Troubleshooting & Maintaining Your PC All-in-One For Dummies®, 2nd Edition

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Table of Contents

Woe Is Computer
About the For Dummies Approach
Who Are You?
How This Book Works
How the Videos on the Web Site Work
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go Now?
Final Thots
Book I: Hardware
Book I: Chapter 1: Let There Be PC
In the Beginning, There Was Power
What happens
What could go wrong
The First Test: Hardware Self-Diagnostics
What happens
What could go wrong
Your PC’s Setup program
The Search for an Operating System
What happens
What could go wrong
The boot loader
Operating System Initialization
What happens
What could go wrong
Log On to Windows
What happens
What could go wrong
Personalized Start-Up
What happens
What could go wrong
Use Your PC
What happens
What could go wrong
The Last Thing You Do
Book I: Chapter 2: Birth Pangs
The Onset of PC Heartbreak
Nothing — I see nothing
POST errors
CMOS errors
There’s a BIOS password!
“Did my PC secretly restart?”
Operating System Trouble
The horrifying, blinking cursor
Changing the boot order
The no-operating-system sisters
“Press any key to boot from the optical disc”
Removing a boot loader
Start-Up Menus
The boot menu
The F8 menu
The F5 menu
Start-up and recovery options
Windows Error Recovery menu
Book I: Chapter 3: Death Throes
When Will It Stop?
Shutting down a PC
Ending your Windows day
Finding the shutdown options
Setting the Power button function
Setting the Windows Vista software Power button function
Shutdown Malaise
General shutdown advice
Turning off a stubborn PC
Slow shutdown
Someone else is logged in!
End now?
“The computer was improperly shut down!”
Windows Error Recovery menu
Power Management Issues
Activating power management in Windows XP
Enabling power management for specific devices
Activating hibernation
What is hybrid sleep?
Recovering from a PC coma
Problems with Restarting
Random restarts
Automatic restarts
Book I: Chapter 4: Mass Storage Issues
Mass Storage Overview
Understanding mass storage
Finding mass storage in Windows
Using the Disk Management console
Understanding Medea
Adding drives and media
Removing media
Removing drives
Hard Drive Stuff
Hard drive technical trivia
The master boot record
Optical Drive Death and Misery
Is the drive dead?
A disk is stuck in the drive!
The program doesn’t install
AutoPlay issues
The drive doesn’t record
The disc doesn’t record
On cleaning an optical drive
Professional Data Recovery
Book I: Chapter 5: Pain in the Printer
Marginal Printer Stuff
Amazing printers
Printing in Windows
Using the Page Setup dialog box
Dealing with printers
Checking the printer driver
Working with print jobs
Canceling a print job
Using the Printing Troubleshooter
Visiting the Print Management window
General Printer Problems
Print Preview lies
Wrong colors, streaks, madness
Weird characters on the page
Page after page of gobbledygook
Printer jams
Page orientation
Envelopes must eat, too
Book I: Chapter 6: Seeing Trouble
The PC Graphics System
Terms to describe what you see
Graphical system overview
The display adapter
Display adapter info
The monitor
That second-monitor thing
Captain Video the Troubleshooter
Seeing nothing
Seeing only the mouse pointer
Swapping solutions
Adjusting the monitor
Dealing with dead or stuck pixels
Saving the screen
Saving power
Adjusting the resolution
Changing the icon size
Setting the dpi
Setting color depth
Configuring color management
Calibrating color in Windows 7
Updating drivers
Using the troubleshooting helpers
Book I: Chapter 7: Peripheralitis
General Hardware Troubleshooting
Understanding how hardware trouble happens
Diagnosing problems in Windows 7
Keyboard and Mouse
Troubleshooting basic input dilemmas
Taming the wild mouse
Making the mouse faster or slower
Making the mouse pointer more visible
Looking southward
Honing the keyboard
Undoing the Sticky Keys warning
Speaking of Trouble
Testing the speakers
Connecting the speakers
Fixing silence
Testing the microphone
Your Pal, the Device Manager
Starting the Device Manager
Finding errant hardware
Troubleshooting a gizmo in Windows XP
Updating driver software
Book I: Chapter 8: Deep Inside the Computer Case
Into the Case
Opening the case
Grounding yourself
Closing the case
The PC Console Adventure Map
Common Problems and Solutions
Checking for loose cables
Dissipating heat
Upgrade, Replace, Maintain
Buying replacement parts
Replacing the power supply
Replacing the clock battery
The Miracle of Expansion Cards
Exploring expansion slots
Inserting an expansion card
Updating a display adapter
Removing an expansion card
Reseating expansion cards
Your PC Wants More Memory
Understanding memory banks
Getting the right DIMM
Adding memory
More Storage for You!
Knowing the terms
Choosing a new hard drive
