We are introducing a new weekly column where we offer solutions to your personal computer problems. We welcome your questions, no matter how challenging.
Q: I have a Mac Power PC setup (6500/250), which includes an internal zip drive. However, every time I put in a zip disk, my computer does not recognize it. What can I do?
A: This can be related to several things. If the drive is not responding, the Iomega drive extension may not be loading at start-up or is corrupted. Check your Extensions Manager to see whether the extension is selected. If it is, the extension icon appears across the bottom of your screen during start-up (without a red X covering it). If the zip disk is still not appearing on your desktop or being read by the drive, try restarting without extensions. This can be done by holding down the shift key as your Mac starts up. Now launch the Iomega Guest application (usually found in the Tools subfolder in the IomegaWare or Iomega folder). Once you see the dialog box telling you the driver is loaded, quit and insert the zip disk into your drive. If the drive reads the disk now, your Iomega extension may be corrupted. To be safe, reinstall the extension by reloading the Iomega software. If this doesn't work and you are familiar with the inside of your Mac, "pop the hood" and check the connections on your internal SCSI cable. This is the flat gray ribbon-like cable attached to the back of the drive. A loose connection could be the problem. If all these steps fail, it's time to take the drive in for service.
Q: I have a standard Pentium II PC with Windows 98 operating system. I have already unintentionally killed out files while trying to clean out my computer. How can I clear space on my computer hard drive without killing out the functions I need?
A: Careful, bunky. You can zap critical files by wantonly tossing out what may appear as file detritus. For most of us, the DiskClean program found in the System Tools on your start menu will do the trick. Disk Cleanup clears your hard disk of temporary Internet files, Recycling Bin leftovers, and other accumulated trash. Also, you can delete old or unused programs with the Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs feature. For more savvy users, utilities such as CleanSweep, Uninstaller or WinDelete will let you dig deeper and clear more space. However, these aren't for the uninitiated.
Q: I have a brand-new computer that is clearly turned on, but the monitor shows nobody's home. The display seems to be in permanent sleep, and restarting the computer does not revive it. Has my monitor failed already?
A: Sometimes a monitor will lose its "signal" when your computer goes into sleep mode. Should switching it off and then on again fail to revive your monitor, try pressing the menu or the reset button. The location of these buttons (and their existence) varies by model and type of monitor. Check the manual that came with your monitor. Pressing the menu button will usually fix the problem by bringing up the settings menu and allowing you to re-sync the signal through its auto-sync option. If this doesn't work, look for the reset button. If there is one, press and hold it down for a second or two. Should the problem persist, refer to the manufacturer's suggested settings for the monitor and for your computer's video card.
Randall Hull is a Los Altos resident and owner/creative director of The Br@nd Ranch, an advertising and marketing agency serving technology companies.