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Click to jump to the section Laptop Coolers - are they necessary? Proxies to circumvent blocked websites Removal of Malware, security software, reformatting Spilled liquid onto laptop, slightly malfunctioning Refurbished computer equipment: good buy, or too risky? Sluggish laptop - worth the memory upgrade? Hardware questions - power to Usb's?

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2009-05-19 15:34:10   Laptop coolers: gimmick or gotta-have? —TheAmazingLarry

  • 2009-05-19 15:39:08   Depends on the machine and how you plan on using it. Using a laptop on your bed for example often causes it to suck in dust, lint, and possibly hair potentially causing it to overheat. Some performance intensive applications such as gaming can cause high levels of heat over prolonged periods of time which also has the potential to cause overheating. Most often, and for most applications a cooler is completely useless. If you MUST work on your bed, a lap desk, or large hard cover book can raise the computer up and allow for better ventilation. On the other hand, some models (Such as older dells with air intake on the bottom) are notorious for overheating even under the best conditions and would benefit from a cooling stand. —MasonMurray
  • 2009-05-19 15:48:24   A metal cookie sheet can also work well. —NickSchmalenberger
    • ...or pretty much anything that allows air to circulate under the laptop, right? I mean, the fans in the laptop coolers are pretty much there just to make them look high-tech, and not because the fans add much cooling power, right?
  • I had a Mac whose fan came on all of the time, sometimes just while browsing the internet or watching a video. Using a laptop pad (without its own fan) to elevate the laptop definitely reduced the amount of time the fan needed to come on. Best case: lengthen life of harddrive. Worst case: less time listening to annoying fan noise. I use a Targus coolpad. —CovertProfessor
  • Exactly as Mason said, it depends on what you have and how you're using it. I wouldn't use anything like a cookie sheet or anything in direct contact under the laptop (unless you get elaborate with it), but even simply propping a book under the back of it to give it an inch of air likely helps. Low-end coolers are gimmicky, the fans tend to suck. They're helpful but not much more than other stuff you can do. There actually are nice coolers that work great out there (and really are useful), but it again depends on what you're doing to make the laptop run that hot. -ES
  • Slightly vulgar/NSFW, but you really gotta be careful Larry. This has was a huge issue when the new Macbook Pro's came out.
  • 2009-05-20 14:21:27   If anyone is having issues with cooling or fans being too noisey in a laptop, it is very likely that your laptop needs to be cleaned. The heatsink for the CPU in a laptop is quite small. Dust can easily and quickly build up around the heatsink and eventually restrict all airflow leaving the CPU to stagnate in its own hot air. If you are having heating issues, I would not reccomend "putting it on a cookie sheet" or anything like that as a serious solution. If your laptop is experiencing this type of issue, it is only going to get worse and as time goes by, your CPU is spending a lot of time either over heating or lowering its clock speed to avoid over heating. If you have a CPU with more than one core, which is almost for sure if your laptop is less that 3 years old, then you should use a program called CoreTemp to see if your CPU is over heating or not. Core temp is available here: http://www.alcpu.com/CoreTemp/ Once you have CoreTemp downlaoded and running, you need to stress your computer to find out if it over heats when it is being used or not. To do this, you simply need to sun a stress test while you run CoreTemp. A good stress test can be found here: http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file/fid,7146-order,1-page,1-c,systemresourcestuneup/description.html

    If you do not have any knowledge about this sort of thing, do not try to clean the fan yourself. You can try Dust off or sucking air through the fan hole with the a vaccum hose but dont try to take anything apart!

    This is a very common issue with pretty much all laptops and its not especially difficult or expensive to fix. —RealComputers