Choosing a new optical drive
Installing the optical drive
Book II: Software
Book II: Chapter 1: Windows Gone AWOL
Windows 7 Troubleshooting
Accessing the Action Center
Using the Troubleshooting window
Problems and Solutions for Windows Vista
Checking on new solutions
Perusing recent issues
Windows Needs a-Fixin’
Restarting Windows
Deciphering error codes
Peeking at that debug information
Windows Updates, Doesn’t It?
Understanding Windows Update
Configuring updates
Permitting an update
Reviewing the updates
Undoing an update
Fixing update problems in Windows 7
Files Missing and Found
Searching for files
Really searching for files
Searching the Recycle Bin
Really, really searching for files
Adding items to the search index
Rebuilding the search index
A file is missing
A Smattering of Annoying Things in Windows
The blue screen of death
Silence the sounds
Anchor the taskbar
Move the taskbar
Resize the taskbar
Hide the taskbar
See all icons on the Quick Launch bar
Set notification area icons in Windows 7
Set notification area icons in Windows Vista
Retrieve a window that slid off the screen
Windows appear at odd sizes and positions
Change the image viewer
Folders and icons change position
Line up icons on the desktop
Clear the desktop
Get rid of the Desktop Cleanup Wizard
Turn off the Documents/Recent Items menu on the Start menu
See the Windows Explorer menus in Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Update a window
Read-only files and folders
The message “Your activation period has expired” appears
Icons go missing
What file is this?
Book II: Chapter 2: Programs, Processes, and Services
What’s an Application? What’s a Process? What’s a Service?
Understanding the weird terms
Visiting the Task Manager
Understanding the application/process relationship
Viewing the whole mess o’ processes
Enjoying the services
Ending a stuck program
Halting a process
Stopping or disabling a service
Understanding svchost.exe
Peeking at that rundll32.exe thing
Start-Up Programs
Disabling start-up programs
Using MSCONFIG to set start-up stuff
Finding start-up programs for your account
Dealing with blocked start-up programs
Book II: Chapter 3: The Safe Mode Chapter
Safe Mode to the Rescue
Using Safe mode
Entering Safe mode unexpectedly
Getting into Safe mode at boot time
Restarting in Diagnostic mode with MSCONFIG
Ending Safe mode
Ending Diagnostic mode
Safe Mode Troubleshooting
Understanding Safe mode
Knowing the three problem sisters
Disabling start-up files
Book II: Chapter 4: Putting the Pep Back into Your PC
Man, Your PC Is Slow!
Understanding slow
Testing multiple tasks
Checking virtual memory
Problems That Slow Down Your Computer
Unclogging the spyware
Finding a memory leak
Speed Up Your PC
Performing regular maintenance
Putting ReadyBoost to work
Setting the number of CPUs
Using the Windows 7 Performance Troubleshooter
Disabling unnecessary services
Book II: Chapter 5: User Accounts
The User Account
Understanding the user profile
Configuring your account
Changing to an administrator-level account
Deleting a user account
Disabling the Guest account
Finding the secret Administrator account
Changing the Windows XP logon
Avoiding the Windows XP Logon
Windows 7 Parental Controls
Activating parental controls in Windows 7
Setting time limits
Controlling game access
Blocking programs
Ode to the Password
Creating a strong password
Changing your account password
Recovering your password
Protecting folders with a password
The User Account Control
Disabling the UAC
Disabling UAC Secure Desktop mode
Changing the UAC beep
Book II: Chapter 6: Unexpected Application Situations
Installation Issues
Adding new software
Dealing with installation problems
Resolving compatibility issues
Banish the Unwanted
Uninstalling software
Pruning Windows programs
Removing bloatware
Dealing with phantom removed programs
Cleaning up the crud
The Good and Evil of File Association
Understanding file association
Hiding or showing file extensions
Reviewing associations
Opening a file with a different program
Changing file association (the easy way)
Dealing with unknown file types
Creating an association for unassociated files
Common Problems and Solutions
Running older software
Using the Windows 7 program compatibility troubleshooter
Repairing a program
Opening a Word document in an oddball format
Eliminating personalized menus
Getting rid of recently opened file lists
Running a program with elevated permissions
Book II: Chapter 7: Reporting for Duty
The Joys of System Resources
Understanding resources
Getting system information
Monitoring system resources
What Has Gone On Here?
Reviewing events
Using the Event Viewer
Filtering and searching events
Finding logs
Understanding diagnostics
Diagnosing DirectX
Using the Memory Diagnostic tool
Doing a hardware diagnostic
