Bringing an order to chaos of icons


March 20, 2003|By James Coates | James Coates,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I have more than 100 icons on my desktop (a Dell running Windows 98), which I have arranged so that I can easily find what I want. My problem is that sometimes the desktop rearranges itself in some seemingly random order.

I can offer an answer and also a couple tips. The feature that keeps shuffling your icons back into an unwanted order is the Auto Arrange command that can be changed by right-clicking on the desktop and picking Arrange Icons on the pop-up menu. This brings up tools to sort icons by alphabetic order, by type, size and date as well as Auto Arrange, which is no doubt checked in your case. Uncheck it and you can mix and match those icons to your heart's content and they'll stay that way.

Meanwhile, with 100 of these little devils maybe you should use the alphabetic sort by name so you can find stuff faster. Or you could employ a Windows feature that will highlight individual icons on the desktop as you press the first letter of their name. (In the case of icons that start with the same letter, repeated presses move from one icon to another.)

May I suggest that you reduce the chaos by segregating those icons by function and then create folders on the desktop to drag each set of items into. It should be far easier to set the display up just right.

My CD recorder crashes my computer every time I try to burn a disc. I have a new Pentium 4 PC running Windows XP with 512 megabytes of RAM. Each time I use Windows Explorer to drag files to the CD-R/CD-RW drive for recording onto a disc, it goes through the burn process, and when it is down to the last five seconds of processing, everything freezes. I receive a blue screen saying "A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer." It then says some stuff about LOCKED-PAGES and dumping physical memory.

Those CD-R drives come in many flavors and, most importantly, in many speeds, and it's highly likely that your burner can't record data onto CDs as fast as Windows thinks it can. CD-R/RW drives can etch data at speeds starting at 150,000 bits per second (called 1X) and going up to as much as 48 times that fast (48X). Your drive simply isn't fast enough to take data at your current settings.

It may be possible to fix things by looking for the speed settings in your burning software, but the most effective fix is to change Windows XP's settings for your drive's speed.

Open the My Computer folder that lists all of the drives on your computer. Find your CD-R drive and give it a right-click and look for the Recording tab on the box that pops up. That menu includes a drop-down list that lets a user set the maximum speed of the drive.

To confirm that this is your problem, set it quite low, such as 3x or 4x, and burn a test disc. Then you can try various settings until you find the one that creates crashes. Step down one click from that and your problem should go away.

James Coates is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached via e-mail at

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