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Preview: - Help File -- The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro Answers Personal Computing Questions ( - Help File -- The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro Answers Personal Computing Questions (

Washington Post personal technology columnist Rob Pegoraro answers reader questions about personal computing.


Help File: Watching DVDs outside its region

Sat, 19 Mar 2011 22:46:00 EDT

Watching DVDs outside a the DVD region specification.

Help File: Less spam

Sat, 12 Mar 2011 18:07:00 EST

I seem to be getting less spam in my e-mail these days. Has that problem somehow gotten better?

Help File: Google and Bing directions ignore I-66 inside the Beltway

Sat, 05 Mar 2011 19:30:00 EST

Google refuses to route me on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway; I can't even manually edit its directions to take that highway.

Help File: Backup battery on motherboard needs replacing for clock to tell right time

Sat, 26 Feb 2011 17:23:00 EST

My computer's clock resets every time I turn it on.

Minimizing cellphone security risks

Sat, 19 Feb 2011 15:47:00 EST

I've used a BlackBerry for years. A friend recently lent me his Android phone to try out, but I'm worried about its security compared to my BlackBerry.

Help File: E-book readers, except Kindle, offer digital loans from libraries

Sat, 12 Feb 2011 15:02:00 EST

Q: What e-book readers will let me take out digital loans from local libraries?

Help File: Chrome thinks it's still overseas; enabling Facebook 'https' security

Sat, 05 Feb 2011 23:42:00 EST

Q: After a recent trip to Hong Kong, my copy of Chrome displays search results in Chinese.

Help File: Using a tax-prep application

Sat, 29 Jan 2011 17:17:00 EST

Q: I'd like to use a tax-prep application this year, but I don't want to enter my Social Security number online. Should I be concerned about that?

Quitting a stuck iPhone app; using an old Family Tree Maker file in 64-bit Windows 7

Sat, 15 Jan 2011 19:25:00 EST

Q: The copy of Safari on my iPhone is stuck. How do I force that app to quit?

Help File: Upgrades for old laptops

Sun, 09 Jan 2011 01:34:01 EST

Q: I'm considering upgrades to a used laptop. Can I put in a faster processor? Add RAM? Put in 802.11n wireless? Replace the hard drive with an SSD?

Help File: Options for recycling electronics

Sat, 01 Jan 2011 17:36:01 EST

Q: What are my options for donating or recycling old computers and electronics?

Help File: Wiping data from an old PC or Mac

Sun, 26 Dec 2010 00:07:00 EST

Q: How do I wipe my data from my old computer? A: This evergreen task remains difficult because deleting files through the Recycle Bin or the Trash only clears a computer's record of their locations. In Windows, install the free, open-source Eraser ( to scrub files completely. In...

Help File: What "the cloud" is and is not online; a judgment call on keeping Java

Sat, 18 Dec 2010 15:57:00 EST

Q: Can you please explain what "the cloud" is supposed to mean to home computing?

Help File: hijacked searches over an insecure wireless router; time zone support in Google Calendar

Sat, 11 Dec 2010 20:02:01 EST

Q: When I run a Web search in Safari, I keep getting sent to other sites, some sketchy-looking.

Tech help for AVG anti-virus update glitch

Sat, 04 Dec 2010 17:19:00 EST

Q: My computer won't boot after installing AVG's anti-virus update.

Help File: Is keyboard from unknown company safe to use?

Sat, 27 Nov 2010 16:56:00 EST

Q: I just bought a new keyboard from a company I don't know. Is it safe? Could this firm have hidden a virus or keystroke logger on it?

Help File: Correcting typing mistakes while browsing has gotten a little easier

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 18:53:00 EST

Q: I typed an incorrect Web address into my browser, and now my browser keeps suggesting that address instead of the right one.

Help File: AT&T cuts grandfathered-in status for unlimited subscribers

Sat, 13 Nov 2010 23:48:24 EST

Q: I've had AT&T's unlimited-data plan since 2007, but the carrier cut off my service this weekend.

Help File: Adding HDMI inputs; what's with that iPhone daylight savings bug?

Sat, 06 Nov 2010 22:11:01 EDT

Q: My HDTV doesn't have enough HDMI inputs for all my video sources. How can I add one?