Book II: Chapter 8: Recovery Options
Windows Time Travel
Restore the System, Restore Your Sanity
Using System Restore
Restoring to a specific date and time
Setting a restore point
Undoing a System Restore
Disabling System Restore
The System File Checker
Running SFC in Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Reviewing the cbs.log file
Running SFC in Windows XP
Windows Recovery
Understanding the Recovery Console
Getting to the Recovery Console in Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Starting the Recovery Console in Windows XP
Fixing the master boot record
Booting into a recovery partition
Using a recovery disc
Making a recovery disc
Reinstalling Windows
Book II: Chapter 9: Registry Fixes
Behold the Registry
Understanding the Registry
Using the Registry Editor
Backing up the Registry
Modifying the Registry
Finding stuff in the Registry
Registry Cleaning
Book III: Laptops
Book III: Chapter 1: Laptop Asleep, Laptop Awake, Laptop Dead
Laptop Start-Up Issues
Laptop just won’t start
Laptop is slow to start
Laptop won’t wake up
Check the display
Laptop starts and then turns off
Laptop turns off and then immediately starts
Laptop won’t stay asleep
Before sending the laptop into the shop
What Happens When You Close the Lid
Power Management Issues
Speeding up hibernation
Testing the power management hardware
Updating power drivers
A Battery of Issues
Monitoring battery life
Setting low battery warnings
Swapping batteries
Prolonging battery life
Maintaining the battery
Book III: Chapter 2: A More Usable Laptop
A Home for the Laptop
Making the laptop feel at home
Selecting devices for the laptop
Cooling Mr. Laptop
Handy Laptop Utilities
Using the Windows Mobility Center
Magnifying the screen
Typing on the On-Screen Keyboard
Book III: Chapter 3: Out on the Road
The Elsewhere Laptop
Choosing a proper laptop bag
Packing the laptop bag
Checking stuff before you leave
Resuming life after you travel
Life in the Air
Getting through security
Storing the laptop
Using your laptop in the air
Book III: Chapter 4: Laptop Maintenance
A Sparkling Laptop
Making the case beautiful again
Washing the screen
Kleaning the keyboard
Hardware Upgrades
Book IV: Internet
Book IV: Chapter 1: Internet Malaise
Problems Getting (and Staying) Online
Using the Windows 7 Internet Connection troubleshooter
Testing broadband Internet
Checking dialup connections
Remembering your dialup Internet password
Dialing in manually
Dialing randomly
Dealing with dialup timeouts
Disabling call waiting
Internet Troubleshooting Tools
Checking to see whether the Internet is really out there
Confirming that an Internet location exists
Choose Your Internet Programs
Binary Breadcrumbs
Revising history
Removing cookies
Purging temporary files
Dealing with AutoComplete
Book IV: Chapter 2: Woes on the Web
Internet Explorer Hates Your Guts
Showing the menu bar
Managing toolbars
Dealing with add-ons
Resetting Internet Explorer
Upgrading Internet Explorer
Understanding the “work offline” thing
Secret Ingredient: ActiveX
Understanding ActiveX
Restricting ActiveX controls
Disabling ActiveX controls
What’s Up, Pop?
Understanding pop-ups
Witnessing a pop-up
Avoiding pop-ups
Web Page Hell
Dealing with a missing web page
Adding a web site to your trusted zone
Fixing weirdly sized windows
Looking bigger (smaller)
Printing a web page
Disabling JavaScript error messages
Dealing with missing pictures
Book IV: Chapter 3: Email Postage Due
Message for You, Sir!
Understanding email
Leaving mail on the server
General Email Melancholy
Dealing with drafts
Trashing a message
Multiple message mayhem
Repairing hyperlinks in Outlook Express
Fixing that email disconnection urge
“Why doesn’t the address book work?”
“I can’t read your message!”
Unable to send email
Email You Don’t Want
Blocking senders
Unblocking senders
Junking email
Creating a junk mail filter
Editing a junk mail rule
Disabling a mail rule
Skipping email over a certain size
Book IV: Chapter 4: Wicked Software
Malicious + Software = Malware
Understanding malware
Finding malware
Protecting your PC
When Mr. Virus Comes Calling
Inoculating your computer
Disabling antivirus software
Hook, Line, and Stinker
Understanding the phishing scam
Fighting phishing in Internet Explorer
Testing a web page for something phishy
Avoiding misleading email
I Spy, with My Little Eye
Understanding spyware
Getting Windows Defender
Using Windows Defender
Scanning for spyware in Windows Defender
Scheduling Windows Defender
Life Behind the Firewall
Understanding firewalls
Setting up a router with a firewall
Using the Windows Firewall
Disabling the Windows Firewall
Disabling Windows Remote Assistance
Book IV: Chapter 5: The File Transfer Chapter
What Is a File?
The Art of Downloading
Downloading the right term
Grabbing an image from a web page
Downloading a program from a web site
