Hassle-Free PC: Fix Stubborn Windows Install Errors

Illustration: Michael Klein
Annoyed enough by Windows that you're thinking of switching to Linux or a Mac? Stick with your PC--I have solutions to four more hassles sent in by PC World readers.

Stop Installation Idiocy

The Hassle:Windows Installer comes up at the oddest times--often when I'm starting Word or Outlook. If I uninstall the program Windows is trying to install, the installer will choose another program to attempt to reinstall the next time I open Word. Any fixes?

The Fix:I suspect that a previous installation went kaflooey. Running Microsoft's Windows Installer CleanUp Utility clears the litter from the previous app's installation while leaving intact all data files created with the app. To remove unnecessary uninstall folders after loading Windows service packs, see Lincoln Spector's March Answer Line.

Magnify Web Page Fonts

The Hassle:I recently installed a new program, and now when I browse the Web with Internet Explorer, I can't read the characters on some pages. They're so small, they appear as tiny rectangles, not letters. I have tried everything, but the font size doesn't change.

The Fix:In IE, choose Tools, Internet Options. On the General tab, click the Accessibility button and confirm that Ignore font styles specified on Web pages is checked. Another quick trick: Hold down the <Ctrl> key and use your mouse scroll wheel to enlarge or shrink fonts (and images); use the <Shift> key to move IE ahead or back a page. Scott Dunn's November 2004 Windows Tips describes these and more mouse wheelies.

Fix Weakly Outlook

The Hassle:To add a weeklong event to Outlook's Calendar, I have to click the pull-down 'Start time' and 'End time' menus in New Appointment and find the right dates. Is there an easier way?

The Fix:I think the Microsoft developers were dozing at the wheel when they designed the Calendar entry dialog box. When I enter a vacation [Note to editor: not nearly often enough], I use a little-known Outlook shortcut. In the Calendar view, select the first day of the weekly event you want to add. Then hold down the <Shift> key and click the last day of the event. Right-click any portion of the highlighted area and choose New Appointment. Voila! The start and end dates are automatically entered.

Outwit Fancy Keyboards

The Hassle:I upgraded to a fancy Microsoft keyboard because I liked its extra buttons. But the dual-function function keys default to special use. Also, I have to click a keyboard button to get regular function keys every time I restart the PC. Any solutions?

The Fix:This annoyance has plagued my wife, too, but the fix is easy. Download, unzip, and run the F Lock Key utility that matches your keyboard model. The utility makes a Registry change that remaps your keyboard; the next time you boot, your function keys will act properly. And don't worry about making matters worse: F Lock Key also comes with an undo function.

Tool of the Month: Send That File Anywhere

I use the convenient Send To function in Windows Explorer a few times a day. (To access it, right-click a file.) But the Send To menu collects file-link clutter because programs often add links to it without asking. To manage your Send To menu, give SendTo 1.6 a try.

This freebie lets you add or remove links easily. For instance, I added my e-mail program so that I can quickly attach a file to a message; another link lets me transfer files to my wife's networked PC. If you're reluctant to try the tool or you just want to remove the Send To debris, use Windows Search to find the SendTo folder and simply delete the unwanted links.

  
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