Help File: Is it worth it to upgrade to Windows 7?

Sat, 30 Oct 2010 21:11:00 EDT

Q: I have Windows Vista Home Premium on my laptop and it works fine. Is it really worthwhile to upgrade to Windows 7?

Help file: I can't run the old Cardfile program in my copy of Windows 7 (64-bit). Is there any workaround?

Sat, 16 Oct 2010 20:54:01 EDT

Q: I can't run the old Cardfile program in my copy of Windows 7 (64-bit). Is there any workaround?

Help file: Facebook's new 'Groups'; Mac screens

Sat, 09 Oct 2010 18:37:00 EDT

Q: Facebook's new "Groups" feature looks like a privacy risk. Is it?

Fast Forward's Help file: Blaring TV commercials

Sat, 02 Oct 2010 17:59:00 EDT

Q: I'm tired of having to adjust the volume when some commercials come blaring in louder than the program I'm watching.

The tech help file: Which type of GPS device to choose?

Sat, 25 Sep 2010 19:44:00 EDT

Q: I'm about to get a new car and want a GPS device. Should I buy an in-dash navigation system, a stand-alone GPS receiver or a GPS-enabled smartphone?

Fast Forward's Help File: Taping Web radio; closing Facebook accounts

Sat, 18 Sep 2010 19:50:00 EDT

Q: When listening to music from Web radio site on my MacBook, is there a way to tape that music on a cassette recorder?

iTunes update is less than a perfect 10

Sun, 12 Sep 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: What's up with the close buttons in iTunes 10 for Mac OS X, and how do I make it look like a normal Mac program again?

Help File: Laptop batteries going unused, upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7

Sun, 05 Sep 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I use my HP laptop only in my living room, so it's plugged into a wall outlet all the time. So I've removed the battery and put it back into the bubble wrap it shipped in. Is that really the best thing to do?

Help File: Another escape from Flash crashes in Safari on a Mac; safely ejecting USB flash drives

Sun, 29 Aug 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I thought the Safari browser on my Mac would stop the Flash plug-in from crashing it, but Safari still locks up on me.

Help File: Facebook 'Places' privacy settings

Sun, 22 Aug 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: What are the right privacy settings for Facebook's "Places" feature?

HELP FILE: AT&T hangs up on old unlimited wireless-data plans

Sun, 25 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I've had an unlimited-use data plan with AT&T for years, but now the company is telling me I've gone over a 5-gigabyte usage cap.

HELP FILE: Verizon's missing system-status page; finding Dish's digital-TV DVR

Sun, 18 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: Verizon DSL has been up and down for two weeks in the Springfield area. Is it just me, or is there some bigger issue going on here?

Help file: Be careful with security certificate warnings

Sun, 11 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: When I tried to connect to a secure site, my browser displayed an error warning that "there is a problem with this site's security certificate" that strongly advised me to back out. Was it not safe?

Help File: Ways to recover a hacked Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail account

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: Somebody took over my Web-mail account and locked me out. How do I get back in?

Help File: Windows 7's 'snap' window tricks; real-world DSL speeds

Sun, 27 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: How do I stop Windows 7 from shoving windows against the edge of the screen if I drag them too close?

Help File: Moving recordings from old to new TiVo

Sun, 20 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I just upgraded from a TiVo Series 2 to a high-definition TiVo. How do I transfer my old recordings to the new box?

Help File: Forget about the mythical 'Verizon iPhone' already

Sun, 13 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: Is there any chance Verizon Wireless will have the iPhone anytime soon?

Help File: Whether to be wary of the latest spyware lurking on Macs

Sun, 06 Jun 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I saw there's some new Mac spyware circulating. What's the answer to protect your Mac?

HELP FILE: Protecting your data during an Android update; mixing anti-spyware and anti-virus utilities

Sun, 30 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I've got a software update for my Android phone, but it says it will wipe out all of my data. How do I keep my text messages and call log?

HELP FILE: Flash cookies revisited

Sun, 23 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: What's this about Flash cookies? A: This came up during Friday's Web chat. It involves a somewhat obscure part of Adobe's widely used Flash Player software. Flash cookies, what Adobe calls "Local Shared Objects," were in the news after the release of a critical study last summer. Like browser...

