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The 21 greatest PC mysteries--solved!

Rick Broida | Jan. 24, 2011
Modern PCs are certainly marvels of technology--and yet for all their advances, computers still do crazy, inexplicable things. With the average machine, there's enough mystery to keep Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple hopping for a month--and enough frustration to make the average user want to commit murder most foul.

FRAMINGHAM, 24 JANUARY 2011 - Modern PCs are certainly marvels of technology--and yet for all their advances, computers still do crazy, inexplicable things. With the average machine, there's enough mystery to keep Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple hopping for a month--and enough frustration to make the average user want to commit murder most foul.

Computing mysteries tend to be less "Who dunnit?" and more "Why won't it?" For example, you may have puzzled over why Windows obstinately re­­fused to let you delete a stalled print job, or wondered why you couldn't find the file you just downloaded. But worry not: We've rounded up these and other mindbogglers of the PC universe--and solved them for you.

(For explanations and helpful tips, click the links.)

Where did my downloaded files go? Why can't I find them?

Your browser chooses where downloads go, but you can control the process.

Why doesn't my iPad charge when I connect it to my computer?

Your PC's USB port doesn't supply enough juice--but you can still charge your iPad, gradually.

Why does a video play on my desktop but not my laptop?

If a computer doesn't have the specific decoder for a video format, you can't watch the video. Get the right one.

My printer won't print, and Windows won't allow me to cancel or delete print jobs. What's going on?

Usually this is the result of a communication problem between the PC and printer. Get them talking.

I hear beeps when I turn on my PC. What do they mean?

Those beeps come from the BIOS (a piece of software built into the motherboard). Find out what a "beep code" means.

In a folder full of digital images, I often notice a file called Thumbs.db. What is it, and can I safely delete it?

Thumbs.db is a Windows XP system file that contains the thumbnail cache for a particular folder. You can tweak Windows to get it out of your way.

Why does every digital camera--even the one on my smartphone--insist on storing photographs in a folder called DCIM?

DCIM (for Digital Camera IMages) is the default directory structure for digital cameras--and having such a standard is very useful.

My Recycle Bin has disappeared. How do I go about restoring it?

Whether it was a victim of a glitch or never available in the first place, you can follow a few simple directions to restore the Recycle Bin.

Why does Windows sometimes reboot without my permission, and how do I prevent that from happening?

This problem relates to how Windows installs automatic updates. Fortunately, you can make some tweaks.

 

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