I need to start from scratch
by George Skarbek - 1st November 2005

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Q: I would like to ask about how to clean reinstall Windows XP Pro. I bought a new PC with Windows XP Pro SP2 about three months ago. After I started using it, I encountered freeze and crash problems repeatedly. I asked my supplier to check the hardware because I was told it sounded like faulty memory. They could not find any hardware problem but they changed the motherboard just in case. However, after that, the PC still crashes repeatedly. When I reported my crash problem to Microsoft, I was told it's caused by a device driver. But I couldn't find anything wrong. So my final decision is to clean reinstall Windows XP. Is there anything specifically I should be aware of when I do this? I'm worried about the activating issue with regard to Microsoft, as I need to reinstall MS Office XP as well.

A: The most important things are to back-up your data, such as files, photos, email etc. onto a CD or USB drive. Verify that you can read these files before wiping everything. You will need to boot using a bootable floppy and then format the hard disk or boot from the XP CD. If you want to alter or create partitions then use F disk first and then Format.

You should not have to worry about activation as the hardware will be the same and there should be no problems. Before you wipe out the current installation, back-up your product activation files and then you can restore them to the new installation just in case of an activation problem. From Windows locate two files: wpa.dbl and wpa.bak, which should be found in the C:\Windows\System32 folder. Copy them to a floppy, and then after installation start the computer in Safe Mode and copy them to the same folder.

To start in Safe Mode, press the F8 key repeatedly (every half a second or so) while the computer is starting up and select Safe Mode prompt from the menu.

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Q: I've taken photos with a digital camera and the date wasn't set correctly. Now, using Picasa, my recent files are listed as 2003 not 2005. Is there a way I can redate my files without changing the contents of the file (i.e. a system registry type process).

A: If you have only a few files then the quickest way is to open them and save again, using a lossless format, if this is practical.
If you have many files to alter then there are some utility programs that can achieve this quite easily. One such shareware program is Advanced FileTimer. This can be downloaded from mikasalonen.com/advancedfiletimer/?advft201

To look at the book, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here