Help File: Finding a pared-down smartphone data-service deal isn't easy

Sun, 16 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I want a smartphone that can open my Office files and play music. Can I get one without having to pay $30 a month for data services I won't use?

Help File: Some work-arounds for getting at those .lit files

Sun, 09 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I have some books and stories in .lit format. Is there a way to open the files to read them?

Help File: Facebook's changing privacy-settings pages; tuning into Comcast digital cable

Sun, 02 May 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: The advice you gave about Facebook privacy settings last week is already obsolete.

Help File: A botched McAfee update, Facebook exposure options

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: Is it safe to install McAfee's updates? A: That's a fair question to ask after the security-software firm's epic-level screw-up last week. The Santa Clara, Calif., company posted a buggy update for its business anti-virus programs that a note on its site (

Help File: Using an alternate Gmail return address in a smartphone's mail program

Sun, 18 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: How do I use a different return address for my Gmail account on my phone? Its e-mail program won't let me add one.

Help File: A case of mistaken CD identity in iTunes; replying to e-mails in Thunderbird

Sun, 11 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: My copy of iTunes just labeled a CD in Japanese. What happened?

Help File: Google Calendar's time-zone weakness; a wayward Weather Channel program

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: Google Calendar doesn't let me add a time zone to an event. How am I supposed to schedule travel? Does Google plan to fix this?

Help File: E-mail server settings demystified

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: No one seems to be able to give me the server settings I need to continue using my poor old Netscape 7.0 to access my new e-mail.

Help File: Laptop battery life spans; a damaged USB flash drive

Sun, 21 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EDT

Q: When I lost power last weekend, my six-year-old laptop shut down abruptly, even though its battery supposedly had a full charge good for three hours. Does the battery have a problem?

Help File: Confusion as AT&T Worldnet winds down

Sun, 14 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: AT&T sent me a notice saying they would end my Worldnet DSL service March 31. Then they migrated my DSL to dial-up the next day without asking me. I am irritated, to say the least.

Help File: Don't press F1 on the Web in Windows XP; a shortcut to iTunes Plus upgrades

Sun, 07 Mar 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: I heard what sounds like an urban legend -- that you shouldn't hit the F1 key if a Web site tells you to. Is that true?

Help File: Windows 7's XP Mode; surge protector life spans

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: I want to run Windows XP programs on my new PC. Is Windows 7 Professional's XP mode the best way to assure that?

Help File: A belated fix for MacBook hard drives; a Windows patch gone bad

Sun, 21 Feb 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: The hard drive on my son's MacBook died after only 14 months. I've found articles online saying there has been a run of drive failures on MacBooks. Is there anything to that?

Help File: Small DVR hard drives; an uninstalled Windows program won't go away

Sun, 14 Feb 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: We like our Fios digital video recorder at home, but it can only store 20 hours of high-definition recordings. Does Verizon plan to upgrade its DVRs?

Help File: Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and other permanent e-mail address options

Sun, 07 Feb 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: I'm changing Internet providers and will have to switch my e-mail address. To avoid this problem in the future, I'm thinking of switching to a Web-mail service. Should I go with Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo?

Copying songs from an iPod to a Mac or PC

Sun, 31 Jan 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: My computer crashed, the only copies of my music left are on my iPod, and iTunes will only transfer iTunes purchases -- not my own MP3s. How can I get those files back?

Help File: Stronger digital-TV signals, texting donations from prepaid phones

Sun, 24 Jan 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: When TV went all digital, I stopped getting channels 7 and 9. Then last week both channels just appeared. Did they change something?

Help File: Tweaking an old router to extend a wireless network

Sun, 17 Jan 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: Because my older PC lacks WiFi, I had to run a long network cable from my Verizon Fios router to it. Can I use the Linksys router I got for my old Comcast account to relay the WiFi?

Help File: Erasing a cellphone; defining a Microsoft update

Sun, 10 Jan 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: I've got an old cellphone that I need to donate. How do I wipe my address book and call history off of it?

Help File: Recycling old computers, TVs and other electronic items

Sun, 03 Jan 2010 00:00:00 EST

Q: I understand that I'm not supposed to leave my old computer or TV out with the trash. How should I get rid of it?

