February 2012 Q&A
Q: I have an HP laser printer that I want to share on a network but can't figure out how. Right now we have to move it back and forth and connect it to the computer we want to print from. Could we connect it via the router?
A: There are three kinds of printers in general use today: wired to a computer by USB or parallel port; connected to a network cable; and wireless.
To use the printer on a network, go to the computer that the printer is connected to and in Control Panel > Network and Sharing > Change Advanced Sharing Settings and turn on File and Printer Sharing. Then, on the same computer, go to Control Panel > Devices and Printers and select Printer Properties > Sharing and click on Share this printer. Give the printer a name.
Then, on the computer the printer is not connected to go to Control Panel > Devices and Printers > Add a Printer and click on Add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer. The computer should be able to find the printer on the network. If it does, you can just select it. If it doesn't you can navigate to it and click the next, next, next, just as if you were installing a printer.
For the share to work, both the printer and the computer it's connected to must be turned on when you try to print from the other computer.
Art Lewis: I have a printout that explains how to do this. I can send to anyone asks for it via email. It was developed for the AARP income tax program I work with.
Missing DLL file
Q: When I tried to do some of this, one of the computers is missing a DLL file. I tried going to Lexmark and looking for a new driver or other updates but that didn't solve it. We discovered that Windows 7 plug and play will work but not on XP. The files were there last year but not on this year's computers. We have to give the computers back to the IRS each year.
A: I'd download the drivers for the printers for XP.
Q: I tried that and it didn't work, but I'll try it again.
Printing from tablets
Q: Can you connect a tablet to the network and print from it?
A: Yes for many tablets, but finding the drivers for the tablet might be difficult. Not all tablets have printer support.
Q: A program I use requires output to an LPT port. Is there anything that will convert LPT input to USB?
A: There is a DOS fix: First, share the printer and give it a share name. Then open a Command Prompt by right mouse clicking on it and selecting Run As Administrator. Then at a prompt, type:
net use lpt1 \\computer\printer /persistent:yes
where computer is the name of your computer and printer is the name you gave your printer in the first step above. Note that there are spaces after lpt1 and printer.
Moving programs from XP to Windows 7
Q: Is there a way to migrate programs from XP to Windows 7?
A: There are programs that say they do that, but they're not reliable, and I wouldn't use them. The best solution is to do clean installations of the programs you use.
Q: If I'm on a public Wi-Fi, if I just surf the net and don't use my email, am I vulnerable in any way?
A: If you hadn't added "in any way" I would have said no. From a practical standpoint, the answer is generally no, but there's always a possibility that you could be hacked. Hackers are going to go after heavy users who are going to financial sites so they can gather login information and passwords. They're generally not that interested in your email or the files on your computer. Don't buy anything online. If you hack Starbucks, you're looking for the biggest possible return, and email isn't it. Being hacked at Starbucks could be a first step to a takeover, but that's generally not done on a drive-by shooting. For that to work, you have to install a program to make your computer a zombie, which means you have to be tricked into clicking on something that starts an installation. I would not visit password-protected financial sites or sign into my email at a public Wi-Fi, however.
Q: I was updating my AOL email and went into the contacts, where I seldom look, and found the password for our wireless router at the bottom of the list. My daughter said she'd given the password to a visiting friend so she could use the network, but I'm curious how it got to the contacts list.
A: Someone put it there. It wasn't a computer thing. But even so, it's not much of a problem. If someone hacks into your AOL account, which they'd have to do to see it, they're probably not going to sitting outside your house where they could use your network. Your daughter shouldn't have put it there, and I'd delete it, but I wouldn't worry much about it.
Q: Have you had any experience with the CCleaner software (http://www.piriform.com/)?
A: Of all the registry cleaning programs, it's probably the best, they either fix some minor problems or they seriously break something. I don't think they're useful enough to counterbalance the risks, especially if your computer is at all unusual or idiosyncratic. They can delete entries that you need for some obscure program or hardware and can even make your computer unbootable. If you're going to use a registry cleaner, create a good backup first. They might be helpful on an old XP machine that is running slowly, but I wouldn't use them on Vista or Windows 7 machines. There are techs who use and like them, however.
Computer slowing down
Q: My computer was slowing down. The D: drive wasn't working and was replaced. My daughter installed a new D: drive. She thinks it's either a virus or a hardware problem. I'm using a free anti-virus but don't remember which one (the questioner later said she thinks she's using Norton).
A: We run into lots of machines that are running up-to-date AVG and Avast but still have many viruses. Those are two most popular free anti-virus programs. If you're using one of them, I'd install Windows Security Essentials, which is free (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/security-essentials). It's probably the No. 3 anti-virus program (Norton and Kaspersky, which are paid programs, are the top two in no particular order).
I'd also run Malwarebytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org/). If either of the programs won't run or won't install, you need to take your machine to a shop to get it fixed. Viruses generally block anti-virus and other security programs from being updated or installed, and the longer you wait to get rid of the infection, the worse it will be and the more it will cost to repair it. Attempting to play with it yourself won't help and can make the problem worse.
(The questioner said she thinks she has Norton and has been getting messages that it's updating.) Norton generally updates in the background and you wouldn't be getting a pop-up message that it's updating. That could be a sign a virus has disabled it. The D: drive dying could cause your computer to slow down. If you're not getting error messages after removing the D: drive you but the computer is still slow, that points to a conclusion that there's a virus, but it's impossible to diagnose with this limited description. There could be a problem with the C: drive.
Q: Would the Symantec hack have any effects on this problem (http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/01/25/symantec-stop-pcanywhere/?utm_source=Naked+Security+-+Sophos+List&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=f2702580f3-naked%252Bsecurity)?
A: Some hackers obtained the source code for certain Symantec programs, but the anti-virus program involved was the 2006 version. The code is so far out of date it's useless. PC Anywhere is a problem, and the best rule for anyone who uses it is not to leave it running all the time. The suggestion is to turn it on only when it's needed, but that sometimes can't be done for corporations that have accountants logging in at night.
Updates and other installations
Q: Very often when I install updates, I go through two steps. I download a file, and when I click on it, it downloads more files. Can I delete the first procured that brought the update down and can I throw away previous versions of updates.
A: The first program that you get is a download that gets the information to your computer. The second is the installer. Well-behaved program will clean up after themselves and delete TEMP files. If you delete the installation files, you might not be able to properly uninstall programs or repair an installation because the necessary information is gone. The alphabet soup folders on your C: drive contain all that information. We talked earlier about the .NET files. If you've deleted the folder, you won't get it back again. If you can't uninstall, you can't reinstall, and then you're in deep trouble.
Showing file sizes
Q: XP showed me file sizes, but Windows 7 doesn't. Is there a way to see them?
A: Right mouse click on the file and go to properties, which will show the size. Also, if you view files in Windows Explorer in Detail mode, you can right mouse click on the header bar (the one that shows Name, Date Modified, Type, etc.) and check the Size option. Then it will show. After, click Alt-T, Folder Options, View, Apply To Folders. This will keep the settings on all folders - except Windows has the habit of changing folders of pictures or music back to icons.