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Help File's greatest hits

One of the things I want to do in this blog is complement my inbox. I read everything I get and try to answer as much of it as I can--but as many of you have doubtless noticed--I'm not always the fastest typist in the West. And even when I do reply quickly enough, I'm still only helping out one person at a time.

Here, I can "reply" to everybody at once. In that spirit, I thought I'd start by linking to the old Help File items that answer the questions I get most often--usually because these problems never seem to go away.

Read on for tips about things like erasing a hard drive, donating an old computer, getting your data out of AOL's software, cleaning out disk space and other common computing conundrums (including any advice that readers have since shared with me since those pieces ran).


How to clean out disk space on your PC in a hurry

Readers have since noted that, if you don't need that much space, the Disk Cleanup utility in XP--from the Start Menu, select All Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools--can get the job done. One reader also said he'd had problems after deleting MSN Explorer, because he'd earlier installed the MSN Connector plug-in for his copy of Outlook. If you've installed that Connector software too, keep MSN Explorer around.

Controlling all the random little programs that run every time Windows starts

If you use Windows Vista, the Task Manager finally provides some clues about what's active on the computer--you can set its Processes view to show the full name of each application and what directory it runs out of.

Where to donate an old computer

Readers also suggested giving an old machine to the National Cristina Foundation or finding a local recipient through Freecycle. Another worthwhile point: Make sure you wipe the hard drive before donating the machine--the next link has instructions.

How to erase your computer's hard drive before selling or donating it

Since this ran, the Burn program for Macs that I mentioned seems to have become unavailable. Try the free FlameFile instead. If you have sensitive data stored on write-once CDs and DVDs, see this older Help File item for ways to destroy them.

How to get your data out of AOL's software

To extract old messages saved to your Personal Filing Cabinet in Windows, see the second item in this Help File column. If you hate the old AOL software but not the service behind it, try the new OpenRide software for Windows. If you run Mac OS X and don't mind beta-test software, try a newer program AOL is now testing, nicknamed "Cheshire."

My copy of Windows says it's not genuine. What should I do about that?

This is Windows' way of saying that it thinks you didn't pay for your copy--but it's been known to snare the innocent. This can be an even bigger problem in Windows Vista, which will eventually lock out users with a non-genuine copy by forcing the computer into a "reduced functionality" mode.

How to copy music from your iPod back to your computer

Why you should usually leave your computer in sleep mode instead of shutting it off

Fixing "SmartBridge" errors after installing Internet Explorer 7

What to do when your Web browser won't pass an e-mail link to your mail program

If you've got other favorites among old Help File tips, tell me about them in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 4, 2007; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Tips  
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I thought I'd sign up for RSS on your BLOG, but I get an "XML" file. Guess this is goodbye, Rob. I've enjoyed your e-mails.

Posted by: Jack | February 5, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Me too, Jack (and Rob). Tried to sign up via both Firefox and Safari, no luck.


Posted by: irene | February 5, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: mel5051 | February 5, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: mel5051 | February 5, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Irene and mel5051 -- Don't give up on this. I got that same feeling about the XML via Safari, but decided to click on the plus sign next to the yahoo icon on Rob's page, and it was quick and painless -- I already had a yahoo account for my photos, etc. It set me up perfectly in one second and I access this blog via "My Yahoo."

Posted by: jill | February 6, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

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