Help File: Wiping your data from your computer

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q: How do I ensure my data's gone from my old computer before I dispose of it?

Help File: Gloves that work with touchscreens; buying a Comcast cable modem

Sun, 20 Dec 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q: My iPhone's touchscreen doesn't work when I wear my gloves. Do I have any options to frozen fingers?

Help File: Taming a jumpy cursor; laptop battery cells

Sun, 13 Dec 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q: My laptop's cursor jumps around -- sometimes up a line, sometimes back several characters. Please make it stop.

Help File: Running older versions of Office in Windows 7

Sun, 06 Dec 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q: I'm replacing my old PC with a new Windows 7 model but don't want to replace my Office 97 applications with a new package that does essentially the same work.

Help File: HDMI or VGA from laptop to HDTV; a stopped Mac clock

Sun, 29 Nov 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q: Is there a difference in quality between HDMI and VGA when plugging a laptop into an HDTV?

Help File: Garmin and MSN Direct; Blu-ray movies on computer monitors

Sun, 22 Nov 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q: I am thinking of replacing my four-year-old Garmin GPS unit with a newer Garmin that includes free lifetime traffic data and MSN Direct. Would that ease my holiday drives?

Help File: Whatever happened to Microsoft's MSN software?

Sun, 15 Nov 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q: I'm having issues with the MSN software Verizon gave me. Is there a newer version, or should I get another program?

Help File: Moving iTunes music to a new computer; AVG's free upgrade

Sun, 08 Nov 2009 00:00:00 EST

How do I move my iTunes music to a new computer? People can make this out to be an ordeal -- I've seen readers ask whether they had to run specialized tools, as if iTunes files were alien from other data. But if you haven't changed where iTunes stores your music, all you need to do is copy a fol...

Help File: Bungled bundled software on a Dell; yet another phishing fraud

Sun, 01 Nov 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q: My Dell Windows XP laptop keeps showing the same "Windows Installer" prompt telling me to insert a disc I don't have to run some Sonic program. How do I stop it?

Help File: Moving mail from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7; Windows Vista's afterlife

Sun, 25 Oct 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q: How do I keep my e-mail intact after upgrading to Windows 7 if Win 7's installer will first remove Outlook Express or Windows Mail?

Help File: A New Verizon E-Mail Policy; An Old Wireless Router

Sun, 18 Oct 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Verizon sent me an e-mail saying I need to change my mail settings. So instead of asking customers first, they make them do extra work.

Help File: Ways To Send Photos From A Phone To A Computer

Sun, 11 Oct 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Is there a way to download the photos I take on a cellphone other than to e-mail them?

Help File: Deciphering "sprtcmd.exe"; AM Radio on MP3 Players

Sun, 04 Oct 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q. Whenever I turn off my three-year-old Gateway, it says it can't close "sprtcmd.exe." Is that an important program?

Help File: Adobe Flash and 64-Bit Internet Explorer; Safe Java Updates

Sun, 27 Sep 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q My Toshiba laptop only seems to run a 64-bit version of Internet Explorer -- and Adobe's Flash Player won't work there. How do I get a 32-bit browser? When will Adobe ship a 64-bit Flash plug-in?

Help File: Dealing With 'Scareware' Alerts on the Web

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QI'm getting a "Personal Antivirus" pop-up that says it wants to scan my computer for viruses. I click "cancel" and it doesn't go away unless I force-quit my browser. I'm using a Mac, but the remedies for this involve Windows programs.

Help File: A Fix For Unsupported Scanners; iLife '08 in Snow Leopard

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QAfter upgrading my operating system, the old drivers for my scanner no longer work, and the manufacturer doesn't have any newer ones for me to download. Now what?

Help File: Fios in D.C. and Alexandria; A Firefox Tabbed-Browsing Tip

Sun, 06 Sep 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QNow that Verizon agreed earlier this year to bring Fios Internet and TV to the District, when will people be able to sign up for it here?

Help File: Opting Out Of Phone-Book Delivery

Sun, 30 Aug 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q How can I get the phone company to stop sending me phone books? They go straight to the recycling bin at our house.

Help File: Windows 7's 32- And 64-Bit Editions; Portscan Alerts On A Mac

Sun, 23 Aug 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QWindows 7 will come with 32- and 64-bit editions in the box. Should I upgrade to 64-bit?