Email Attachment Irritants
Emailing a file
Emailing a photo
Choosing the right graphics file format
Receiving an attachment
FTP Trouble
Understanding FTP
Accessing an FTP server in Windows Explorer
Accessing a password-protected FTP site
Remembering an FTP site for future access
Setting file permissions
Book V: Networking
Book V: Chapter 1: Network Hardware Help
The Network Big Picture
Understanding networking
Discovering network hardware
Putting a printer on the network
Adding a network hard drive
You Say “Rooter,” I Say “Router”
Understanding the router
Connecting the router
Configuring the router
Resetting the router
Pinging the router
Adding more Ethernet ports to the network
General Network Troubleshooting
Inspecting the NIC
Upgrading the NIC’s driver
Disconnecting from the network
Resetting the broadband modem
Restarting the entire network
Book V: Chapter 2: The Soft Side of Networking
Where Is the Network Software?
Finding network locations in Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Finding network locations in Windows XP
IP Gone Wrong
Understanding the IP address
Checking your PC’s IP address
Understanding DHCP
Resolving an IP conflict
Renewing the DHCP lease
Manually assigning an IP address
Network Troubleshooting
Repairing the network
Using the Windows XP Network Troubleshooter
Disconnecting from the network
Book V: Chapter 3: Peer-to-Peer Networking
Once Upon a Time, There Was This Workgroup
Understanding the workgroup
Creating a workgroup
Browsing the workgroup in Windows 7 and Window Vista
Browsing the workgroup in Windows XP
Everybody Share
Making sharing possible in Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Making sharing possible in Windows XP
Sharing your PC’s printer
Sharing a folder
Setting shared folder permissions
Accessing shared folders
Discovering which folders you’re sharing
Unsharing a folder
Workgroup Woes
Checking network privacy
Reaching unreachable PCs
Allowing local traffic through the Windows firewall
Getting at multiple networks
Finding out who else is using your computer
Book V: Chapter 4: Networking Unplugged
Unwired Networking Basics
Setting up a wireless network
Using the proper wireless network standard
Configuring the wireless base station
Connecting base stations
Restricting access to your wireless network
Resetting a base station
When the Hook-Up Gets Hung Up
Enabling the wireless NIC
Finding a wireless network
“But I can’t find the network!”
Managing wireless connections
The Bluetooth Thing
Understanding Bluetooth
Connecting a Bluetooth gizmo
Managing Bluetooth connections
Dealing with Bluetooth woe
Book VI: Maintenance
Book VI: Chapter 1: Backup, Backup, Backup
That Emergency Copy
Understanding backup
Making that backup copy
Using a backup program
The Computer Backs Up for You
Getting an external hard drive
Finding the backup program
Configuring (and making your first) backup
Confirming that the backup worked
Making an immediate backup
Modifying the backup routine
Stopping a backup in progress
Disabling the backup program
Files from Days of Yore
Restoring something from the last backup
Restoring from an older backup
Restoring all your personal files
The Windows Vista Complete PC Backup
Understanding Complete PC Backup
Setting up an external hard drive for Complete PC Backup
Backing up your entire computer
Restoring your entire computer
Book VI: Chapter 2: Pampering the Hard Drive
Free Up Some Storage Space
Looking at the storage situation
Removing large files
Using Disk Cleanup
Moving your program files
Using file compression
Compressing every dang doodle file on a hard drive
Disk Drive Tools
Understanding fragmentation
Finding the tools
Defragmenting a hard drive
Checking the storage media
Media Manipulation Mania
Opening the Disk Management console
Changing drive letters
Joining a drive to a folder
Formatting a volume
Messing with Volumes
Repartitioning a drive
Shrinking a volume
Making use of unallocated drive space
Unallocating a volume
Extending a volume
Book VI: Chapter 3: On Schedule
Windows 7/Vista Task Scheduler
Opening the Task Scheduler
Making your own task folder
Creating a new task
Creating a task to run a program
Creating a task to send email
Creating a task to display a pop-up message
Test-running a task
Halting a task
Confirming that a task has run
Editing a task
Disabling a task
Deleting a task
Windows XP Scheduled Tasks
Opening the Scheduled Tasks window
Creating a task
Running a task
Confirming that a task has run
Editing a task
Disabling a task
Deleting a task
Book VI: Chapter 4: A Time to Clean
Your Cleanliness Arsenal
Outside the Box
Cleaning surfaces and stuff
Cleaning the console vents
Cleaning the keyboard
Dealing with liquid spilled in a keyboard
Cleaning a mouse
Cleaning the screen
Buffing an optical disc
Inside the Box
Cheat Sheet