    • I have an old can of compressed air at home, but it has some additive to keep youngsters from huffing it. Can I still spray that into my laptop to get the dust out? Or do I need to buy the powder-free canned air?
      • You can use any kind of compressed air. Yes some laptop fans are louder than others, but when a CPU is overheating, the CPU fan will spin faster and make more noise as it tries to compensate. This would be quite noticable and much louder than the fan would normally be regardless of how noisey it origionally was. —RealComputers
  • Brian, it seems to me that your answer overlooks the wide variety of laptops that are out there. Some laptop fans are noisier than others right out of the box. Some fans come on frequently, some almost never. I had a Powerbook whose fan came on all the time, and all the Powerbooks of that generation were like that; my current MBP fan hardly ever comes on. And I just got out of a meeting with someone who had an HP laptop that sounded like a jet engine. In the worst of days, my Powerbook never sounded like that. In short, noisy fan doesn't necessarily mean that there is dust, and fan coming on could just be a product of a particular model together with certain types of use. —CovertProfessor
    • What you just stated is why people should follow the instructions above if they have a noisy fan and suspect their computer is overheating. Doing so will allow them to determine if there is a problem or not. —RealComputers
    • 2009-05-21 00:01:49   Wiping dust out with a tissue or paper towel can often work better than canned air, an important part is getting access to where the dust is and giving it room to leave. I wouldn't just blow air into a laptop without opening it because it might blow the dust in farther. If I have access to an air compressor I definitely use that too. —NickSchmalenberger
      • The fan inside a laptop is sealed in a small metal chamber. Dust can not make it into other parts of the laptop from the fan vents. —RealComputers

Again you are making a generalization about the hardware arrangement of laptops, which in my experience is very diverse. If the fan is sealed with only one opening then blowing air in could be the only way to get dust out. Many laptops are not like this however. For example, in this picture I found in a google image search for ibook fan, it is clearly open on top so even when the keyboard is on dust will probably go through that opening. Whether or not the fan blows in or out also makes a difference and this too will vary between laptops. —NickSchmalenberger

  • That picture is of a laptop that is not assembled .. And yes I am generalizing, however all laptops fans are sealed and dust can not get inside, when the laptop is assembled. —RealComputers

It mostly depends on how you're planning to use it. In my opinion a general rule of thumb is. If it's feeling really hot it's better to err on the side of safety and spend the small amount of money to get the cooler. Better safe than sorry. —James Curtis Computing Solutions

2009-05-19 17:21:32   Hi, Hope this a considered a computer question: Does anyone know of a proxy IP/site that will support viewing vids on YouTube without the annoying notice that says I need to change my java script settings? I am in China and YouTube is blocked right now along with a bunch of other sites....Thanks! —jsbmeb

  • There are lots of ways proxies can work. What I have done is ssh to another server I have and my ssh client program (openssh or putty) can be a socks proxy server on the localhost interface that will send the traffic through the ssh connection. Youtube does seem to work through the ssh socks proxy. —NickSchmalenberger
  • Reporters without Borders has a number of resources, including a Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents, and Technical ways to get around censorship. There is quite a bit of information out there, and if you need somebody to email you anything about how to get around it, I'm sure somebody here would... although it might be illegal for you to receive it. —Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards

Update: I was able to get through from what Nick told me. Thanks!- jsbmeb

2009-05-21 11:27:44   I've got an old laptop, an IBM Thinkpad T42. It's been a pretty stable commuting workhorse for me. Recently, I slipped up and took in a ton of cruel malware. (Was streaming episodes of "The Office" online, followed a bad link, and left my computer for an hour since I was at work - had a zillion things popped up when I came back). I've exhausted myself playing with the typical Adaware/Spybot/HijackThis/Combofix, and for the first time, I'm stumped. Usually I can fix it up after a few days of annoying reboots and scans and digging through my registry. I'm sure if I keep going specifically with HJT and Combofix I could clear my computer, but it seems that some of them just keep slipping back, and I'm losing the willpower to devote an entire weekend to sitting in front of it. I've got a backup external harddrive, but I'm concerned about compromising it, or my current flash drive, so I bought a new 8gig flash drive (I guess so I can keep it quarantined). I'm planning to copy over my pictures and documents, and simply reformat the laptop. It's been over two years since I reformatted it, so it's about due anyway. However, I'm concerned over how effective this will be. If I really got something nasty, it's possible (and has been known) to come back, but I doubt I have a boot sector virus, just good ole fashioned shiny new trojans and malware. Any advice? Any knowledge, anyone? My biggest concern is that I haven't backed up my documents and most importantly my pictures in a few months, so I really don't want to lose those. As far as I can tell, I'm not having virus trouble, just some really sneaky trojan/malware tidbits strongly hidden. —ES

