A simple solution for loopy computer that won't boot up


Plugged In


My wife left the computer on while we took a trip. Upon our return home, we found the computer doing loops. It would first pop up "Compaq," then it would pop up with Windows and act like it was going to boot, when it would go back to "Compaq," but then start the loop again with Windows. Is there any way to stop the loop without losing everything? I used F10 and F8 for a Safe Mode startup and tried all the variables, but nothing has stopped the looping.

- Paul Burch@ yahoo.com

First, we need to assume that nothing physical happened to your Compaq PC, such as getting a tad fried by a power surge or overheated on a very hot day.

Most likely, however, is that something happened to mess up the component of Windows known as plug and play, or PnP in Microsoft-speak.

PnP makes the computer scan for all of the devices like printers, scanners, cameras and external memory drives that are attached to it during boot-up. PnP problems recognizing one or another of these peripherals are the most common cause of these endless loops, in which the computer goes into startup routines that restart without ever actually booting Windows.

Happily, most of these glitches can be fixed simply by unplugging everything connected to the computer and rebooting. This makes the PnP module unable to see whatever device is causing the problem, and the computer will boot up as it should.

This is pretty much a self-healing operation, in that you can then plug each and every device back in to the computer, and it will boot up correctly.

I want to check out the Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browser and I cannot get to it because of America Online. We have a three-year-old Dell XP, and each time I click on the icon for the Microsoft browser, its Web page comes up for what seems like a nanosecond, then quickly returns to the basic AOL Web page. Once, I was quick enough to click on Tools and could bring down the Options button, but when I clicked on Options, it again returned to AOL!

- Bob Giles, Virginia Beach, Va.

Well, here's what passes for America Online's business strategy: AOL establishes itself as the default browser on your computer, so that it kicks in and fills the screen instead of any other browser.

You still can find the Microsoft browser by pressing the Control + Alt + Delete keys at the same time. This will bring up a list of all of the programs running on your computer, including AOL and Windows Internet Explorer. Select the Windows program and then click on the Switch To button at the bottom of the page, and it will display as long as you want.

You could change things so that Microsoft Internet Explorer is your default browser, but if you are pretty much committed to AOL, just using the Control + Alt + Delete trick should be enough.

The way to make the Microsoft browser your default is to open the program and click on Tools and then Internet Options. In the tabbed menu that appears, select Program. There, you will find a check box to have the browser look the next time it is run to see if it is the default browser. When you run the software the next time, you will get a prompt that will let you click to make the Microsoft browser your default. If you do that, you'll need to open AOL and run its browser afterward.

My question is regarding the pop-up square you get when you save a file initially, or if you select Save As in Microsoft Office. In this pop-up Save As square, there are several icons just outside the actual list of folders where you can do the save. They are Desktop, My Documents, My Computer and Recent Documents. I want to add custom icons to that left-hand display at my workplace. Then, each department would have an icon for its own folder where documents can go for that department only. Can these shortcuts be modified or added to?

- Keith Chosen, Streator, Ill.

This is easily done, and here's the drill. Create the folder you want for each department by giving a right-click to the desktop and selecting New and then Folder from the pop-up menu. An icon will appear showing a folder with the space for typing in a name. Name it.

Now, open Word or Excel and open that Save As display and then select the folder you want by clicking on it once. Look in the upper-right corner of the Save As display for the item called Tools. Click on the small triangle next to Tools, and you will get a pop-down menu that says, "Add to My Places."

Select that, and the icon for that folder will appear in the list at the left with the other preferred folders.

By default these icons on the left are in the largest possible size, and if you right-click inside the area where they are shown, you will get a drop-down menu that lets you make the icons smaller, which you may need to do if there are more than a couple of department folders created.


James Coates, Chicago Tribune, Room 400, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60611.

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