Walt Mossberg

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Curing a Laptop’s Startup Ills

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about how to cure a laptop’s startup ills and wireless Internet access with a dial-up connection.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

Recently, my laptop is taking an inordinate time to boot up. I have tried disk cleanup, defragmentation, and multiple scans by antivirus programs but nothing seems to speed up the full bootup process. Do you have any suggestions?

This probably indicates that you have a large number of programs, many of them invisible to you, that are configured to launch at startup. Some may even be spyware and adware programs. I suggest two steps. First, get a good antispyware program, like Webroot’s Spy Sweeper, and do a thorough scan of your system, deleting all the spyware and adware you can find. Spy Sweeper, which costs $30, is available at www.webroot.com. (A free trial is available.) Then, reboot.

If the system continues to reboot slowly, you should run a program that tells you which programs are trying to launch at startup. Get rid of those you don’t need. A built-in Microsoft utility, msconfig, can do this for you. Just select Run from the start menu and type “msconfig.” Look over the programs listed in the “Startup” tab of the program, and uncheck all that you’re sure you don’t need. This may be tough, because msconfig doesn’t give the English names of the programs or explain what they do.

Even better, download and run a startup utility like Startup Cop, which explains things better. It costs $5.97 and is available at www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,2173,00.asp.

We would like to use the Internet wirelessly in our home, but we have a dial-up service. We were told by others that one has to have a cable or DSL modem to go wireless. Is that true?

No, you can do it with dial-up, though the speed is so slow that the experience over wireless may be disappointing. A company called Always On Wireless makes a wireless base station called the WiFlyer that is specifically designed for sharing dial-up connections wirelessly. It costs $150 and is available at www.wiflyer.com. I have seen it demonstrated, and it worked, but I haven’t tested it.

I run Windows XP home edition and also Word. After installing a newer edition of Word, I began to have a problem when I went to look for my newly prepared files. They don’t show up in the folder that I thought I put them in. How can I resolve this aggravating problem?

In Word, go to the Tools menu, and select Options. Go to the File Locations tab, and click on Documents. Set the location for saving documents to whatever folder you prefer, and click OK or Close until you are out of the Options window. That should take care of it.

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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