  • You seem tech savy enough so, here's what you want to do: Boot to safe mode and copy your data to your flash drive. Do your reinstall, then install your usual barrage of security softwares. Scan the flash drive before copying the data over, preferably in safe mode. You want to work in safe mode because it loads minimal drivers and boot loaders, so it bypasses may virii's attack vectors. It may be possible to clean your machine however. I would recomend a temp file cleaner such as CCleaner. Malicious programs downloaded from the internet often hide in your temp files. IE does not wipe these when it is done (One of the many reasons firefox is more secure). —MasonMurray
  • As an aside, that's the exact model of laptop I use for casual and onsite work. They are darn near indestructible, and have decent strength in their wireless card range. —MasonMurray
    • Re temp cleaner, I use ATF Cleaner. And yes, the T42 is an incredibly well built machine, I love the durability. I've got a stronger battery in it too, it outlasts newer laptops (even with the same battery) by hours. —ES
      • This is getting ridiculous! I ALSO have the extended life battery XD! But if you are using all of those tools, and you are not able to get it booting properly, you need a reinstall. Back up your most precious data, and hit the nuke button. —MasonMurray
  • 2009-05-22 08:23:33   Did you try checking your start up programs to see if it can be disabled? Go to start>run then type in mscofig and go to the start up tab. Run is located under all programs>accesories in vista. See if that helps with your pop ups. If that dosent work, then what Mason said is true and you will have to reinstall. —RealComputers
    • Yes, that was among the first things done. As well as doing multiple scans and digging through the reg in safe mode. It's not really an issue with popups, that was just probably when I first got all this junk. I can't recall the malware names since it's been a little bit, but the problem is two or three key trojans which not only hide in the registry, but also end up helping install other things. So I can remove everything, and eventually they'll sneak back in. Apparently they're among the most disingenuous and compromising. I'll be ok with reformatting, just wasn't sure if it would work out great or not. I'll just try what Mason said, do as much of it in safe mode as I can and be sure to scan through the flash drive before bringing that stuff back. -ES
      • If you can find the executable file names or some other key information then you can probably find solutions online. Otherwise if you are just going to back up your data and the reformat then you dont really need to do anything in safe mode .. but it wouldnt hurt either. Also, make sure you disable all non microsoft services in the services tab on msconfig if you havent already. I usually just reformat when I get a virus just to make sure its totally dead. —RealComputers
  • I'd reformat, too. For future reference, though, I'll add one more tool to the iteration you mentioned above: Sysinternal's Autoruns. It reveals the same sorts of things as HJT, but not just related to IE. I've found it very helpful in locating where malware is hiding it's .dlls and .exes. —MattJurach

* Final update on my situation: During the above thread, I was waiting for the mailman to deliver my USB stick and copies of the XP/install CD's. Once they all arrived, the situation had worsened. I hadn't touched the laptop for a week, on first boot tried to log in and got a weird loop, even in safemode (would type in password, hit enter, logging in...logging out, need to re-enter password). After a few attempts, the computer refused to load! It would load up almost as normal (again, even in safemode) but by the time you get to the normal login screen, the screen would go black. Stuck! I booted from the XP disks, tried to repair the install, checked a few things out (userinit.exe), and basically reinstalled windows over the current install (without formatting). Was able to finally log in. Crappily enough, the computer now refused to recognize my USB flash drives. When plugged in, I'd see the "Xyx Flash Stick Brand Blah is connected!" but couldn't access it (or any of my drives). Couldn't figure this one out either. Luckily, I had backed up some stuff more recently than I thought, so I ended up burning 6 or 7 CDs full of data/duplicates. Then I reformatted, reinstalled, spent forever patching it up (didn't have an original driver disk for this laptop), and finally, it was as good as new. Reinstalled a few essential programs, including an anti-virus program and some anti-malware stuff, transferred all my data back, etc. It was a hell of an annoying trip. TL;DR - booted from XP cd, tried to repair install, burned data to disks, reformatted/reinstalled, good as new. I really want to just buy a new laptop, but if I wait a year maybe a training grant will cover me for it <.< -ES

2009-05-25 14:47:36   I have an older Dell laptop onto which someone dumped a cup of water. This happened about a month ago, and I'm pretty sure it has completely dried out now. But it still has two problems: (1) sometimes when it starts up, instead of loading Windows, it shows a black screen with white text saying "Exception..." and a bunch of codes. And, (2) when it does load Windows, it is often the case that user input is slightly screwy — for example, when you click a bookmark folder in Firefox, all the bookmarks in that folder are loaded into a single page at once. Or, when you click on something on the desktop, it selects multiple things instead of just one. It is as though the shift or ctrl keys are always down (but note that this only happens some of the time that the computer is on, not always). What could be the problem here? And what can I do to fix it? —TheAmazingLarry

