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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.

Where do all these mysterious Web browser toolbars come from, and how do I get rid of them?

Sometimes spyware installs browser toolbars, and sometimes you do it accidentally during software installation.

How did I end up with QuickTime on my PC, and do I need to keep it?

This media-playback software comes bundled with iTunes and installs along with it.

I have Microsoft (MSFT) Word installed on my PC. Why can't I open the .docx files my friend sent me?

If you use Word 2003 or an earlier version of the program, all you need is the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.

Why won't Windows allow me to delete a certain file?

If Windows refuses to delete a file or folder, some application or process is accessing it.

Why do some programs leave files and folders behind even after I've uninstalled them?

Many programs' uninstallers are ineffective. Use a utility that removes not only the application but also all of the pieces it leaves behind.

Why do Adobe (ADBE) Reader and Java update so frequently? Do I have to allow it?

Most Adobe and Java patches are made to plug security holes, so you should update them--or use alternative software.

Is it absolutely necessary to update Windows?

Yes, you should definitely apply Windows updates for security reasons, but you can take a few steps to cut down Windows' nagging.

Does it matter whether I 'Safely Remove' devices?

Absolutely: If you ignore Windows' requests to "Safely Remove" your storage media, you could end up with corrupted files, un­­readable media, or both.

Windows asks me if I want to enable Sticky Keys. What are they, and how should I use them?

The Sticky Keys feature makes certain keyboard functions easier to access.

Why can't I send out a particular file attachment through e-mail?

The file is probably too large. Check out free services that let you work around file-size restrictions.

How can I determine whether an unknown Website is safe to visit?

Read our suggestions on figuring out whether a link is safe from malware or other threats before you click it.

What are the .dat files I sometimes receive in e-mail messages, and how do I open them?

Microsoft Outlook uses a modified version of Rich Text Format to preserve fonts and the like, but it often causes problems for the recipient. We have three suggestions for coping.

 

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