshooting Minor Irks and Quirks
      3. Part III: Woes, Wows, Windows
      4. Part IV: Preventive Maintenance
      5. Part V: The Part of Tens
    6. Icons Used in This Book
    7. Where to Go from Here
  5. I. What the @#$%&*!?
    1. 1. Dealing with Disaster (While Keeping Your Sanity)
      1. 1.1. Why It's Not Your Fault
      2. 1.2. How It Possibly Could Be Your Fault
        1. 1.2.1. You did something new to the computer
        2. 1.2.2. You were bad and deleted files you shouldn't have deleted
        3. 1.2.3. Other ways to remove files you didn't create yourself
        4. 1.2.4. How old is your PC?
      3. 1.3. What You Can Do about It
    2. 2. Do This First
      1. 2.1. Some Quick Keyboard Things You Can Do
        1. 2.1.1. Test the keyboard
        2. 2.1.2. Press Ctrl+Z for immediate file relief
        3. 2.1.3. Escape! Escape!
      2. 2.2. The Drastic Measure of Restarting Windows (Yet It Works)
        1. 2.2.1. Restarting Windows
        2. 2.2.2. Restarting Windows when the mouse is dead but the keyboard is alive
        3. 2.2.3. Restarting when everything is dead
        4. 2.2.4. What to do about "restart guilt"
    3. 3. Is It a Hardware Problem or a Software Problem?
      1. 3.1. Whose Problem Is It?
        1. 3.1.1. Is it a hardware problem?
        2. 3.1.2. How hardware fails
        3. 3.1.3. Is it a software problem?
        4. 3.1.4. Some good questions to ask yourself
      2. 3.2. Hardware Things to Check When You Smell Trouble
        1. 3.2.1. Listen!
        2. 3.2.2. Touch!
        3. 3.2.3. Check the monitor
        4. 3.2.4. Other hardware tricks to try
      3. 3.3. Using Software to Check for Hardware Problems
        1. 3.3.1. The Device Manager
        2. 3.3.2. Diagnostic tools
    4. 4. The R Chapter (Reinstall, Restore, Recycle, Recover)
      1. 4.1. Restoring from the Recycle Bin
        1. 4.1.1. Restoring a file you deleted recently
        2. 4.1.2. Restoring a deleted file when you know its name
        3. 4.1.3. Restoring a deleted file when you know which application created it (by file type)
      2. 4.2. Using System Restore
        1. 4.2.1. Working magic with System Restore
        2. 4.2.2. Setting a restore point
        3. 4.2.3. Restoring the system
        4. 4.2.4. Undoing a System Restore
      3. 4.3. Restoring Files from a Backup
        1. 4.3.1. Restoring a single file, folder, or more
        2. 4.3.2. Restoring an application
        3. 4.3.3. Restoring the entire hard drive
      4. 4.4. Restoring a Previous Version of a File or Folder
      5. 4.5. Reinstalling Stuff
    5. 5. Help! I Need Somebody!
      1. 5.1. When to Use Tech Support
        1. 5.1.1. Boring tech-support history that you don't have to read
        2. 5.1.2. Before you call tech support
        3. 5.1.3. Finding your version of Windows
        4. 5.1.4. Finding the version number in an application program
        5. 5.1.5. Making the call
      2. 5.2. Tech Support on the Web (Better than You Think)
        1. 5.2.1. Finding the manufacturer's Web site
        2. 5.2.2. Using the Microsoft Knowledge Base
        3. 5.2.3. Downloading a new driver
      3. 5.3. Windows Remote Assistance
        1. 5.3.1. Setting up your system for remote assistance
        2. 5.3.2. Getting someone to help you
        3. 5.3.3. Giving help with Windows Remote Assistance
  6. II. Troubleshooting Minor Irks and Quirks
    1. 6. This Just Bugs Me!
      1. 6.1. Funny Startup Noises
        1. 6.1.1. In the presence of unwanted noises
        2. 6.1.2. In the presence of unwelcome silence
      2. 6.2. The Display Is Stuck in "Dumb" Mode
      3. 6.3. Annoying Icons in the Notification Area
        1. 6.3.1. "So what the heck are those icons, anyway?"