  • Well... that's a bad situation. I'd like to first say that fixing a computer can be alot like fixing a car. In that the objective in fixing it is not making it new again, it is getting it to work. That said, the main problem SEEMS to be that it is reading one of the keys as being depressed. If you replace the keyboard it may fix that problem. The problem with it booting could be due to water damage to the motherboard or the hard drive, although the hard drive is much less likely in that if it were damaged, the computer should never load at all, or would crash often due to look-up errors. The motherboard problem would be around 300-375 for a professional to replace whatever capacitors/chips were overloaded. All of THAT said, I can't guarantee anything because I have not done a diagnostic on it, so it could just be a couple of loose connectors. —MasonMurray
  • Sounds like you need a new touchpad.—RealComputers
    • Thanks for your assessments of this. It looks like I'm screwed on this computer because it's too old and junky to put much money into repair. The strange input behavior was from a mouse and not the touchpad, so I think that's not the problem. The part of the problem that confuses me is that the computer sometimes works fine, but at other time exhibits the symptoms above...—TheAmazingLarry
      • Well, the touchpad may be giving input regardless, unless you have some method for turning it off and it still does that. If you can't just press a button or flip a switch to turn it off, you can try going into control panel (assuming you're using windows) and then into the 'mouse' options, and there should be something in there that you can disable. If you are getting screwy input from a touchpad, then disabling it using either software or hardware techniques may work...Oh, and if you don't mind having the touchpad be easily usable you could just open it up and unplug the pad from the motherboard. Of course, I would advise trying the software method first.—JoePomidor
  • I feel like I'm stating the obvious here, but have you tried using an external keyboard and/or a new external mouse to see what happens? You should be able to get them through freecycle if you don't have any handy. —CovertProfessor
    • Yes, I have tried the external keyboard (but not a different mouse), but that brings up another symptom that I should have explained above. In fact, we keep the external keyboard plugged into the laptop all the time. If we unplug it, the laptop keyboard starts exhibiting even stranger behavior. I tried unplugging it yesterday, for example, and the laptop keyboard started behaving as though the Fn key was being held down (so M, J, K,L, U, I, O, and P would return 0 - 9 rather than their alphabetic character). —TheAmazingLarry
      • You can disable the touchpad by right clicking on computer under start, going to properties and then device manager. From there you can disable all your system components. At least this way you can be sure your touchpad is not the issue. - —RealComputers
  • I will try disabling the touchpad to see if that's the source of the problem. We usually do get stuck using it sometimes though, because this laptop has only two USB ports, so whenever the mouse and the wifi dongle are plugged in, the mouse has to come out to let other devices (th USB printer or camera) be used.—TheAmazingLarry

2009-06-16 08:04:40   Advice on buying refurb computers? —TheAmazingLarry

  • Expanding on the above comment: I'm now thinking of buying two items: a new laptop (see comment above) and a car-GPS unit. I see a lot of deals on refurbished items, but I'm always a little cautious because I don't know if refurbished means "refurbished like new" or "shorter life-span than a new product". Any advice on this? My gut says that the quality of the refurb is directly proportional to the reputation of the merchant, but maybe there's more to it than that?

    I assume that a refurbished item is used but basically works. Also, items with moving parts like a hard drive or floppy drive are likely to have a shorter lifespan. Laptops have so many tiny screws and delicate cables that the more its taken apart the more chance there is for more problems. I've replaced laptop motherboards and lcd inverter boards successfully, but I'd rather not touch it if theres not an actual problem. A good technician will be well organized about the screws and stuff, but sometimes the phone rings and you drop something. Refurbished could mean something was broken but it was replaced, so then its questionable where the replacement part came from (ebay?) and what got lost or broken in the process of repairing the broken thing. —NickSchmalenberger

    Adding to Nick's comment, it really depends on your vendor. Apple refurbs, for example, are indistinguishable from their new computers and carry the same warranty. Some random thing at Fry's.... not so much. —WilliamLewis

