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Planning Retirement Online

You can do IT in later life - 38

You can do IT is a regular feature of aimed at trying to help laterlife visitors make the most of Information Technology on or off the web.

Jackie Sherman who runs the You can do IT Question & Answer section is an IT trainer and author. Jackie has spent her career in education and specialises in teaching IT to adults. Her courses for adults include such topics as MS Office, the Internet, e-mail and basic web page authoring. Getting the most from your computer.jpg (5543 bytes)

Jackie has also written the two books shown here - you can find more details about these by clicking on the cover images above. Jackie has also been running a course specifically for over 50s.

Via Jackie aims to particularly help those new to IT and the web to build up knowledge and confidence, so no question is too basic. At the same time she will cover Q&As for the more experienced user. 

So if you would like to ask a question of Jackie, why not email her

or if you have discovered something which may be of interest to others in making the most of the web, then she would love to hear about that too



January 2004

As it is the New Year, why not make a fresh start and sort out the serious problems you have been struggling with for ages. In particular, improve the performance of any hardware such as graphics cards or scanners/cameras by installing an updated driver (the software controlling the equipment), or even update or re-install your operating system if you run any Windows system earlier than Windows XP. It may seem frightening, but it is actually quite straight-forward, and can make a huge difference to your computing sessions.  

Having carried out both these activities this week, here are my tips for painless improvements. However, for fuller details, I suggest you take out a subscription to Computer Active magazine or read a copy in your local library. They offer full-scale workshops on all manner of computing topics, written in easy-to-understand language.  

  1. Find out as much as you can about your hardware. If you didn’t keep the box it came in, think about doing this next time you buy any hardware, but otherwise search the equipment for names, numbers and other identification.
  2. If you know the manufacturer – use the Internet to find their website and look for the words download or drivers. They should have an index from which to select, or search boxes where you can enter the model, year, serial number etc. of your equipment.  When you arrive at the correct page, click download and save the file into a convenient folder where you can find it again. It will take anything from a few minutes to over 1 hour, so carry out this task at off-peak times if you pay as you go.
  3. If you have little clue as to where your equipment comes from, try a website such as  This has an excellent search facility to identify and download the correct driver for most computer hardware.
  4. Once on your computer, double-click the file. These are commonly “self-extracting” compressed files which will be installed automatically in the appropriate systems folders on your computer. After restarting your computer, your equipment should now work far more effectively.
  5. If you think your computer is struggling, re-installing the operating system such as Windows 98 is just a question of starting up the CD-ROM that came with it and following the installation procedure. It should sort out any niggles such as error messages listing “missing .dll files” each time you start up your machine, and should not affect any software or files already saved on your computer. However, as a precaution, backup (make separate copies) of really important files.
  6. Finally, for really serious problems where you might have thought about replacing your computer altogether, before spending all that money, why not try wiping (formatting) the hard disk and re-installing the operating system. 
    1. Make copies of ALL important files, and software for which you have no CD-ROM or floppy disks. Also, take down details of drivers and settings for any hardware, as one or two may be difficult to track down. Find details of your system in My Computer – right-click, select Properties and then look on the Device Manager tab. Each hardware item will have its own properties, including driver files, and will show type and port.
    2. Make a Start up disk by following instructions from Start – Control Panel – Add/Remove Programs – Start up disk.  This entails copying essential files to a floppy disk which will be needed to start up your machine once you have formatted the hard disk. 
    3. Reformat the hard disk – boot up with your Start up disk, and at the A:\ prompt type format c: /s.  Confirm this and your hard disk will be completely formatted, removing ALL information.
    4. Use your Start up disk to re-start your computer, at the prompt type the drive letter for your Windows CD-ROM e.g.  D: and press Enter. Type Setup and follow instructions to re-install the operating system.
    5. Most hardware will be identified and the drivers re-installed automatically, but in some cases you may need to do this manually using the original disks provided with your hardware, or by downloading new drivers as described above. 



View previous editions of YoucandoIT for more useful Questions and Answers

Click on a book or magazine image above or below to see full details.



For a wealth of books on the web and IT generally, visit Amazon and under the books section select Computers and Internet.

Don't forget to visit the general laterlife features section called laterlife interest


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