Help File: Using MobileMe Mail With Your Own Domain Name; A Missing Verizon DVR Feature

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q: Can I use my own domain name with my MobileMe e-mail account?

Help File: Debugging a ZoneAlarm Browser Issue; Search Engine Tips

Sun, 09 Aug 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q. Ever since I upgraded to Firefox 3.5, downloads from the Web have stopped working for me.

Help File: Registry Cleaners and Special Characters

Sun, 02 Aug 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q My old PC has really slowed down. Can you recommend a registry cleaner to speed it up?

Help File: IE 6 Is Still Dead; Recordable DVD Formats

Sun, 26 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QI've used Internet Explorer 6 for many years, but some sites don't seem to look right in that browser now. Would you recommend IE 8?

Help File: DSL Without A Phone Line; Locked Music Purchases

Sun, 19 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QCan I buy just DSL from Verizon, without also paying for phone service? I use my cellphone for all my calling anyway.

Help File: Playing DVDs From Abroad; Strange Downloads in Safari 4

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QI've got some DVDs I picked up overseas that don't work in my DVD player. What's my cheapest fix for this problem?

Help File: Recycling Old Electronics

Sun, 05 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QI've got an old analog TV collecting dust at home. How can I recycle or safely dispose of it?

Help File: Archiving Old Home Movies To DVD, Vista “Memory Dumps” Defined

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QI've got some old reels of Super 8 film. What are my options for transferring that to DVD?

Help File: After the DTV Switch, Some Tinkering Still Required

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QTwo weeks ago, you suggested that digital-TV reception would improve after analog broadcasts ended. But the DTV signals of channels 7 and 9 seem to have gone off the air.

Help File: Freeing Up Disk Space After a Vista Update, A Bogus Spam Defense

Sun, 14 Jun 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QIs it true that Microsoft's Service Pack 2 update for Windows Vista can free up disk space by deleting older patch files?

Help File: Last-Minute Digital-TV Tuning Tips

Sun, 07 Jun 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q My digital-television reception has gotten iffy. What should I do to fine-tune it before analog TV goes off the air on Friday?

Help File: A Surprise Anti-Virus Upgrade

Sun, 31 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QMy copy of Webroot's anti-spyware software just installed a new anti-virus program without warning me -- even though I already have one active, and adding a second one invites all sorts of problems. Nice trick . . .

Help File: Spam With Return Address; Windows Disk Formats

Sun, 24 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QI got a "Postmaster Delivery Status Notification" saying I sent an e-mail to a strange address. How could this happen?

Help File: Changing an E-Mail Program, Then Backing Up Its Files

Sun, 17 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QI use Netscape 7.1 for e-mail and I'm stuck -- I can't back up my messages because I don't know where Netscape puts them, nor can I copy them into a new program.

Help File: Security On Public WiFi Networks, Video Cables Defined

Sun, 10 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QI used the free WiFi on the Vamoose Bus to New York, but I was leery of somebody recording my passwords so I only visited sites that did not require a login. Was I being too paranoid?

Help File: PDF Output in Windows, Installing Internet Explorer 8

Sun, 03 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QHow can I save a document as a PDF on my Windows PC?

Help File: iPhone Speaker Interference; Not-Really-Missing Photo Files

Sun, 26 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QWhen I leave my iPhone near the speakerphone at my office, I hear this weird buzzing noise. What's going on?

Help File: Using Routers

Sun, 19 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Verizon seems to be telling me that I have to use the wireless router they provide. I'd rather keep my Apple AirPort router. Can I?

Help File: Prospects for a New iPhone; Downloading Adobe Reader

Sun, 12 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QWhen might Apple ship the next iPhone, and what new features might it include?

Help File: Managing E-Mail From Multiple Locations; Cleaning Plasma TVs

Sun, 05 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

QHow can I check my home e-mail account from multiple locations without losing track of which messages I've read and answered?

Help File: Combating Conficker; Relighting a Dim Laptop Screen

Sun, 29 Mar 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q: How can I tell if my computer has been hit by Conficker? How would I remove it?

Help File: Using Hotmail With Regular Mail Programs

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q How can I download Hotmail messages to the regular mail program on my computer?