Troubleshooting & Maintaining Your PC All-in-One For Dummies®, 2nd Edition


About the Author

Dan Gookin has written more than 120 books about technology, many of them accurate. He is most famously known as the author of the original For Dummies book, DOS For Dummies, published in 1991. Additionally, Dan has achieved fame as one of the first computer radio talk show hosts, the editor of a computer magazine, a national technology spokesman, and an occasional actor on the community theater stage.

Dan still considers himself a writer and technology “guru” whose job it is to remind everyone that our electronics are not to be taken too seriously. His approach is light and humorous yet very informative. He knows that modern gizmos can be complex and intimidating but necessary to help people become productive and successful. Dan mixes his vast knowledge of all things high-tech with a unique, dry sense of humor that keeps everyone informed — and awake.

Dan’s most recent books are Droid X For Dummies, Word 2010 For Dummies, PCs For Dummies, Windows 7 Edition, and Laptops For Dummies, 4th Edition. He holds a degree in communications/visual arts from the University of California, San Diego. Dan dwells in North Idaho, where he enjoys woodworking, music, theater, riding his bicycle, being with his boys, and fighting local government corruption.


To Milton Francis. Thanks for the love and attention. You will be missed.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

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Publishing and Editorial for Technology Dummies

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If trouble were predictable, it wouldn’t be a problem. The problem with trouble, however, is that it’s unpredictable.

You hold in your hands a big ol’ book that’s all about solving problems with your computer. The topic is troubleshooting. It needs to be covered in so many pages because there hasn’t been a computer yet invented that didn’t have trouble following it like a shadow on a sunny day.

The computing experience should be a pleasant one. And it can be — if you’re informed and able to deal with the troubles you encounter. This book helps you along that journey in an informative and entertaining way. Welcome to Troubleshooting & Maintaining Your PC All-in-One For Dummies.

Woe Is Computer

A byte of prevention is worth a megabyte of cure.

My philosophy on troubleshooting is that it’s easier to do when you understand how the computer works. This philosophy is the opposite of what most people expect, which is to look up a specific condition and find a specific cure for it. Although many people like that approach, it has two problems.

The first downfall of the look-it-up approach is that you don’t master anything. Because there’s a method behind PC madness, often the same solution exists for multiple problems. After you understand why things go wrong, it’s not only easier to fix them — it’s also possible to prevent them in the first place.

The second difficulty of the specific-solution approach is that it would make this book seriously huge. With millions upon millions of potential hardware and software configurations available in all the PCs in the world, it would take not one but several fat books to document every problem and its solution. This book is big enough already!

My approach is simple: Look up the problem, find out a bit about what might have caused it, and then arrive at a solution. The notion is that when trouble arises again later, you will have the experience to deal with it in a practical manner. Because most PC troubles have a common origin, this solution works.

Married to troubleshooting is maintenance. The two topics go hand in hand; with proper maintenance and care, your computer runs better and more reliably, often negating the need for much troubleshooting in the first place!

