This page includes several answers to frequently asked computer questions. It is by no means an all-inclusive list. You may find an answer to your computer question by searching for it on Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Putting quotes around phrases searches for those words together, instead of each individual word. Links to external websites are provided for informational purposes, and do not constitute an endorsement by Plymouth State University.
When troubleshooting a computer problem, one of the most common things to try is restarting your computer. This can solve many issues, including unresponsive windows, print jobs stuck in the printer queue, etc. Restarting a computer often resolves the issue(s) before requiring assistance from the Help Desk.
Virus and Malware
How to check if I have a virus or malware?
Run a full scan with an antivirus program. There are also several free online scanners available to check if you have any virus or malware on your PC:
For more information about virus and malware detection and removal read these tips:
What can I do to keep my PC safe online?
Keep Windows updated regularly by visiting the Microsoft web site. Use a firewall and anti-virus and malware removal programs, and use Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome instead of Internet Explorer. You can find more information from this page:
5 Steps To Keep Your PC Safe Online
Browsing the Web
Typing in a Web site address
You don’t have to type “http://www” into your Web browser. The latest versions of all browsers allow you to just type “google.com”, for example.
How can I check if a web site is safe to visit?
The latest versions of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome feature built-in tools to warn you about malicious sites. Read Start Using Internet Explorer 7 and Browse The Web With Firefox for more information. Additionally, secure websites are those that have https in their address, the s standing for secure. You’ll usually also find a locked padlock icon, which is another way of telling you a site is secure.
What can I do to keep my child safe on the Web?
There are several steps you can take to keep children safe when using the Internet. Read this guide: How To Keep Kids Safe On The Web
Why has my browser homepage changed?
If when you start your browser it loads a different web site instead of your normal homepage, it is possible a malicious program has hijacked your browser and set a different homepage.
In Internet Explorer, to change it back, click on the Tools menu then Internet Options. On the General tab, under the section Home page you should see an Address box. Type in the address of the site you want (or click Use Current for the site you are currently viewing) and click OK.
If you find your homepage keeps changing on its own, you will need to use an anti-spyware program. Read the following guide to installing one: Remove Spyware
My browser window opens too small
Your web browser remembers the size it was last used at, so if you or a web site have changed the size it will appear like this the next time you start your browser.
To set the correct size, start your browser and hold your mouse over the corner of the window until you see the resize arrows, then click and drag to change the size, then close the browser. When you next start your browser the window should open at the same size.
Some Web sites do not display correctly
If particular web sites are not displaying correctly – with errors, missing buttons or images, links that do not work, incorrect layouts – this may be due to your browser security settings, which can block parts of a web site it decides are potentially unsafe (though there may be nothing wrong with them, it is just being cautious).
To change security settings in Internet Explorer click on the Tools menu then Internet Options, but be careful as changing to a low security setting might let unsafe content through to the PC.
There may just be a problem with the web site itself, in which case try again later.
Web page text is too small
You can enlarge the text on any Web page or document by pressing the Ctrl and the plus or minus keys (for bigger or smaller fonts); on the Mac, it’s the Command key and plus or minus keys.
My browser address bar has disappeared
Click on View from the menu at the top (or Tools in Internet Explorer 7) then Toolbars. Click to tick the Address Bar option and it should reappear.
How can I get rid of pop-up adverts?
To stop adverts opening in new windows you need a pop-up blocker. Both Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox have built-in pop-up blockers. In IE go to Tools > Pop-up blocker to turn it on or change your settings.
How can I tell if a web site is secure before buying?
To know whether a site is secure before you give your credit card details, look at the address bar and make sure the web address begins with https://
There should also be a padlock symbol on the address bar (or at the bottom of the page in older versions of Internet Explorer) to indicate the site is secure.
How do I print only certain text or images from a web page
Rather than printing out a whole web page, you can select the particular text you want and copy it to a Word document, and then print it out.
Start Microsoft Word and minimise it by clicking on the minimise button at the top-right of the window. Now open your web browser window and click and drag your mouse pointer across the text you want to highlight it. Right-click and Copy. Return to Word by maximising it from the taskbar, right-click and Paste. You can repeat this process as many times as you like to get all the text you want into one Word document.
You can copy and paste most images in the same way by right-clicking on the image and clicking Copy. Alternatively you can choose Save As to save a picture to somewhere on your PC, for example the Desktop or My Documents. Then in Word, click Insert thenPicture From File. Click to select the picture you have saved then click Insert.
You can then Print your document. By using Word you also have the ability to rearrange, edit and resize text and images before printing.
Web page won’t print properly
Sometimes when you try to print a web page it prints incorrectly, for example the right edge of the page may be missing. Look for a Printer-friendly page option, or try printing in Landscape mode in File > Page Setup.
