Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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November 2003, Week 2 -- Finding Windows Tips and Tricks





   It seems like there are a thousand things that the Windows operating system does that are utterly stupid and annoying. Actually, I think it's only several hundred. It's beyond bad, it's a disgrace. But there we are; a hundred million offices have it and we're stuck with it for now.

   For instance: All the stuff that loads automatically on your desktop slows down the computer and even interferes with running and installing other programs. Stop it! You can see some of these programs in the system tray at the bottom right of most Windows screens. Many more  however, load at startup without leaving any icons in the system tray.


   Go to "start" at the bottom left of the screen and then click on "run" and type "msconfig." This brings up a menu which lets you see the programs that load on startup. There will be a lot of them. You can uncheck the ones you don't want to load. That doesn't delete those programs -- you can still run them, but they just won't load at startup. This is free and easy but somewhat risky if you don't know what you're doing, so we'll turn to a safer way.


Where to go and what to do when you get there

 pc mag


   If you're uncertain whether or not it's safe to stop some program from loading at startup -- and it's easy to make a mistake here -- get a utility like "Startup Cop," from In fact, this is the safest way to go, and easy to use. Access to PC Magazine's utilities used to be free but now they charge $20 a year or $5 a month; it's worth it.

   There are whole books on the subject of how to get rid of Windows annoyances. In fact O'Reilly Books  has several on this topic: "Windows 98 Annoyances," "Windows Me Annoyances," etc. They just came out with a new one, called "PC Annoyances," $20. O'Reilly also has a service that lets you search more than a thousand technical books online. You can swap five a month in or out for a fee of $10 a month. There is a free two-week trial.



   If you do a web search on "windows annoyances" you'll come up with a dozen sites with good tips. Examples are and Downloads from shareware files are also full of utilities that cure Windows annoyances and lots more that just solve simple problems. Some charge, some are free. Useful places to go are  and You can usually find a utility on any subject directly simply by typing the subject into the search space at or our own favorite:

   A final note on this topic and what has the appearance of a kind of hustle; not quite a scam, mind you, but bordering on it. Recently I've been getting a lot of email requests to review and publicize small utility programs that solve Windows problems. Typical pricing is $30 for each program. Many of the programs, however, appear to be identical to shareware programs available for much less money or free from the download sites. So check around.


The one-minute backup



   Practically everybody hates making backups and it's such an annoyance that more than half of all users don't do it at all. But wait a minute, now there's the "Maxtor One Touch." Actually, it takes less than a minute.

   We're using a 120 gigabyte Maxtor One Touch hard drive that perches upright in a small plastic holder. It's got a glowing blue button on the front. Push the button and it starts the backup.

   The One Touch comes with "Retrospect Express" backup software from Dantz, but you can use other software as well. It comes with either USB or Firewire connections or you can buy combination units that will take either kind of cable.


   The drives come in different sizes, starting at $170 for 80 gigabytes. The 120 gigabyte drive lists for $200; 120 gigs, as they say, is enough to hold nine hours of direct video or 120 hours of video compressed, or 30,000 MP3 music files. It can also hold a whopping 120 million pages of text in typical size of 200 words to the page.


   One tip on backing up with the Dantz software: If you click the "backup" command, you can only access those files by restoring them to the computer. But if you click on the "duplicate" command, the files -- music, video, whatever -- can be accessed directly. Lots more on this, the easy way to do backups, at


Great calendar!




   The best download we've found in months is "WinDates."

   This lets you make a calendar that can be posted to the web and accessed by anyone going to the calendar site, or restricted to members of a group through passwords. The posting is to the maker's web site: You can also just keep the calendar on your own computer without posting it to the web.

   You can post events for a group, church, family, etc.,  or just post your own schedule, so you can call it up when you're on a trip. You can make changes either on the web or your machine. WinDates is free to try, $20 to buy.


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