SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - My computer frequently accesses the floppy drive when there is no reason for it to do so. Do you know how I can stop this from happening?
Ryan Satcher, via the Internet
Unfortunately, there's no one cause or cure for this common annoyance. But here are a few potential remedies.
At some point, you may have told Microsoft Corp. Windows to check for something on the A: drive--and never told it to stop looking. Correcting this is easy:
The next time Windows accesses your floppy drive, pop a disk into the drive.
Double-click the icon for drive A:. Then close the window, double-click on the C: icon, and remove the floppy disk.
Your antivirus software may be configured to scan drive A: automatically, whether there is a disk in the drive or not. To check Norton AntiVirus, for example, click the Options button. On the Scanner tab, click the Advanced button. Uncheck All removable drives. Click OK twice.
Another possibility: Something on your recent documents list makes Windows check A:. Don't bother to track down the perpetrator--just wipe out everything in that folder (you won't lose any data). To do this, right-click the taskbar, select Properties, click the Start Menu Programs tab, click Clear in the 'Documents menu' box, and then click OK.
Desktop shortcuts pointing to a file or program on A: can also trigger this pointless access. The fix: Select Desktop in Windows Explorer, and select Start*Find*Files or Folders. In the Named field, enter *.lnk, *.pif. Then, for the Containing Text field, enter a: and click Find Now. Delete all of the shortcuts you find, or at least move them either off of the Explorer Desktop or out of the Start menu.
If you use Microsoft Office 97, the FindFast utility could be causing the problem. To find out, select Start*Settings*Control Panel, and then double-click the FindFast icon. Once the applet is up, see whether drive A: is on the list of indexes. If it is, highlight it and select Index*Delete Index.
Click OK twice, and then close FindFast and the Control Panel.
You can find more tips for dealing with this drive access problem at www.annoyances.org/cgi-bin/ce-showtopic/005_037.
Put Away the Windows CD-ROM for good
I've copied my Windows CD-ROM's \win98 folder onto my hard drive so I don't have to use the CD-ROM when installing drivers or accessories. When I do something that would normally require the CD-ROM, Windows gives me an error message, and I have to show it where the files are. Is there a way to teach Windows where to look for its installation files?
Earl Taylor, Pacifica, California
As I mentioned in my April Answer Line column (pcworld.com/apr00/al), you don't have to pull out the Windows 9x CD-ROM every time you add or remove a Windows component. Copy your \win98 (or \win95) folder to your hard drive so that Windows can find the files there. Windows still looks for the CD-ROM when it needs one of the files and gives an error message when it can't find it.
Getting Windows to look for its installation files in the right place involves editing the Registry. As always, back up the Registry before you touch it. See May's Answer Line for instructions on this crucial procedure (pcworld.com/may00/al). Once your Registry is backed up, select Start*Run, enter the command regedit, and press Enter. Navigate the left pane of the Registry Editor as if it were Windows Explorer until you get to My Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup. In the right pane, double-click SourcePath, enter the appropriate path (for instance, c:\win98) into the dialog box, and press Enter. Close the Registry Editor. Windows will now look for its files on your hard drive.
Load Any Program to the System Tray
I enjoy the convenience of the system tray, and I have some programs I'd like to load into that area of the taskbar. Is there a way to do it?
Steve Hwang, Burbank, California
If you minimize a standard application, it takes up a good chunk of space on the taskbar and is easy to access with the Alt-Tab key combination. But if you minimize a system tray app, the only way to restore it is to double-click that tiny icon in the tray. This is an inconvenient approach for most programs, but it's handy for something that you want running but out of the way.
To make a program load into the system tray even if it wasn't designed to go there, use Idyle Software's Tray Minimizer. You can download a trial version of this $13 shareware program from FileWorld or from www.idyle.com. Tray Minimizer offers a number of ways to place a program in the tray. You can drag a program to the Tray Minimizer icon on the desktop, or you can make 'Tray Minimize' an option when you right-click an .exe file. The best method, however, is to use the Tray Minimizer Control Center to create a special shortcut that launches your program into the tray.
