When your computer won't turn on

Lou C. sent me a very terse message: "Computer does not come on?" There are many possible answers.

A lot of problems can keep a computer from booting Windows (or any other operating system). Fortunately, you can get a pretty good idea by noting how and when the PC fails. If you press the power button and nothing happens, you've got a very different problem than if the PC starts but Windows never loads.

Let's take a look at some of the possibilities.

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Control your desktop, or Windows will control it for you

Al Nagy asked how to stop Windows from rearranging the icons on his desktop.

Windows likes a neatly-arranged desktop. It wants to snap everything into a grid that starts in the upper-left corner of the screen. Unfortunately, the program's idea of "neatly-arranged" may not coincide with yours.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

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Buying a new PC? Don't worry, Windows 8 is just fine.

Jill’s planning to buy a new PC. She asked me if she should go with Windows 7 or Windows 8.

We’re allowed to change our minds. Back in 2012, I wrote an opinion piece called Why you shouldn’t upgrade to Windows 8. At that time I so hated what Microsoft was doing that I wondered if I’d ever buy another Windows computer.

I still haven’t upgraded my main PC. But when it comes time to replace it, I’ll be more than happy to move over to Windows 8.whatever.

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Brush up on your tech acronyms

H. Basco asked for “a list of all the abbreviations that computer-savvy geniuses use, thinking we all KNOW what they mean!”

Sorry, but I can’t provide you with every tech acronym in existence. That would require writing a very large book. And it would be out of date long before I could finish it. But I’ve provided a handful of the more common abbreviations.

For the others, just search the web.

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Speed up or slow down your slideshows

Fjjaf asked me how “to set the seconds a photo will show in Picasa until moving to the next photo.” My answer covers more than Picasa.

Back in February, I discussed ways to spruce up your automated slideshows with fancy transitions. But when you think about it, those transitions aren’t nearly as important as the photos shown between them—or the length of time you show each photo.

Here’s how to set a slideshow’s speed in Picasa and a couple other programs. Whatever program you use, I suggest leaving each photo up for three to five seconds.

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Computer shutting down on its own? Maybe it's time to play it cool.

Martin Lønn Naess’ PC “suddenly turns off while rendering a video.” My guess is that it’s overheating. Here’s what to do about it.

Chips and hard drives use electricity, and therefore generate heat. That heat can seriously damage the circuits inside your PC. Luckily, the computer is smart enough to shut itself down when it gets too hot, protecting itself from permanent damage. A PC that suddenly shuts itself down may be a lesser evil, but it’s still something you want to avoid.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

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Some files need encryption and some files don't

Andre De Beer asked if certain files on his hard drive need encryption. Some do and some don’t.

If you’re like the vast majority of PC users, you have no need to encrypt everything on your hard drive. Before you decide to encrypt anything, ask yourself this: What would you lose if criminals or the NSA got their hands on these files? If the answer is “nothing,” those files don’t need encryption.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

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