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Solutions: It's time to choose Windows Vista over XP

I am buying my daughter a PC for college and some discussion has arisen about whether to buy with the latest version of Windows XP or Windows Vista. Myself and my computer guy are XP favorers. She will obviously be storing lots of photos and music and probably will be using it more for social networking than schoolwork and paper writing. What is your opinion?

I just bought my daughter a laptop for college. I wouldn't consider anything but Vista. It has always been fashionable in the tech media to bash Microsoft and now in particular, Vista. The media tend to take a very superficial view. Under the covers, Vista has many innovations, especially in the area of safety and integrity such as User Account Control, User Interface Privilege Isolation and Address Space Load Randomization, just to name a few. Sure, Vista had a few minor quirks that seem to be part of any new operating system, but many of the problems stemmed from third-party vendors not having drivers and peripherals ready. For the most part, this is no longer an issue. I've been running Vista on several PCs with barely a hiccup — not quite the horror story of those entertaining but inaccurate Mac commercials.

Every time I go to print, my old printer comes up. It has a check mark on the printer. I would like to print with my newer printer, which is an HP Officejet 7310. I still use my old printer, too.

You need to change the new printer to the Default printer as follows: Go to Control Panel, Printers. Right-click on your new printer and select "Set as Default Printer."

I have a Compaq laptop with Windows XP Service Pack 2. At startup I get two system error boxes that say, "Unable to open dialog." I am unable to find any information on where the problem might be. If I hit OK on both boxes, all is fine. I just want to know what this is related to.

A mystery process, so how do we find out what it is? One way is to use the Microsoft System Configuration Utility. Click Start, Run and type MSCONFIG and click OK. Click the Startup tab. Here are most of the processes that are attempting to start at Windows boot. Look up the process names you see there at www.processlibrary.com. Anything that looks like it doesn't belong you can disable (one process at a time) by unchecking the box and then rebooting to see if the mystery dialog box is eliminated. If not then turn it back on (check its box) and repeat the same steps with another process. This can be tedious. There's a better way to narrow the choices. The next time the dialog box appears, before clicking to dismiss it, right-click an empty area of the Taskbar and select Task Manager (or click Start, Run, type TASKMGR and click OK). Click the Process tab. On the column header where it says CPU, click twice. This will sort the processes, putting those that use the most CPU at the top. Now grab the dialog box (click its Windows title bar and hold it down) and start dragging it around in a small circle. You should then see its process name sort close to the top of the Task Manager display. Now you know its name and can use that information to disable it at startup. This method has helped me many times.

Send questions to personaltech@sptimes.com or Personal Tech, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Questions are answered only in this column.

Solutions: It's time to choose Windows Vista over XP 06/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 11:38am]

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