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Dealing with Windows' annoyances, Part 2
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
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Dealing with Windows' annoyances, Part 2

Technofile for Oct. 11, 1998

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers

Last week I told you how to deal with some of the most vexing Windows annoyances. Here are more tips.

Problem: My Taskbar used to be at the bottom, but now it's against the right side of my screen. Sometimes it flips to the left side or the top. How do I get it back? And sometimes my Taskbar is just a sliver at the bottom of the screen. How do I get it to reappear?

Solutions: If the Taskbar has moved, click a blank area of the Taskbar, hold the button down and drag the Taskbar back to the bottom of the screen. If the Taskbar is almost hidden, click the visible edge, hold the button down and drag the edge up until the Taskbar is the normal size.

Problem: How can I rearrange the items in the Start Menu into the order I want?

Solutions: You can't change the order of some items (the ones below the main horizontal divider in the top level of the Start Menu), but you can change the order of everything else. In Windows 95, rename the items with letters or numbers, such as "1 - Microsoft Word" and "2 - Quicken" or "A - Microsoft Access" and "B - Internet Explorer Browser." They will be arranged in alphabetical and numerical order. (Rename items by right clicking the Start button, choosing Open, and clicking once on an icon and pressing F2, then typing the new name.) In Windows 98, click the Start button, click once on any item you want to move and drag it to its new location.

Problem: One of the programs in my Startup folder (which houses programs that always run when Windows boots up) is bad, and always causes an error that keeps Windows from loading. What can I do?

Solution: Hold down one of the Shift keys as soon as "Starting Windows" appears. Windows will skip all the programs in the Startup folder. After Windows finishes loading, right click the Start button, choose Open, double click the Programs icon, double click the Startup icon, click once on the icon for the offending program and press the Delete key.

Problem: When I run Microsoft Word, there are toolbars all over the map. I can hardly get enough room to type in the window with all those toolbars in the way.

Solution: Right click a blank area near one of the toolbars and uncheck the ones you don't want in the list that pops open.

Problem: I have a hard time double clicking. Windows needs a lot of double clicking and this is a major problem for me.

Solutions: Right click instead, then choose Open (or any other option) from the pop-up list. Or left click once and press the Enter key. Or use the arrow keys to move to the icon you want and press Enter.

Problem: Sometimes the floppy disk drive spins and spins for no reason. It does this whether it has a disk in it or not.

Solution: Windows is looking for a file that you (or a program you ran) accessed on a floppy disk recently. This can happen when you use a word processor on a document on a floppy disk. After you take the disk out, Windows still has a record of that document in the Recent Documents folder, and tries to check on it now and then. Stop writing or editing files on floppies (move the files to your hard drive first) and delete the contents of the Recent Documents folder. (Right click the Taskbar, choose Properties, choose Start Menu Programs and click the Clear button.)

Problem: When I try to play some of the games I bought on CD-ROM disks, I get a message saying my computer doesn't have enough memory. In fact, it has 32 megabytes of memory. That ought to be enough. What has Windows done with my computer's memory?

Solution: The error messages you see aren't referring to your PC's 32 megabytes of memory. And they don't come from Windows. So you could say this is not a Windows problem, but in fact it is—because Microsoft could have designed Windows to take care of this problem yet decided not to.

The problem is simply that the games you are trying to play are DOS programs—programs that weren't designed for Windows. So if the games attempt to run outside of Windows (under a non-Windows bootup), they're at the mercy of the old monster DOS to find enough memory.

Ordinarily, DOS can only locate and deal with a small amount of memory (less than a megabyte). If the PC isn't set up properly for DOS mode operation, it probably won't have enough memory for some games even if it has plenty of memory for Windows. I'll leave out the technical solution, but the non-technical one is to run such games while Windows is running whenever possible. In other words, if you can run DOS games (in a window or full-screen) under Windows, you'll usually have enough memory. (Unfortunately, many game designers use code that keeps their games from running if they detect that you are "cheating" by running the game under Windows, or they create games that need to have direct access to some of the PC's hardware—something Windows won't let them do. So don't be surprised if you find out that many of your DOS games just won't run this way.)

Problem: Sometimes, when you add something to your PC such as a new sound card, the PC runs out of IRQs (processor interrupts, which are communications lines in the central processor). When this happens, something inside or attached to the computer won't work any longer.

Solution: Remove one of the other devices using the Add/Remove Hardware applet in the Control Panel. After the PC reboots, put it back in. This sometimes forces Windows to reassign the IRQs. Some users have resorted to removing everything and then reinstalling the whole lot, one by one, to get Windows to free up an IRQ. If this doesn't work, you need to try reassigning IRQs manually though the Device Manager.

Problem: When you double click a WAV audio file, Windows doesn't play it the way it used to. Instead, the WAV player opens up and waits for you to click the Play button.

Solution: Something changed the default action, so you have to change it back. Open an Explorer window (a file-and-folder window) and open the View menu, then open the Options menu. (Some versions of Windows have a slightly different name for this menu.) Choose File Types, click once on one of the entries in the window and then press the W key. Press the up or down arrow until you get to the WAV file entry. Double click that entry, choose Edit, click the action listed in bold type to edit it, and put the following characters at the end of the command that's shown in the window: /play. (Make sure you put a space before the part you typed in).

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