I once received a refurb Kensington trackball because the one I had bought was defective. Except the trackball had had its finish *sanded* off! So I called and complained that I had bought a new one and this was what they gave me. So they sent me another. Same problem. Then one day I came home and found two new ones to replace each of the two refurbs! Apple's refurbs carry the same warranty as new products. They take returns or defective products, replace defective parts, test them to the same standards as their new products, and ship them. I'm not positive that they will look as nice as new ones - it may be that they don't replace casings with scratches and such. I would avoid the ones at Fry's. Seriously. They are known for repackaging defective products in new shrink wrap. —IDoNotExist

  • I never buy refurbished hard or optical drives. Nothing wrong with other components. Note that there appears to be no quality or procedural standards for what constitutes a refurbished component. And *nobody* actually disassembles a hard drive and replaces heads, bearings or platters. The very best you can hope for is that the unit will be tested. Worst and most probable case would be a quick repartition and a new antistatic bag. —JimStewart
  • I've had Western Digital send me refurbished hard drives. The one they sent me failed in only a few weeks. I'd avoid those... —IDoNotExist

2009-07-14 18:22:28   My laptop(hp ze2000) which is a few years old is very sluggish at times. In response to a virus invasion I rebooted the hard drive, but that didn't seem to help. I am a photographer and use Photoshop, but I store all my photos on a portable drive. I was thinking of getting more RAM, I currently have 384 MB, but a friend of mine said that he did this and it didn't speed up his computer at all. I also frequently get the message that my virtual memory is low and my computer is increasing the size of it (whatever that means). What I'm wondering is, is it worth it to diagnose and/or upgrade my current computer or is it time to just buy a new one? Also, if I do get a new one, are macs better? —MRathje

  • Which operating system are you using? —JasonAller

Windows Me —MRathje

  • RAM is your physical memory and is faster than virtual memory. If your virtual memory is low your physical memory probably is also and increasing the RAM should definitely help. If it all gets taken up by viruses and stuff though its still going to be bad, so you have to be careful. By rebooting the hard drive, do you mean you erased it and reinstalled Windows? This is the simplest and surest way to get rid of viruses. —NickSchmalenberger

Yes, I erased it and reinstalled Windows so I think that got rid of the viruses. I have AVG antivirus on it as well.—MRathje

  • I did a quick google search and came up with this page. It says that [y]ou can upgrade your HewlettPackard Pavilion ze2000 Laptop to up to a maximum of 2 GB Memory, the system has 2 sockets to install Memory, already with 512 MB = 256 MB (removable) + 256 MB (removable) standard Memory installed. I'd recommend adding more memory; this website offers a 1 gb memory card for about $47. What you should do, in my opinion, is contact HP or browse their their site, and find out the exact specifications of the type of memory you can put in. 384 is really low; if you were to purchase a new laptop, there's no way it'd come with under 1 gigs worth of it. Assuming you're using new software, like photoshop and other memory heavy programs, you should see a huge improvement. Definitely browse around and price shop, but a memory upgrade is a cheaper alternative than a total upgrade (which might be an option too). -ES
    • To go down the memory line further, the system requirements for adobe photoshop CS4 states "512MB of RAM (1GB recommended)." JoePomidor linked you some some good stuff below in his comment, so again, a memory upgrade is a much cheaper option than a total upgrade, and will almost assuredly help you out. -ES
  • Cant say for sure but I would bet your computer has become sluggish because its overheating. The fan probably needs to be cleaned for dust. No virus can survive a reformat so if you did that and still had issues than its probably heat related. - Real Computers
  • You computer supplements the real RAM with virtual RAM, which is on your hard drive. If you don't have enough RAM, then it will try to improve it's performance by increasing the amount of virtual RAM it is using. If you don't mind gambling about $40 on trying to keep this computer going for another little while, you could check out Newegg, get your RAM up to a good amount, and see if that helps. Another thing, I don't know to what degree this is true, but one of my friends once told me that using an irregular amount of RAM (not some exponent of 2, i.e. 256, 512, 1024) can make some computers do funny things. That could be untrue, but given the idiosyncrasies of modern operating systems, who knows? Oh, also, if you want to try to remove some of the dust and whatnot that is probably clogging up your fan assembly, here's the maintenance guide (fan stuff is on page 144). It looks like a bit of disassembly is required, so if you don't feel up to that then I would take it somewhere to be looked at by someone who does.—JoePomidor
    • Not matching RAM in some systems or not having certain key values might mean you're not using all of the memory that is physically in the system, but I think (not having used Windows in about 11 years), that the OS should report how much it can actually see and use. Are you checking your memory by looking in your settings, or are you assuming your memory amount because you know you put those memory cards in?. Some video cards also "borrow" system memory, reducing how much you have to actually use to run programs. —jw
      • You can increase the size of your virtual memory by right clicking on the hard drive, then properties, then the quota tab. However, vistual memory is very slow. I would still say it is a heat related issue if your computer used to perform much faster even with a relatively low amount of ram installed, and you have also reinstalled your OS. - Real Computers
        • Virtual memory (the address used by a program can be directed to a different physical address) and paging (using mass storage to store the contents of system memory) are two distinct things. —wl

