Question:  When purchasing a new computer, how fast do I need?

Answer: The answer to this question depends on several things. Are you a casual or power user? Do you download and use MP3 and large graphics files? Consider the following items carefully:

Processor speed - big isn't always better.  One of the biggest hang-ups has been as processor speed increases, the speed the bus transfers data from the processor to the rest of the system has only increased marginally in relation the processor speeds. Right now, using day to day applications and the Internet, there isn't really that much of a difference between the low end Pentium 4 and high end systems.  I always recommend staying away from the Celeron processors.  They are noticeably slower starting up and also running programs.  They don't really save any money to speak of any more.

Hard drive size - I know, I remember when I got my first 80meg  hard drive (smaller than the first ZIP disks) and paid $490 for my first 540meg hard drive and thought it would never be possible to fill it up, but, computers now are coming out with 80, 120gig, and up. My advice is probably 80 to 120. Unless you download a lot of music files or edit a lot of video, you don't need a larger drive.  If money's no object, go for it.

Video cards - Again, unless you are running games, the more expensive cards usually don't perform as well on regular applications.

Sound cards - Frankly, I personally don't see that much of a difference and as far as I'm concerned If I want awesome sound I'll turn on the stereo. The same with games, Nintendo and the like will be more likely to have much better games and quality than games on a computer. Computers weren't really designed for sound and games.

Monitors - This is a personal preference thing as far as size. A smaller dot per inch resolution is much better for graphics.

Modems - Today, not much difference from one to another.

CD/DVD - Definitely a regular DVD and a re-writeable.  DVD burners are great for backups, etc.

Network card - Most computers today come with networking built into the mother board.  You want to make sure to have this option for ADSL or Road Runner service.

Question: What is the system restore feature in Windows ME and XP?

Answer: This is the coolest thing they've done with Windows. Usually when something goes wrong so the computer won't work right, either the registry has been corrupted or one or more Windows system files have been corrupted or replaced. System restore sets points every 10 hours of operation or once a day, but better yet, you can manually set restore points. The best thing to do is, every time you load a new program, before loading it, go to the Start button, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, then click on System Restore. When it starts up, click on Create a restore point then click Next, then Next again. Now type in a description, for instance, before installing Microsoft Office, then click OK. Now, if you install the program and something goes wrong or the computer doesn't work right all you have to do is go to System Restore and click on Restore to an earlier time and pick the restore point you made. Pretty slick!  One thing to keep in mind though, sometimes if the corruption is really bad, you won't be able to get system restore to restore the computer to an earlier time.  The best thing here is to have drive imaging software.  System restore is still available in Vista and Windows 7.  It is still not always dependable, so consider drive imaging.

Question: People are telling me they can't get e-mail through to me what's wrong?

Answer: E-mail is not as complicated as some people make it out to be. When you have Internet service, you also are provided with an e-mail account. The e-mail server has two sides, incoming and outgoing. When you set up your e-mail program, the SMTP setting is for outgoing mail and the POP3 setting is for incoming mail. You can have a problem with the setting on either one and the other will still work. Your mail settings are like a lot of the other computer configuration stuff, they don't change by themselves, so if it was working and then stopped, unless you or someone else changed the settings, they are still OK. Before you get your blood pressure up, send yourself and e-mail. If you send it, wait a few minutes, then do a send and receive and then receive it back, your computer settings are OK. If it still doesn't work, check the phone connections, then call your ISP. Don't let them just start having you change settings if it all of a sudden stopped working.  Click here for a handy reference for Maui settings.

Question: Why does my computer take so long to start up and shut down?

Answer: When we transformed from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, the computer functions changed dramatically. Even though the computer seems terribly slow, it is doing a myriad (I like that word) of things. When you start the computer up, the first thing it does is read what is called the BIOS (Basic Input Output System), more commonly called the setup program. This is where the computer finds out what hard drive it has, what floppy, ports, etc. Next the computer looks at the hard drive, finds the DOS program files and starts running DOS. Next it looks for the computer configuration files, Config.sys and Autoexec.bat. These files are not even necessary with the latest versions of Windows. It also reads the system registry which is where the bottleneck lies. The registry contains hundreds, if not thousands of lines of information about hardware, software, and drivers. For instance, it looks for what fonts are installed on the computer and makes sure the files are there. It is the checking of drivers and configuration stuff which takes so long. When you shut down the registry is updated to reflect changes during the session including such things as changes in the desktop. So there you have it, lots of stuff going on.

Question: If the computer technician is so smart, how come when I had a problem it was necessary to format the hard drive?

Answer: First of all, working on computers is really challenging. There are a host of problems when you start marrying software to hardware. There are hardly two computers alike. Also, since every component in a computer has a tolerance range, as you start adding all these components together, as silly as it sounds, every computer almost develops it's own personality. If the system registry becomes corrupt and has not been backed up, it is almost impossible to manually go in and find and repair the problems. Actually, the most difficult problem to diagnose and repair is system file corruption. Sometimes when you add a new program the software company modifies some of the Windows files to tweak their program to run better. This is all well and good except sometimes other programs which also use these files are not happy with the changes, so . . . Lots of times we can delete the stuff we need to and reinstall Windows and save the data files and programs. Windows doesn't know the programs are there so they have to be reloaded but at least the majority of the settings are maintained. Unfortunately this is a time consuming process so it's not inexpensive but sometimes there are no options left.  The preceding applies mostly to older computer systems.  Newer systems usually have system restoration CD's or the programs are on a hidden partition on the hard drive.  When you restore the computer, all your data files and programs you loaded since you got the computer will be gone.  Also all the updates to Windows and the factory installed programs will have to be reinstalled.  Again, very time consuming.

Please Note: All information provided in The Help Desk web site is in easy to understand terms, in my opinion only, and may not necessarily be the only accepted answers or advice.  I will not be responsible for any problems caused from anyone making any configuration or hardware changes to their computer system resulting from information obtained from this web site.  Please contact me prior to using any content from this web site.