By Steve Bass, Contributing Editor, PC World (and allegedly famous author)
Steve Bass tackles six of his most irritating annoyances—from the dumb logos manufacturers plaster on screen during bootup to removing weird lines in Word.
My name is Steve Bass and I hunt down PC annoyances. What’s funny is that it doesn’t matter how many annoyances I fixed in PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer. More sit-in-the-corner dumb things keep cropping up.
"May the fleas of a thousand camels infest the crotch of the RealPlayer developer who decided to stick icons in my system tray, Startup menu, and desktop, and may his arms be too short to scratch." —Snarfed from Internet, author unknown.
Admittedly, most annoying things are easy to find—just boot up your system, spend a few minutes with Windows, and blammo, you’re annoyed. The challenging part, and the reason I wrote the book, is the thrill of finding fixes for the annoyances. I dug around and found solid solutions that work instantly and don’t require a degree in computer science to understand.
Oddly enough, as I wrote the book, I bumped into even more Windows, Office, Internet, email, and hardware irritations. I didn’t have time to include all of them in the book, but rather than waste them, I thought I'd share them with you. (Caution: shameless plug to follow.) And if you like what you see, well gosh, maybe you'll be motivated to buy the book. Several copies of the book. Maybe a case of books (you know they’re ideal for gift giving…). You can get a copy here:
By the way, you don’t know me so this may come as a surprise, but I’m inherently lazy and will always find something to do other than meet a deadline. My favorite deadline avoidance trick is nothing new—I browse the Web; I’ll share a few time-wasting, funny, and occasionally weird sites I’ve discovered.
These are actual annoyances contributed by annoyed PC World readers.
System Restore on Your Desktop
The Annoyance: I took the advice in your book about creating a Restore Point every time I install new software or fiddle with my PC’s settings. The hassle is navigating through the Start menu to get to the buried System Restore dialog. There's gotta be a quicker way.
The Fix: It would be handy if Microsoft already had prefab desktop shortcuts for many of Windows' system functions. But it’s pretty easy to do it yourself. Dig around and find the System Restore icon and drag it onto the desktop and when the dialog appears, choose “Create Shortcuts Here.”) As you might imagine, you can do the same for other items. For instance, open Control Panel, right click on any icon, and choose “Create Shortcut.” Then answer Yes to the following dialog.
This dialog appears when you drag and drop the System Restore icon onto the Desktop. Answer Yes.
If you want to create a shortcut directly from the desktop, right-click any empty spot on the desktop and select New-->Shortcut. In the “Command Line” (98 and Me) or “location” (2000 and XP) field, type %SystemRoot%\System32\restore\rstrui.exe. Click the Next button, give your shortcut a name—like SysRestore, and click the Finish button. Double-click the shortcut and up pops the System Restore dialog.
Kill Some Time: You thought duct tape was just for fixing leaky radiator hoses and covering wall holes under the kitchen sink? Wrong. It’s good anything. See the Duct Tape Diner
Remove Weird Lines in Word
The Annoyance: Whenever I enter underlines by themselves in a Word 2002 document, they're automatically transformed into solid, thick horizontal lines. That’s not what I want. I think it’s a bug in Word and it’s driving me nuts.
The Fix: So you’re saying you don’t like Word’s overly ambitious AutoFormat feature that turns your lines into borders? Because that’s exactly what’s happening—every time you type more than three asterisks, hyphens, underscores, or equal signs, Word applies a character or paragraph border style. It’s an easy--dare I say, gratifying--fix. From Word’s toolbar, choose Tools-->AutoCorrect, click the AutoFormat As You Type tab, and uncheck the Border lines box. (In Word 2000, uncheck the Border box.)
If you uncheck Border lines, you won’t have to suffer with Word automatically turning your lines into borders.
Stop Annoying Crash Reports
The Annoyance: I’m getting really tired of XP asking me if I want to send an error report to Microsoft every time a program crashes. I think the company should spend its time reducing crashes, don't you?
The Fix: I’ll bet Microsoft’s tired of taking all your reports, too, but that’s another story. Stopping these report prompts takes five minutes. From the Start Menu, click the Control Panel, then double-click the System icon. If Windows XP is in the Category View, click Performance and Maintenance, then double-click the System icon.
In the System Properties box, click the Advanced tab, then the Error Reporting button. If you want absolutely no notification about errors, check "Disable error reporting" and make sure the “But notify me when critical errors occur” box is unchecked. (FYI: I leave notification checked so I can see details of the crash, something that helps me troubleshoot system problems.) Click OK then OK again.
Eliminate annoying error reporting by marking “Disable error reporting.”
Kill Some Time: Looking for something to do besides worrying about underlining in Word? Try the Snarg site. After the first few images flash on screen, click the tiny pound sign on the right, then click the "squeee" or "framina" link (To exit either, just close the window.) Hint: Move your mouse around and click here and there until patterns emerge, or until your significant other walks in and asks how that defrag is going. http://snipurl.com/snarg
Big Hard Drive Corruption
The Annoyance: Ever since I upgraded my PC with a 160GB hard drive, hibernation has stopped working correctly. Every so often, my system annoyingly restarts rather than resuming from hibernation. I’ve run ScanDisk and defragged the drive, but the problem still occurs. What gives?
The Fix: Someone once said you can never have too much RAM or too big a hard drive. Unfortunately, without a fix from Microsoft, Windows XP will choke—and possibly corrupt data—on any drive that exceeds 137 GB. To fix it you need to download the latest service packs. And if you’re interested in the background, check out Microsoft’s Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 331958.
Stop Quick Launch Pop-ups
The Annoyance: Whenever my cursor hovers over the Quick Launch toolbar, enormous yellow pop-ups appear with tons of text. It blocks the other icons, and besides, I already know what program the icon represents.
The Fix: The biggest offenders are—surprise, surprise—Microsoft applications. Word’s descriptive pop-ups are billboard size, and definitely annoying.
Hover your mouse over Word’s Quick Launch icon and it insists on providing a lengthy explanation of what it does for a living.
Rather than eliminate the pop-up, shrink it down to size. Right-click the icon in the Quick Launch Toolbar, choose Properties, and change—or remove—the text in the Comment field. Easy, eh?
Remove the text in the Comment field and you’ll no longer see Word’s built in advertising.
Ban Annoying Boot Logos
The Annoyance: I just bought a new PC. When the system boots, all I see is the manufacturer's irritating logo.
The Fix: IMHO, watching the logo screen is more than just annoying; it's depriving you of valuable troubleshooting and diagnostic information that's served up while the PC's booting. This annoyance is pretty easily dispensed with, provided your system's BIOS allows you to turn off the logo screen.
As you're booting up, tap the Delete or F1 key. (Pay attention during boot-up: The system usually displays the proper key on screen.) Browse through the various BIOS options until you find something similar to "disable the Logo Screen," and change the setting to not show the logo.
Copyright © 2003 by Steve Bass and O’Reilly Press. Reproduced with permission. Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World and a founding member of APCUG. He’s also the author of PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things about Your Personal Computer, O’Reilly Press. It’s available on Amazon.
Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World and ran the Pasadena IBM Users Group. He’s also a founding member of APCUG. Sign up for the Steve Bass online newsletter at PC World
Winners is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG) is an international, platform-independent, nonprofit corporation (incorporated in Washington, DC) devoted to helping user groups throughout the world. Almost 400 user groups are members of APCUG. http://www.apcug.net/