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Tech 101 | Tech Q&A

The Lowdown on Updating Your Computer

November 30, 2000|DAVE WILSON |

Q. I use Microsoft Office Suite Professional 97. I like it and see no reason to upgrade except recently a friend forwarded an Excel program using Office Suite 2000 and my Excel program could not open it. How come?

A. The short--and not altogether inaccurate--answer is that Microsoft really wants you to upgrade. As in: "Hey, that's a nice spreadsheet ya got there, pal. It would be a real shame if it were to burn down." Of course, the friendly geeks at Q&A labs mean that in a completely non-libelous way. But you can get a free "viewer" from Microsoft that should solve your problem at

Q. I bought a 128-megabyte, 168-pin 16x64 SDRAM, 10-nanosecond DIMM for an older Toshiba computer that I would now like to use in a newer ETower computer that, according to the user's guide, takes a 168-pin unbuffered SDRAM memory. Would I encounter any problems by doing this?

A. Based on what you've told us, it's worth a try. If you've never installed RAM yourself, however, we'd suggest buying lunch for your friendly neighborhood geek to take care of this for you. In our experience, RAM upgrades never work right the first time, so be prepared to eat the cost of new RAM before you get this thing to work properly. The good news is RAM is still relatively cheap right now, which is great because software and operating systems have become vast, bloated, all-consuming creatures that feast on RAM. This is our way of saying you can't have too much.

Q. I have ordered a new laptop to take the place of my present one. How can I transfer some of the programs from my present laptop to my new one?

A. The safest way to install programs on a new Windows computer is to use the original installation disks and go through the complete installation procedure. Installing software in the Windows environment is terribly complex; bits of code get tucked away in all sorts of nooks and crannies. Once the program itself is properly installed, you can copy data from your old computer into the new computer for use with the installed program with no problem, but don't give short shrift to the program installation process or you'll be very, very sorry.

As an alternative, you can reproduce the entire hard drive of your current computer on your new computer. We're partial to a product made by Symantec called Norton Ghost 2001, which will let you clone drives. It's also a great way to make backups of big chunks of your hard drive. It will even write directly to a lot of CD burners, which is a nice feature. Check with the manufacturer of your new laptop before cloning, because the new box might require certain doodads currently loaded on its hard drive. If so, skip the cloning idea.

Q. How do I make a backup of my Web bookmarks?

A. If you're using a relatively recent version of Netscape, open up your bookmarks page (hit the Ctrl key and the "B" key simultaneously), click on the File menu (top left corner) and then hit Save As. . .

If you're using Microsoft's Internet Explorer, click on the File menu and then hit Import and Export. Follow the instructions to export your favorites to another file.

For either program, once you've copied your bookmarks, you can move them to another Web browsing program by using the import function.


Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A at

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