        2. 6.3.2. Required icons for the notification area
        3. 6.3.3. Killing off teensy icons in the notification area
      4. 6.4. Sleep Mode Poops Out, Hibernate Poops Out, We All Poop Out Now
        1. 6.4.1. The PC can't recover from Sleep mode
        2. 6.4.2. "Where is Hibernation?"
        3. 6.4.3. Adding Hibernation as a Power button option
        4. 6.4.4. Fixing the power-management software
        5. 6.4.5. Checking the battery
      5. 6.5. Windows Cannot Open the File
      6. 6.6. That Wicked File Is Read-Only
      7. 6.7. You Can't Play That DVD, But ...
    2. 7. Gosh! This Is Embarrassing!
      1. 7.1. Ghosts of Documents Past
        1. 7.1.1. Removing documents from the File menu
        2. 7.1.2. Really, really removing unwanted files from a list
        3. 7.1.3. Clearing the Recent Items submenu
      2. 7.2. Historically Speaking
        1. 7.2.1. Clearing places from the history
        2. 7.2.2. Clearing all the history
        3. 7.2.3. Disabling history altogether
      3. 7.3. Undoing the AutoComplete Nightmare
        1. 7.3.1. Clearing AutoComplete
        2. 7.3.2. Turning off AutoComplete
        3. 7.3.3. Removing an AutoComplete item from the Registry
      4. 7.4. Images of Filth and Perversion
        1. 7.4.1. Finding the images
        2. 7.4.2. Clearing the image cache
        3. 7.4.3. Dealing with nasty wallpaper!
      5. 7.5. Hiding Something on the Screen
    3. 8. Startup Problems
      1. 8.1. Computer Genesis
      2. 8.2. Immediate Trouble
        1. 8.2.1. "I see nothing — just a blinking cursor!"
        2. 8.2.2. The nefarious Non-System Disk error message
        3. 8.2.3. The dreaded Missing Operating System message
        4. 8.2.4. The computer tries to find the operating system on the wrong drive
      3. 8.3. The Many Villages of Startup Menuland
        1. 8.3.1. Your PC's startup menus
        2. 8.3.2. The PC's hardware setup menu
        3. 8.3.3. The Windows boot menu
        4. 8.3.4. The Advanced Boot Options menu
      4. 8.4. Mystery Startup Messages
        1. 8.4.1. For some reason, Selective Startup is on
        2. 8.4.2. The missing-file mystery
      5. 8.5. Stopping Things from Starting Automatically
        1. 8.5.1. Deleting a program from the Startup folder
        2. 8.5.2. Creating a NotStartup folder
        3. 8.5.3. Defending against unwanted startup programs
        4. 8.5.4. The mystery of processes and services
      6. 8.6. Windows Has Magically Restarted!
    4. 9. Losing Things, Finding Things
      1. 9.1. Finding Files Lost and Lonely
        1. 9.1.1. Finding the Search command
        2. 9.1.2. Limiting the search
        3. 9.1.3. Using the Advanced Search options
        4. 9.1.4. "Wow! This Search command is awesome! Is there anything it cannot find?"
        5. 9.1.5. Using the Search command to find a program
        6. 9.1.6. Saving a search
        7. 9.1.7. Using a saved search
        8. 9.1.8. Finding nothing
      2. 9.2. Shortcuts to Nowhere
      3. 9.3. Forgotten Passwords
        1. 9.3.1. Missing Internet passwords
        2. 9.3.2. Missing Web page passwords
        3. 9.3.3. Using password recovery in Windows
    5. 10. Sounds Like Trouble
      1. 10.1. Checking the Hardware
        1. 10.1.1. Are the speakers connected?
        2. 10.1.2. Any knobs on the speakers?
        3. 10.1.3. Where's the remote?
        4. 10.1.4. Are the speakers getting power?
        5. 10.1.5. Are the speakers getting enough oomph?
      2. 10.2. Checking the Software
        1. 10.2.1. Volume control
        2. 10.2.2. Playback device
        3. 10.2.3. Volume mixer
        4. 10.2.4. Device Manager
    6. 11. The Mystery of System Resources (and Memory Leaks)
      1. 11.1. The Terror of System Resources
        1. 11.1.1. Monitoring resources
        2. 11.1.2. Perusing performance
        3. 11.1.3. Checking reliability
      2. 11.2. Leaky Memory
      3. 11.3. How to Improve Performance
        1. 11.3.1. Adding memory
        2. 11.3.2. Removing fonts
        3. 11.3.3. Disabling services
        4. 11.3.4. Uninstalling what you don't use
    7. 12. The Slow PC
      1. 12.1. Slow Is Relative
        1. 12.1.1. Why things can get slow
        2. 12.1.2. Any way to speed things up?