Before moving on, please be aware that there’s a difference between trouble and an event that’s merely annoying. For example, if the text you print from an email message is tiny, it’s annoying but isn’t a bug. Though specific annoying problems such as that one might not be covered in this book, you can still find a solution here. That’s the beauty behind my philosophical approach to troubleshooting. After all, using Windows shouldn’t be a frustrating experience.

About the For Dummies Approach

As a For Dummies title, this book doesn’t delve into the technical. It doesn’t start out easy and then become immediately technical and cryptic. And this book never disrespects you as a reader.

It’s entirely possible to be a smart and clever (and, I might add, attractive) computer owner and not know a darn thing about what a computer is or how it works. That’s fine with me. This book doesn’t assume that you’re a computer expert or that you want to become one. The subject is troubleshooting and maintaining your computer. Anyone who owns a PC can read and understand this book well enough to fix their computer woes.

This book may appear to be overburdened with humor. I admit that writing in an entertaining manner is a weakness of mine. Troubleshooting can be a serious topic, and this book treats serious issues with respect. But there are times when I feel that the amusement value is necessary to keep the mood light. Computer repair and maintenance need not be a grim topic.

Who Are You?

Allow me to make some assumptions about who you are and why you’re reading this introduction.

First, I assume that you’re human, or at least posing in human form while visiting Earth from the 23rd dimension. If so, welcome. And, if your plans for destroying the earth are imminent, I’d like to suggest that you aim your death ray at Idaho first. Thank you.

Second, you have a PC. That’s the generic term for any computer running Microsoft Windows. So, if the computer runs Windows — whether it’s made by Dell, made by Joe the Nerd, or it’s an iMac — it’s a PC as far as this book is concerned.

Even though you’re holding a For Dummies book, I must make some assumptions about how well you know your computer. The text assumes, for example, that you know how to start the computer, use the mouse, type, and perform other basic computer activities. If you can read and send email or play a game of Spider Solitaire, you have enough computer literacy to understand this book and handle the chores I set forth.

Finally, you’re using Windows on your PC. It can be Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP. All these versions are covered here where applicable. You should be aware, however, that Windows XP lacks a lot of the good PC troubleshooting tools available in Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

How This Book Works

This book is composed of six minibooks, each of which addresses a computer troubleshooting or maintenance topic. The minibooks are split into traditional chapters, all geared to a specific subject within the minibook topic. Then the chapters are split into sections consisting of paragraphs, words, and then letters. So, as long as you understand the alphabet, you’ll understand this book.

Here are some other important things to note about how this book works:

Cross-references: Because this book contains six Chapter 1s and six Chapter 2s and so on, these chapters in other minibooks are referenced by the book they belong to. So, when you read “See Book II, Chapter 2,” you know in which minibook to find that Chapter 2. Chapters within the same minibook are referred to as just plain chapters, such as “See Chapter 2.”

Windows, Windows, Windows: When this book refers to Windows, it means all versions covered in this book: 7, Vista, and XP. Otherwise, specific mention is made to a version of Windows. Because Windows 7 and Windows Vista are very similar, they’re often lumped together.

The Control Panel: Many times this book references the Windows Control Panel, a central location for controlling things in your computer. In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, this book assumes that you’re using the Control Panel in Category view, also called Control Panel Home. In Windows XP, I assume that you’re using the Control Panel in Icon view.

Procedural steps: This book presents numbered steps to accomplish specific tasks. Occasionally, one set of steps is used for all versions of Windows. More often, you see two sets of steps: one for Windows 7 and Windows Vista and the other for Windows XP. Rarely do you find steps listed for all versions of the operating systems. When all three operating systems are referenced in the same set of steps, letters are used within a step when the versions of Windows differ — for example, Step 2a for Windows 7, Step 2b for Windows Vista, and Step 2c for Windows XP. Then everyone continues with Step 3.

Typing stuff: When you’re supposed to type something, the text appears in bold type. In the context of a step, where the text is normally bold anyway, the stuff you type appears in regular roman text.

The Enter key: Do not press the Enter key until you’re directed to do so. And even then, just to ensure that you typed everything properly, I recommend that you review what you type before you press Enter.

Period: Do not press a period at the end of any text you type, unless I explain that the period is needed. Unlike sentences in English, a computer command doesn’t end with a period.

Filenames and text commands: Windows lets you type filenames or text commands in either upper- or lowercase letters. This book uses lowercase, often using monospaced text to present the command name or filename.