Are you sure you did a clean install, or did you do a repair? Before you upgrade your memory I would suggest running these two tools. http://www.filehippo.com/download_ccleaner/ and http://www.filehippo.com/download_defraggler/. Download and run those and see if they help (make sure you run the registry cleaner portion of CCleaner). If that does not help try opening the programs that you normally run when it is sluggish and then open Windows Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt + Del). Once that opens go the the "Performance" tab. There should be a bar that says "Memory". This is telling you how much memory your system is currently using. If the bar is high (probably more than half way) then there is a good chance that upgrading memory could help you with your problem. However, if the bar is remaining relatively low and your computer is still sluggish then adding more ram will probably not help you out much. Of course Ram is cheap so you could always try to add more ram at this point and hops it works. If after adding more ram your computer is still slow I would recommend you take it into a professional or look into buying a new PC. —jlc1988

2010-12-24 "21:17:40   Hardware question —mathewblake I have a really stupid question but its got me baffled. I went and did a super quick clean on the fan assembly. Really easy yea thats what i thought. Now from what i can tell the panels for the usb's and the monitor cord, audio cables (front and back) have no power. but when i plug in a flash drive its blinks once for a quick second and then all dark. on top of that the ethernet cable has a green light that still comes on. i have checked all the cables making sure none of them came undone in the process of the cleaning but hell i used canned air for 90% and qtips for the other 10% so if you guys have an idea of what it could be that would be awesome.—mathewblake

  • Did you unplug anything, by any chance? If so, did you plug everything back in in the correct place? —IDoNotExist
    • Open it back up and look around the fan area. Chances are that you loosened or unplugged a cable between the panel USB's and the motherboard. Usually the cable is silver, about the diameter of a pencil and has a small rectangular connector on the end that mates with the motherboard. Plug it back in (it should only go in one way) and you should be good to go. —jimstewart

yes i did unplug the fans there happens to be two other than the one in the power box and im sure i plugged those back in the correct spot i know this because the come on when i turn the computer on. I have no idea what it could be i checked the plugs on everything. But like i said above the ethernet light comes on and just the monitor mouse and keyboard dont work along with the flash on the any portable drive i plug in. —mathewblake

2011-11-06 06:52:44   I have a question: After I turned my laptop off last night, all the desktop icons on my macbook have vanished except the harddrive icon when I turned it on this morning. I can find my desktop items if I go to the folder in Finder. My iTunes account also started as brandnew until I used some prompts. I would also get the pinwheel of death a lot when I was using safari until I started backing up with time machine, after I did, it got better. I was also told that the pinwheeel of death can mean my harddrive is failing. Is this weird issue with the icons vanishing also a symptom? (I know my macbook is getting old) What do you think? Any help is much appreciated! I think I'm going to go to the Mac group myg at the seniot center next week if needed.... MacBook2.1 Version: 10.5.8 Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo Processor Speed: 2 GHz (Snow leopard)


  • The standard (easy) solutions are 1) restart, and if that doesn't work, 2) In the Finder, go to View -> Arrange by -> (pick anything). If neither of those works, let me know and we can try some more complicated solutions. I wouldn't worry about the pinwheels of death too much — we all get them from time to time. —CovertProfessor
  • Ok, so tried that. Not working still. I also just discovered that my chinese characters have all turned to boxes. It's like my mac had a giant fart and can't recover without more help than I can give, so I made an appt. at the apple store to see what the heck happened. I have a feeling Snow Leopard will have to reinstalled, but hopefully it will just be a couple clicks by a genius and then will be good. Thanks Professor :)