      2. 12.2. Some Slow Q&A
    8. 13. Keyboard, Mouse, and Monitor Dilemmas
      1. 13.1. Which Is the Guilty Party?
      2. 13.2. Keyboard Kraziness
        1. 13.2.1. The keyboard's Control Panel home
        2. 13.2.2. The language problem
        3. 13.2.3. The bane of Sticky Keys
        4. 13.2.4. That bleepin' keyboard!
        5. 13.2.5. The Internet/Media/Whatever buttons don't work
        6. 13.2.6. The F-keys don't work!
      3. 13.3. Mouse Mayhem
        1. 13.3.1. Give me mouse control!
        2. 13.3.2. Common mouse maladies and cures
        3. 13.3.3. Your mouse is getting slow Your mouse is getting slow Hi-ho, the derry-o Your mouse is getting slow
      4. 13.4. Monitor Madness
      5. 13.5. A Time to Clean
        1. 13.5.1. Yes, you can clean your keyboard
        2. 13.5.2. Cleaning the mouse
        3. 13.5.3. Cleaning your monitor
    9. 14. Printer Problems
      1. 14.1. Don't Blame the Printer
        1. 14.1.1. Your best friend, Print Preview
        2. 14.1.2. Controlling the printer from your application
      2. 14.2. Where the Printer Stuff Lurks in Windows
        1. 14.2.1. Finding the Printers window
        2. 14.2.2. Seeing your printer's own window
        3. 14.2.3. Locating the little printer guy
      3. 14.3. And Then, the Printer Goes Wacky
        1. 14.3.1. General troubleshooting advice
        2. 14.3.2. Things to check when the printer isn't printing
        3. 14.3.3. The edge of the page won't print
        4. 14.3.4. Word won't print a page border
        5. 14.3.5. There are lines or blanks or rivers of white on the page
        6. 14.3.6. The "weird text atop the page" problem
        7. 14.3.7. The color is all wrong
        8. 14.3.8. A black-and-white image prints in dark blue
        9. 14.3.9. Halting a printer run amok
      4. 14.4. Printer Maintenance Chores
    10. 15. Mishaps in the Storage System
      1. 15.1. "My Storage Device Is Missing!"
      2. 15.2. Smells Like Hard Drive Trouble
        1. 15.2.1. Hard drive failure warning signs
        2. 15.2.2. What to do when you suspect trouble
      3. 15.3. Optical Disc Disaster!
        1. 15.3.1. The all-purpose, do-or-die, tried-and-true optical drive troubleshooter
        2. 15.3.2. The R/RW disc won't record
        3. 15.3.3. Turning AutoPlay on or off
        4. 15.3.4. Recordable optical drive stuff
    11. 16. Correcting Graphics Disgrace
      1. 16.1. Unraveling Resolution
        1. 16.1.1. "What are pixels?"
        2. 16.1.2. The mysterious depths of color
        3. 16.1.3. The number of dots per inch
        4. 16.1.4. "Why does the image look so large on my monitor?"
        5. 16.1.5. Changing the monitor's resolution
        6. 16.1.6. Updating your graphics device driver
        7. 16.1.7. How resolution affects image size
        8. 16.1.8. "How can I see the whole image?"
      2. 16.2. Setting Resolution
        1. 16.2.1. At what resolution should an image be for e-mail?
        2. 16.2.2. "At what resolution should an image be for photo editing or enlarging?"
        3. 16.2.3. "How can I change an image's resolution?"
        4. 16.2.4. "How can I resize an image?"
      3. 16.3. Graphics File Formats from Beyond
        1. 16.3.1. Graphics file format reference
        2. 16.3.2. The JPG compression stuff
        3. 16.3.3. "What's the best graphics file format for e-mail?"
        4. 16.3.4. "How can I convert my image from [whatever] format to [whatever] format?"
