House Call 2012: One family, four PCs

Fred Langa

Lexington, Mass., was in glorious, late-spring bloom when I visited Windows Secrets reader Helene Mayer.

Helene had a houseful of PCs (running XP, Vista, and Win7) exhibiting a variety of problems. I was there to help.

This is the second installment of the 2012 House Call series — an off-and-on project in which I visit a reader’s home or business and attempt to diagnose and cure real-life PC problems.

The idea behind House Call is simple: I collaborate with selected Windows Secrets readers to learn what really works in analyzing, maintaining, and improving our personal computers. We then share what we find with all Windows Secrets readers via articles like this. (For a fuller explanation of House Calls, see the first article in this series, the April 12 Top Story, “House Call 2012: Fixing a sluggish PC.”)

Assorted glitches, problems, and annoyances

I selected Helene for this House Call because — like many of us — she maintains a variety of Windows systems in her home. As she’s added new systems over the years, the older systems remain in use, handed down to family members with less intensive computing needs.

Here’s the note Helene sent in when I originally asked for House Call participants:

  • “I’m one of those users who are afraid to do almost anything complicated to my computer, for fear of doing irreparable harm. I have a 6GB laptop running Windows 7 x64. I’m finding Windows 7 a bit wonky. [Helene then included more details, which I’ll get to later.]

    “My son has my old laptop, which is running Vista. It’s still registered to me, and I have no idea how to change that. I used to clean that PC up regularly. I tell my son to do the same, and to apply updates — but I doubt he ever does. He’s 15 and spends a lot of time online. Who knows how much junk he has on that laptop!



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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.