Sorting Net Favorites list can be a bit confusing

Ask Jim

Plugged In

January 11, 2007|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Chicago Tribune

Please tell me how to put my Internet Favorites list in alphabetical order. I did it once, and now I cannot remember.

- Claire Lichtenstein, yahoo.com

This sounds simple as falling off a rock, until you try to write about it in a newspaper. The reason is that the rules can be slightly different in a couple of different flavors of Windows and browsers. So trace my steps carefully.

You need to find the list of Favorites that gets displayed by clicking the mouse on the word Favorites in the menu bar beginning with File, Edit, View, etc. A great many folks prefer to use the big, yellow Favorites icon that is shaped like a star in the display below the menu bar. These Favorites drop down in a column on the side of the screen. The sort doesn't work there.

Likewise, some versions of Windows make it confusing for gear-heads who decide to find the actual folder holding Favorites and doing the sort there. This doesn't work in all PCs.

So the one and only Favorites sort I recommend is to click on Favorites in the menu bar and then move the mouse somewhere inside the list of drop-down favorites. Give a right-click, and there will be a Sort by Name option in the menu this summons. Select it, and the list will be arranged alphabetically, with folders first and then individual Web pages.

I want to ask your advice regarding my problem with a badly slowed-down computer. I have a Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop, slightly less than four years old, and I have been meticulous about keeping it clean (no free downloaded software, regularly clear Internet files/history/cookies, scandisk, defrag, etc.). However, during the past several weeks, my computer operation has been horribly slow. I only notice it on the Internet, not if I am working off line in Word or PowerPoint. I have to pause for the typing of e-mail to catch up to my keystrokes, long waits for following clicks from page to page. I only use sites for e-mail or for school, nothing out of the norm, no streaming video. I am a student, so I can't afford a new computer, and feel that I shouldn't need one. But hours of cumulative working with Dell technical support have been fruitless. I had no luck with McAfee antivirus. A system restore works for about one day, but the problem then sets in again.

- John Chambers, Chicago

I am very impressed by your savvy approach to Web use and to your comprehensive efforts to solve this nasty setback. In fact, you have ruled out so many potential causes that it is quite likely that your gremlin is an aggressive form of adware or spyware, rather than viruses that can be spotted by virus fighters. And there's also a chance that your computer is being used to forward things like e-mails and other stuff while connected to the Web. That's probably why it stops when you log off.

These forwarding schemes usually work by taking over the chores of a Windows networking tool called csrss.exe that is supposed to handle the various threads of data coming in and direct them to the proper place. A quick check will be to click on Control + Alt + Delete and go to the Processes tab in the pop-up menu that appears. There you will see the csrss listing. Next to it will be a listing for memory usage. If this changes a lot, be suspicious.

Also give the csrss.exe item a right-click and select the End Process option in the menu that pops up. If Windows won't remove it, you'll know that it's the valid one rather than a hacker's substitute.

Next, you need to examine your computer's Startup file folder, where programs can be placed to execute when the computer boots up. Right-click on Start and select Explore. In the list of folders in the column on the left of the Windows Explorer that appears, look for Startup and open it. If csrss.exe is there delete it. That may end the problem. But you need to do an exorcism using a dedicated spyware/adware scanner like Spybot at www.spybot.com. This storied spyware antidote is free to download, but the sponsors ask for a donation, and in my mind they deserve a lot of them.

Spybot may find something different than csrss.exe is causing the slow-up, but if csrss.exe is infected, it very likely will find the problem and fix it. Last week, I downloaded a free Windows XP version and upgrade from a Windows Web site, and everything appears to be working well except my HP Director, which is used for scanning, photo imaging, etc. When I click on the shortcut icon, nothing happens. The program does not open, nor do I get a message that the computer cannot locate the file. It is as if it is not even there. I uninstalled the Hewlett-Packard program and reinstalled it. Still, nothing works.

- Robert Beville, earthlink.net

Your problem can be fixed by restoring a setting that must have been changed during your upgrade. To do this, click on Start and then select Run and type in msconfig to run the Microsoft Configuration Utility in Windows.

Msconfig.exe displays a number of tools, including one kept under a tab for Startups. Open that and you will find a list of many of the software modules and programs that get run when the computer is restored. HP's software will be there. Put a check in the box alongside each entry that starts with HP, and it will be restored.

Meanwhile, you will find that while the software isn't responding to shortcuts, it is available through the Twain tool used by programs to perform scans. Click on File in graphics programs and you will find a Twain listing in any PC with a scanner attached. Click on Twain, and it will find and run your scanner.

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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