    12. 17. Internet Connection Mayhem
      1. 17.1. A Sampling of the Zillions of Potential Problems with a Dialup Connection
        1. 17.1.1. Automatic-connection dilemmas
        2. 17.1.2. The PC dials in to the Internet at seemingly random times
      2. 17.2. Losing the Connection
      3. 17.3. Disabling the Annoying Call Waiting
      4. 17.4. Humble Words of Advice for When Your Broadband Connection Goes Bonkers
      5. 17.5. Adjusting the Connection Timeouts
    13. 18. Web Weirdness with Internet Explorer
      1. 18.1. Internet Explorer Can Be Tamed
        1. 18.1.1. Changing the home page
        2. 18.1.2. Setting a blank home page
        3. 18.1.3. "I cannot change the home page!"
        4. 18.1.4. "Why does it tell me that there's a new version of Internet Explorer?"
        5. 18.1.5. Adjusting the temporary file size
      2. 18.2. Common Puzzles and Solutions
        1. 18.2.1. Text size trouble
        2. 18.2.2. Robbery at the Louvre
        3. 18.2.3. Full-screen mayhem
        4. 18.2.4. Print that Web page
      3. 18.3. Cookies
        1. 18.3.1. Understanding cookies
        2. 18.3.2. Losing your cookies
        3. 18.3.3. Preventing cookies in the first place
    14. 19. E-Mail Calamities
      1. 19.1. General E-Mail Nonsense
        1. 19.1.1. Receiving duplicate messages
        2. 19.1.2. Displaying the BCC field
        3. 19.1.3. Dealing with unreadable messages
      2. 19.2. Mail Folder Folderol
        1. 19.2.1. Understanding the Drafts folder
        2. 19.2.2. Copying an e-mail folder to a "real" folder
        3. 19.2.3. Undeleting a deleted message
      3. 19.3. Attachment Adversity
        1. 19.3.1. You just cannot open this attachment!
        2. 19.3.2. "The attachment never got there!"
        3. 19.3.3. Avoiding humongous attachments
        4. 19.3.4. Printing an e-mail attachment
        5. 19.3.5. "I forward a message, and the image is replaced by a little red X!"
    15. 20. Shutdown Discontent
      1. 20.1. What to Do When Your PC Doesn't Shut Down
        1. 20.1.1. Solve common problems that stop up shutdown
        2. 20.1.2. Close programs that refuse to quit
        3. 20.1.3. Try this first! (System Restore)
        4. 20.1.4. Fix a problem with a corrupt shutdown sound
        5. 20.1.5. Restart Windows quickly
        6. 20.1.6. Try shutting down in Safe mode
        7. 20.1.7. Check logs and error messages
      2. 20.2. Hardware Things to Check
        1. 20.2.1. Disabling the graphics adapter
        2. 20.2.2. Disabling power management
        3. 20.2.3. Disabling the network
      3. 20.3. The Annoying Shutdown — Instant Restart Problem
      4. 20.4. Help Me, Mr. Microsoft!
      5. 20.5. Controlling the Power Button's Behavior
        1. 20.5.1. Forcing the Power button to turn off the computer
        2. 20.5.2. Changing the Power button's function
  7. III. Woes, Wows, Windows
    1. 21. Windows Is As Windows Does
      1. 21.1. "That Looks Stupid"
        1. 21.1.1. Screwy colors
        2. 21.1.2. Fuzzy icon trouble
        3. 21.1.3. Getting more stuff on the screen
        4. 21.1.4. The window has slid off the screen
        5. 21.1.5. The window is too large for the screen
        6. 21.1.6. The window is too tiny
        7. 21.1.7. The taskbar has moved
        8. 21.1.8. The taskbar has disappeared
        9. 21.1.9. The menu or button or another element in the program is missing!
      2. 21.2. The Big, Scary Question of Reinstalling Windows
        1. 21.2.1. "Are there any benefits to reinstalling Windows?"
        2. 21.2.2. "What about reformatting the hard drive?"
