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Reassigning Shortcut Key May Return Sanity

March 01, 2001|DAVE WILSON |

Q: I have a problem with my tab key that is driving me crazy. When filling out any kind of form online, I hit the tab key to jump to the next line. Instead, my Microsoft Office shortcut bar suddenly pops up on my screen. How can I stop this from happening and restore the use of the tab key?

A: Best guess is you've somehow assigned a shortcut key. To get rid of this, go to your Tools menu in Office--top right--and click Customize. Highlight what you want to change, then click Keyboard to make a change. Let us know if this doesn't work. The other option is simply making sure that Office isn't running in the background on your computer all the time.

Q: I recently moved and made the mistake of allowing the movers to take my computer. Although it operated perfectly the night before my move, the computer now will start only in safe mode and does not allow me to use the CD, modem or printer. No matter how many times I check the settings, it will not go back to normal. I was told that the operating system needs to be reinstalled, and that it was probably just a coincidence that it happened when I moved. One store told me they would charge $80 to do this. Is it worth the money, or should I look for a new computer?

A: Before you pay $80 to somebody else to reinstall your operating system, try doing it yourself. It's not that complicated as long as you have your original operating system installation discs and an emergency boot disc. An emergency boot disc for recent versions of Windows contains things such as drivers for your CD reader.

The boot disc is just a floppy with critical files stored, and it's necessary for recovery from disasters such as yours. Everybody should make one. To do so, go to Control Panel, double-click Add/Remove Programs and then hit the tab labeled Startup Disc.

If you don't have the original installation discs, you might still be able to salvage this by doing something like upgrading to the next available operating system--such as making the jump from Windows 95 to Windows 98. Be advised, however, that Microsoft can make your life difficult in such situations; in Microsoft's quite legitimate attempts to combat piracy, your damaged operating system might demand that you present proof that you have the original installation discs before it lets you make repairs.

And if you can't get your CD drive to run at all, you probably don't want to try to install Windows off a couple of zillion floppy disks. If you really need that hard drive back, go ahead and spend the $80. Otherwise, we'd consider a new box.


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

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