How the Videos on the Web Site Work

This book features a host of companion videos. In the first edition, the videos were contained on a companion DVD that was supplied with the book. Rather than weigh down this edition with another DVD, and to avoid all that video piracy, this edition’s videos can be found on the Internet.

To view a video, enter into your computer’s web browser the web page address shown in this book. Type the address on the Address bar, and the video plays on your computer screen.

You can also visit this web page to find an index of all videos:

You’ll find two types of videos:

A walk-through of complex steps listed in this book: Sometimes, despite all my flowery prose, it’s difficult to explain on paper how something works. So the video shows you, step by step, how to troubleshoot or maintain your PC.

A demonstration of how to do more physical tasks, such as clean a computer or yank out a hard drive: This type of video uses an actor (myself because I’m cheap) to demonstrate the concept.

onthewebsite.eps All videos referenced in this book have a On The Web Site icon, shown in the margin. The videos also have numbers, which appear in the web page address, or URL.

Icons Used in This Book

tip.epsI’d like to think that everything in this book is a tip, but for those special, worthy items, you find this icon lurking nearby.

warning_bomb.eps A reminder of something not to do, something to avoid, or something that can cause serious trouble is flagged by the Bomb icon.

remember.eps This icon flags text that’s important enough to remember or that reminds you of something you may have forgotten that bears repeating.

onthewebsite.epsExtra information on the topic is available in video form. The paragraph next to this icon indicates which video to view, along with a web page URL to use for viewing the video.

technicalstuff.eps When the urge to blurt out something nerdy overwhelms me, I feel the urge to use this icon to supply a warning sign. You’re free not to read any technical text near this icon.

Other images are found in the book’s margins, including icon images from Windows itself.

Where to Go Now?

Feel free to start reading this book in any minibook, chapter, or section. Everything is self-contained, so there isn’t a reason to read one section before another. For the rare times when it helps to know information located elsewhere in the book, I provide a cross-reference. But it’s not necessary to read the book from front to back.

Final Thots

I can’t believe I wrote the whole thing.

Writing this book has been the most massive undertaking of my writing career. It’s not only a big, fat book on PC troubleshooting and maintenance — it’s also a big, fat book that covers three versions of Windows. In addition to the writing, this book includes videos on many topics presented in the text. All that stuff took time to do, and I appreciate that my publisher didn’t lean on me too heavily during the process; I hope to regain full use of my left knee soon.

Here’s my email address:

That’s my real email address. All the mail you send to me there pops up on my screen, and I read it. I also promise to answer all my email. If you want a quick response, type a short email message. The longer or more detailed the message, the longer it takes me to get around to reading and responding.

Although I promise to respond to all email, I can only answer questions regarding this book. I cannot troubleshoot your PC for you. Consider emailing your ISP, software developer, or PC manufacturer or dealer for technical support.

This book also has a companion web page on my own support site:

The web page contains any needed updates or errata, plus answers to common questions, if there are any.

Thank you for choosing my book,

Dan Gookin

Please note that some special symbols used in this eBook may not display properly on all eReader devices. If you have trouble determining any symbol, please call Wiley Product Technical Support at 800-762-2974. Outside of the United States, please call 317-572-3993. You can also contact Wiley Product Technical Support at

Book I



Contents at a Glance

Chapter 1: Let There Be PC

In the Beginning, There Was Power

The First Test: Hardware Self-Diagnostics

The Search for an Operating System

Operating System Initialization

Log On to Windows

Personalized Start-Up

Use Your PC

The Last Thing You Do

Chapter 2: Birth Pangs

The Onset of PC Heartbreak

Operating System Trouble

Start-Up Menus

Chapter 3: Death Throes

When Will It Stop?

Shutdown Malaise

Power Management Issues

Problems with Restarting

Chapter 4: Mass Storage Issues

Mass Storage Overview

Hard Drive Stuff

Optical Drive Death and Misery

Professional Data Recovery

Chapter 5: Pain in the Printer

Marginal Printer Stuff

General Printer Problems

Chapter 6: Seeing Trouble

The PC Graphics System

Captain Video the Troubleshooter

Chapter 7: Peripheralitis

General Hardware Troubleshooting

Keyboard and Mouse

Speaking of Trouble

Your Pal, the Device Manager

Chapter 8: Deep Inside the Computer Case

Into the Case

The PC Console Adventure Map

Common Problems and Solutions

Upgrade, Replace, Maintain

The Miracle of Expansion Cards

Your PC Wants More Memory

More Storage for You!