        3. 21.2.3. Repairing Windows
    2. 22. Windows Versus Your Programs
      1. 22.1. Programs Run Amok
        1. 22.1.1. Stopping a naughty program
        2. 22.1.2. The program has gone on strike
        3. 22.1.3. Stopping a service
        4. 22.1.4. Shutting down all running programs
        5. 22.1.5. Disabling antivirus, firewall, and so on
      2. 22.2. The Compatibility Question
        1. 22.2.1. The program has "issues"
        2. 22.2.2. Tuning older programs to work in Windows Vista
      3. 22.3. Uninstalling Programs
    3. 23. Windows Can Be Your Friend
      1. 23.1. O Windows, Please Do Tell
        1. 23.1.1. Reading problem reports and solutions
        2. 23.1.2. Checking event logs
        3. 23.1.3. Getting performance information
        4. 23.1.4. Running a system diagnostics report
      2. 23.2. Freshly Installed Updates
        1. 23.2.1. Reviewing Windows updates
        2. 23.2.2. Undoing an update
      3. 23.3. System Restore under the Hood
    4. 24. Useful Tools and Weapons
      1. 24.1. Weapons within Windows
        1. 24.1.1. The System Configuration utility (MSCONFIG)
        2. 24.1.2. System Information
        3. 24.1.3. The System File Checker
        4. 24.1.4. The Windows Memory Diagnostic
      2. 24.2. Welcome to Safe Mode
        1. 24.2.1. Starting in Safe mode
        2. 24.2.2. Fixing things in Safe mode
        3. 24.2.3. Leaving Safe mode
      3. 24.3. Internet Tools
        1. 24.3.1. Windows Security Center
        2. 24.3.2. Windows Firewall
        3. 24.3.3. Aunty virus
        4. 24.3.4. Windows Defender
        5. 24.3.5. Anti-spam
        6. 24.3.6. Anti-phishing
  8. IV. Preventive Maintenance
    1. 25. Maintaining the Hard Drive
      1. 25.1. Hard Drive Maintenance Tools
        1. 25.1.1. Accessing the tools
        2. 25.1.2. Is not the hard drive riddled with errors?
        3. 25.1.3. Fragment me not
      2. 25.2. Increasing Hard Drive Storage
        1. 25.2.1. Checking disk space
        2. 25.2.2. Some space-saving suggestions
        3. 25.2.3. Disk cleanup
        4. 25.2.4. Other things to try
      3. 25.3. Regularly Scheduled Maintenance
    2. 26. The Benefits of Backup
      1. 26.1. The Backup Philosophy
        1. 26.1.1. Backing up your stuff
        2. 26.1.2. The Backup program
        3. 26.1.3. The backup routine
        4. 26.1.4. Backup media
      2. 26.2. Windows Vista Backup
        1. 26.2.1. Visiting the Backup and Restore Center
        2. 26.2.2. Configuring Backup
        3. 26.2.3. Running a manual backup
        4. 26.2.4. Backing up a project
      3. 26.3. Doing a Full Backup (Windows Complete PC Backup)
      4. 26.4. Backing Up without Backup Software
  9. V. The Part of Tens
    1. 27. The Ten Rules of Tech Support
      1. 27.1. Don't Use Technical Support as an Excuse for Not Reading the Manual or Using the Help System
      2. 27.2. Have Something to Write On
      3. 27.3. Be Nice
      4. 27.4. Be Sure to Get the Person's Name and a Number Where You Can Call Back
      5. 27.5. Prepare: Do the Research before You Call
      6. 27.6. Have These Items Handy: Serial Number, Order Number, Customer Number
      7. 27.7. Don't Spill Your Guts
      8. 27.8. Be Patient
      9. 27.9. Get a Case Number
      10. 27.10. Thank the Person
    2. 28. Ten Dumb Error Messages
      1. 28.1. User Account Controls
      2. 28.2. The Blue Screen of Death
      3. 28.3. The Program Has Performed an Illegal Operation or Stopped Responding or Is Just Being Stupid
      4. 28.4. Faults Various and Sundry
      5. 28.5. What KB Means in an Error Message
      6. 28.6. The Activation Period Has Ended
      7. 28.7. A Disk Read Error Has Occurred
      8. 28.8. Stack Overflow
      9. 28.9. Divide By Zero
      10. 28.10. Unknown Error
    3. 29. Ten Things You Should Never or Always Do
      1. 29.1. Never Run Your Computer in Safe Mode All the Time
      2. 29.2. Never Reinstall Windows
      3. 29.3. Never Reformat the Hard Drive
      4. 29.4. Never Randomly Delete Files You Didn't Create
      5. 29.5. Never Let Other People Use Your Computer
      6. 29.6. Never Use Pirated Software
      7. 29.7. Always Shut Down Windows Properly
      8. 29.8. Always Back Up
      9. 29.9. Always Set Restore Points after Installing New Software or Hardware
      10. 29.10. Always Scan for Viruses