Q. I am preparing my old 486 computer for donation to a charity. How do I make sure that all of my data is gone, without erasing the files needed for the operating system (I don't have the original operating system diskettes)?
A. If you did have the original O/S diskettes, then an FDISK and FORMAT would do it, followed by an install of the operating system. Failing that, you might go to www.pgpi.org and get Pretty Good Privacy. There is a utility there that can erase and write over the space that was occupied by your files. A second step might be to "defrag" the drive, since this will move files into space that was vacated. It will not, however, overwrite space at the "end" of the drive.
Q. I've lost my Windows password for Windows 98. How do I recover it?
A. While the password encryption for plain Windows is not extremely hard to break, it isn't worth it. It is simpler to just erase all of the password files and start over. Boot your machine to the DOS command prompt, go to the C:\WINDOWS directory and then delete all of the .PWL (password list) files via C:\WINDOWS\DEL *.pwl. Then restart you machine. Windows will ask you for a login name and password. If you enter a name and then click the OK button with an empty password field (do not click the "X" box or cancel), it will no longer ask you for a login name and password. Note, however, that deleting the PWL files will also delete the passwords associated with dial-up networking, meaning that you will have to provide the password for your Internet account next time you connect.
Q. When I am filling in a form using my Internet browser, it seems to take forever to get to the next field. It wasn't always like this. Any suggestions?
A. First, make sure that you don't press the "Enter" key when you finish the field, as that causes the form to be sent to the host, which then probably decides that you haven't filled the whole form and reloads it to your machine. Instead, either press the "Tab" key or click into the next field. In Internet Explorer, look at "Auto-Complete," where the browser looks at previous responses and attempts to anticipate what you might want to type next. It can be a "sluggish" feature. After that, usual suspects for sluggish processing are having a full temporary directory or cache. Clean out the contents of C:\TEMP, C:\TMP, C:\WINDOWS\TEMP. Go to Internet options (or equivalent for your browser) and clear out the cache.
Q. What problems might one have if you delete the contents of "Temporary Internet Files"?
A. These are copies of files (Web pages, usually) that you have recently accessed. If you press the "Back" button in your browser, it will usually reload the page quickly because it has a copy in Temporary Internet Files, rather than have to go to the network. One problem here is that the page content may have changed on the server since you last saw it, in which case you will be looking at obsolete data. If you have many files in the Temporary Internet Files folder (or "cache"), it may take a significant amount of time for the browser to search for it before it decides that it isn't there. Note that if the files are graphic images (and they often are when did you last see a text-only web page?) then they consume a lot of your hard disk space. Even a small graphic file (such as a button on a form) will take 2KB to 4KB of real disk space - and if you get to a really cluttered web page with a lot of active content (say 50 items), you may consume 100 to 200KB of space. Multiply this by the number of pages you have browsed and you can see how the disk space can disappear.
Q. What about cleaning out cookies?
A. There are a number of freeware/shareware cookie removing utilities available which know where Internet Explorer and/or Netscape Navigator keep the cookies. They report who put the cookie there, when it is due to expire, and when it should expire. Take a look at http://www.newapps.com/ appstopics/Win_95_Cookie-Cache_Managers.html
Q. I don't get much audio volume out of my DVD drive. I've got the volume cranked up on the various mixer controls.
A. A common problem with DVDs is that they have a larger dynamic range so that soft sounds are "softer" and have less noise. The sound it is putting out is probably "cleaner" but isn't driving the speakers as hard. You probably need to take the audio feed and send it into an audio amplifier.
Q. Is there any reason to look into Linux?
A. It depends upon what you do with your PC. If you are just using it for classic applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, Internet browsing, and the like, probably not. However, if you would like to get "under the hood," it is a wonderful platform as it easily has the largest available "toolkit" available. So if you use your PC as a hobby as well, look into it.
Q. Should I turn off my machine when I'm not using it?
A. Five people will give you five different answers. I recommend turning it on and leaving it on for the day, and then turning it off when you are done for the day. The amount of power consumption is relatively minor; it's equivalent to a couple of light bulbs. The thermal stresses placed on the circuitry by going from cold to hot frequently could cause problems. Conversely, some mechanical components, such as the bearings in the power supply fan, the CPU fan, and the hard drives may fail from accumulated hours. It's your choice.
|Bruce Preston is president of West Mountain Systems, a consultancy in Ridgefield, CT, specializing in database applications. A DACS director and moderator of the Random Access segment at the monthly general meetings, Bruce also leads the Access SIG. Members may send tech queries to Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses will be published in the next issue of dacs.doc.|