I have a Gateway GT5404 computer with Windows Vista Home Premium. In the lower right corner on the task bar there is an icon called BigFix and a message that BigFix requires my attention. Could that be a virus or something that could harm my computer?
BigFix was a utility that was preinstalled on PCs by Gateway (and eMachines) that assisted them with technical support. It is no longer supported and you can safely remove it by going to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs. You can find more details at http://help.bigfix.com/kb/kb50.html.
My understanding is that you should not use msconfig.exe to permanently disable startup programs. Instead, the Microsoft system internal tool, Autoruns, should be used.
I wrote about AutoRuns (www.sysinternals.com, listed under Process Utilities) last fall, and thank you for reminding me to mention it here again. SysInternals is part of Microsoft, and the utility programs available there are safe, well-written and compact. AutoRuns goes into quite a bit more detail than some of the other tools, and people may find it easier to use than MSCONFIG.
I installed a new printer, an HP PSC Photosmart C4400, and it came with a program I don't want, Customer Participation Program 11.0. I tried to uninstall the usual way, (Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs) but it won't uninstall. HP Help directed me to the site http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290301. I'm leery of free downloads that try to sell help. All I want to do is recapture the 250 MB this program uses.
The site HP directed you to is the download for the Microsoft Windows Installer CleanUp Utility. It is safe to download and use. Just make sure you read the instructions on that page with details on its use. It can be a very useful program when used to clean up installs/uninstalls that have gone awry.
Note: Last week, we published information on the MailStation computerless e-mail solution. Some readers wrote in to recommend a solution by the name of MailBug. It is made by Landel (landel.com). You can call toll-free 1-877-467-4917.
Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Personal Tech, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Questions are answered only in this column.