You can also try reducing the size of the default right-hand margin in Page Setup. Alternatively copy and paste the areas of the page you want into Word and then print from there.
In Internet Explorer 7 there are improved printing features. Text can be automatically shrunk for printing so all web page content fits on the printed page.
Web page not found 404 error
This common error message indicates that the address or link you have used is incorrect, or it points to a page that no longer exists or has been moved.
Why does online music or video keep cutting out?
Music and audio on the Web often loads some of the content and starts playing while the rest of the file is still being downloaded. This means you don’t have to wait too long to hear/see anything, but sometimes you may catch up with it and it has to stop until it has downloaded the rest of the data.
If you find this annoying, you could press pause and then wait for the loading bar to reach full before playing the file. Also if you are using Windows Media Player you can go to Tools> Options > Performance and increase the buffer size.
How do I scroll down a webpage using a keyboard shortcut?
Tap the space bar to scroll down on a Web page in one screenful. Add the Shift key to scroll back up.
Using the Tab key
When filling in boxes on a Web page (like City, State, Zip, etc.), you can press the Tab key to jump from box to box, rather than clicking. Add the Shift key to jump through the boxes backwards.
How can I stop getting spam?
You cannot completely remove the possibility of receiving spam but there are steps you can take to help reduce the number of unwanted e-mails you receive. Read this guide formore information: Preventing Spam
I can’t open my e-mail attachments
Outlook Express can block some attachments if it thinks they might be viruses and they will appear greyed out. If you are sure you want to allow these attachments, go to Tools >Options > Security and un-tick the box ’Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus’. Click OK.
If you can access a particular attachment but can’t open the file on your PC, you may not have the necessary program installed to run that type of file. You need to ask the person who sent you the attachment what program they used to create it, or ask them to save it in a more common filetype if they can.
Alternatively use a search engine to try to find the necessary program depending on the filetype extension, for example an attachment filename that ends in .ppt will requirePowerpoint. See also Common Filetypes
How do I confirm if an email is telling the truth?
Before you pass on a shocking email, confirm its truth at www.snopes.com, the Internet’s authority on emailed myths. This includes get-rich schemes, Microsoft/AOL cash giveaways, etc. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
My photographs are too big to send as e-mail attachments
Read this guide to reducing the file size of images to send as e-mail attachments:
How do I lock my computer?
My PC has stopped responding! What do I do?
If a program or window on your PC seems to have frozen up and you cannot close it by clicking the X (Close) button in the top-right corner, hold down the CTRL and ALT keys together and tap DELETE once.
In Windows Task Manager click on Applications which shows all the programs that are currently running. You can usually tell which program has frozen or crashed as its Status will appear as Not responding. Click to highlight that program on the list then click on End Task. The PC will now attempt to close it. If it is successful you can then close Task Manager and the PC should be able to carry on as normal.
If Task Manager does not appear, try holding down CTRL, ALT and DELETE and keeping all three keys held. This will restart your PC, which will often fix the problem. If these keys don’t work, you will have to press and hold the power switch or turn the plug off. Turn the PC back on. Your PC should be alright but always try to avoid switching off without shutting down properly first.
I’m running out of disk space. How do I clear out unnecessary files?
Read Clean Out And Clean Up Files to learn about removing unnecessary files and tidying up your PC.
I have deleted a file by mistake! What can I do?
First check the Recycle Bin on your Desktop to see if it is in there. Deleted documents go there first, so if you find it there and want to put it back where it was, right-click it and select Restore.
Once items are deleted from the Recycle Bin you will need special software to retrieve them, such as Recover My Files.
I can’t find a particular file or folder but I know it’s on my PC somewhere!
Click on the Start menu and Search all files and folders. Type in the name of the missing file or folder and Windows will try to find it.
Can I hide all open windows?
Yes! Hold down the Windows key, and press the D key. Or press F11 on Macs (on recent Macs, Command+F3. Press the key combination again to return to what you were doing.
I can’t see any system files or folders! Where are they?
Important system files and folders are usually hidden to prevent accidental deletion. They still exist but will not be visible.
To see them, open any folder and click on Tools then Folder Options. Click on the View tab and under the Advanced Settings list tick Show hidden files and folders. Also un-tick Hide protected operating system files. Now click OK.
How do I get rid of a program I don’t need anymore?
To remove a program you need to uninstall it from your PC:
Click on the Start menu then Control Panel. Click on Add/Remove programs (Programs and Features in Windows Vista and Windows 7), select the program from the list and click Remove.
Alternatively, go to your Start menu and in your programs list, find the entry for the particular program and click on the link to Uninstall the program.
File won’t open
Sometimes when you double-click a file, nothing happens or the program that is usually used to open that type of file can’t run it. Instead, right-click the file and use Open With..to choose a different program to try to open it with. See also Common Filetypes