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Solutions: Winmail.dat files stem from Outlook

Q. I received e-mail from a relative that says it is in a winmail.dat file. When I try to open the file, I get a message that says something like: "You are attempting to open a dat file. They are used by the operating system. Modifying could cause damage." I am avoiding opening this file. Am I right?

A. Chances are that your relative is using Microsoft Outlook to compose the message and it contains special formatting. This additional formatting is attached to the end of the message as a winmail.dat file. Outlook uses this file on the receiving end to help format the message and the users never know it's there. So for you, there is no need to open it. If this doesn't fit your situation, I would try opening the message this way: Save the message to your desktop. Rename the suffix from .DAT to .RTF. Click Start, Run, type Wordpad and click OK. From Wordpad, click File, Open and browse to the desktop and open the saved file. Now you may be looking at gibberish (binary data) but Wordpad (and Notepad) is benign and it is safe to use to open unknown files.

Q. I have an IBM Thinkpad running Windows 98. When I go to boot up I get the error message: "ERROR 00173 00163." I press enter and I get a screen with the default date and time. When I press enter, it starts to boot up but it doesn't complete. When I shut down and reboot it comes up perfectly. What causes this and how do I fix it?

A. That error is telling you that the CMOS battery needs to be replaced. It no longer has enough charge to hold the information, such as date, between powering off and on. Check IBM's support site for information on how to go about doing this on your ThinkPad.

Q. When I open a link from e-mail, I get the message: "General failure: the system cannot find the file specified." But then the link works. But I always have to close the message box and it is irritating. It only happens from the e-mail and not when I open an Internet site directly.

A. Do you use Firefox and have it set as the default browser? This is a problem with Firefox. The solution is to have Firefox open.

Q. I get this display box each time I do a cold start on Windows XP: "Invalid Backweb Applications id '1940576.' " It doesn't "do" anything to the computer — just shows up and goes away when I close it out.

A. BackWeb is a generic downloading tool used by various software companies that incorporate it into their products to download data such as product updates. It is not essential. To get rid of it: Try uninstalling using the "Add/Remove Programs" in Control Panel. If there does not appear to be an uninstall program, use File Explorer to find and remove C:\programfiles\BackWeb. Next, run MSCONFIG (Start, Run, type MSCONFIG), Check the Startup tab and disable anything related to Backweb.

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

Solutions: Winmail.dat files stem from Outlook 03/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2008 5:06pm]
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