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Issue #210: July 31, 2011

Q: I have a Dell desktop Studio XPS 7100 running Windows 7.  It has a neat feature to defragment the hard drive daily.  I have set the schedule, but it does not defragment as designed.  Is there a way to turn this thing on? I like your Christmas lights too.

– Bill W.
Niceville, Fla

A: Thanks for the compliment, Bill.  I like my Christmas lights too – probably more than most of you who visit me during the season.  As you might expect, with the year half over already, I’ve been doing a lot of planning for this year’s light show additions.  Make plans to come check out this year’s show!

For those readers who have no idea what defragmenting is, a little explanation: Ideally, files stored on your hard disk are each in one contiguous chunk.  This helps Windows read them most efficiently, and efficiency equates to speed.  Many files come and go on your drive through normal use, and when one is deleted, it leaves a gap in the allocated drive space.  When Windows creates the next new file, unless it is exactly the same size as the one previously deleted, the new file will be broken up across several different areas of the drive.   This happens to all computers, and it happens constantly.  When files are broken up like this, we Geeks say that they and the drive upon which they reside are fragmented.  Bill is asking about a tool built into Windows that defragments, or defrags the drive, which is to say it rearranges the parts of the files so they are contiguous, which provides optimal file access speed.  Bill, you really didn’t say exactly what it is or is not doing, but I’m guessing you’re still seeing fragmentation after it runs.  Well, the defragmenter has a threshold percentage that must be exceeded before the defrag operation will take place, and I seriously doubt that you exceed it daily.  Also, many areas of the hard drive cannot be defragged because they are marked by the creating application as unmovable.  I recommend that you change your defrag schedule to once per week rather than once per day.  If you need help on how to set it up, check here:

Q: I am using Microsoft Outlook 2010 on my desktop Dell Inspiron with Windows 7 which I bought in 2010.  I have kept up with all my updates from Microsoft. I also have McAfee Security Center installed. I just started receiving an error message when I try to click on any links in my emails. The error message has “Microsoft Outlook” in the upper left-hand corner; a red circle with an X in it and it says: “This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator.”  No one has changed anything on the computer, other than to install the recommended updates from Microsoft or McAfee.  When I asked my husband about it, he said this same thing happened on my Inspiron laptop (purchased May 2010- all the same programs as listed above) on Wed. I had not used it for a few weeks and when I turned it on on Tuesday I got it all updated. When my husband tried to click on a link in one of his emails, he got the same message on it.  At this point we are assuming it is something that was changed in one of the updates because clicking on these links worked fine until recently. Please advise!!!

– Coline M.
Niceville, Fla

A: You are more of a Geek than you think, Coline, because you’ve got the cause exactly right.  Microsoft typically releases software updates on “Patch Tuesday” – the second Tuesday of each month.  The few days after that are common times for issues related to the Microsoft’s “improvements” (thanks, Bill!) to start cropping up.  The fact that you’ve identified a Wednesday as the time for this behavior to start is very telling.

The problem is caused by a missing or corrupted registry key.  I don’t recommend anyone who is not a Windows expert go poking around in the registry making changes, as it is way too easy to accidentally cripple your computer.  Microsoft knows this too, and has created a tool that will fix this exact problem for you automatically.  Point your browser at and let it work its magic.

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