When the tray-minimized program is running, it behaves normally: It's visible on the taskbar and on the Alt-Tab list. But when you minimize it, it disappears from everywhere but the tray.
The program isn't perfect--getting it to hide Outlook 97 properly was tricky--but it worked just fine with most programs I tried. And since it's shareware, you don't have to buy it till after you've tried it.
Stop or Change the Splash Screen
Sometimes it's helpful to view what's going on during boot-up; on the other hand, I don't need to know that I'm loading Windows 98. Is there some way I can remove the splash screen that appears whenever Windows is booting up?
Robert Dangle, Carrollton, Georgia
You can turn off the splash screen or exchange the corporate splash screen to get something more pleasing than a Microsoft or hardware vendor logo.
Microsoft's Tweak UI utility for Windows (also available from FileWorld) makes turning off the screen easy. Select Start*Settings*Control Panel, and double-click Tweak UI. Click the Boot tab, uncheck Display splash screen while booting, and click OK.
If you don't have Tweak UI, then you edit msdos.sys. Select Start*Programs* MS-DOS Prompt. In the MS-DOS window, type attrib -r -s -h c:\msdos.sys (use hyphens for the dashes and make sure to leave a space in front of each one), and then press Enter. Next, type notepad c:\msdos.sys. After you press Enter, msdos.sys will come up in Notepad. If the line 'Logo=1' is there, change it to Logo=0. If it isn't there, add the line Logo=0 just below the line that reads '[Options]'. Save the file and close Notepad. In the DOS window, type attrib +r +s +h c:\msdos.sys (the same as the first command, only with plus signs instead of hyphens), and press Enter. Close the window.
Changing the logo is harder. In Explorer, go to C:\. Select View*Folder Options (or View*Options); on the View tab, select Show all files, and click OK. Look for a file called logo.sys; if it's there, rename it something like oldlogo. sys. Go to the graphic program of your choice and create or load the file you want to replace the old logo with. The new file should be a .bmp image file with 256 colors and sized 640 by 400 pixels.
Resize the image to 320 by 400 (Windows' boot process stretches the file horizontally from 320 to 640). If you're using Windows' Paint, select Image*Stretch/Skew; in the Stretch section, for Horizontal, enter 50%, and click OK. When you save the file, name it C:\logo.sys. Now, the next time you boot up, you will see the image of your choice.
Make the Modem Shut Up (or speak up)
Can I disable the irritating sounds my modem makes while it dials my Internet connection?
Doug Taylor, Valparaiso, Indiana
It's relatively easy to turn the modem's sounds off or back on. If you have an external modem, examine it for a volume control. You can shut the modem up simply by turning the volume down. If you have an internal modem, or an external one without a volume control, you need to change your modem's setup.
Select Start*Settings*Control Panel. Double-click the Modems icon. Select your modem and click the Properties button. On the General tab, you'll see an option called 'Speaker volume' with a sliding control that you can set from the loudest level to Off. This control doesn't work with all modems, however.
If it doesn't, go to the Connection tab and click the Advanced button to bring up the 'Extra settings' field. What are called the modem AT commands control what a modem does. After entering the appropriate command, hit OK, and you'll have an appropriately quiet--or noisy--modem.
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Pop Up 'My Computer'
Want your Windows 98 taskbar to have a cascading menu to all drives, folders, and files? James Yau of Los Angeles has found a way. Right-click the taskbar and select Toolbars*New Toolbar. Double-click My Computer. Slide the end of the toolbar to make it as small as Windows will allow. It will show only the words 'My Computer' and a small double arrow. Click the double arrow: You'll get a cascading menu. Open a drive or folder by right-clicking it and selecting Open or Explore. Open a file by clicking it. Shazam!