Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

What To Do When Windows Does Not See The Drive*

You Plug In A Storage Device, And Nothing Happens

A reader e-mailed me a question I believe will be of interest to other readers of this series. He wants to use a thumb drive to transfer files between his computer at his work and his home computer, but the work computer will not “recognize” (aka “see”) the thumb drive when he plugs it in. He wanted advice on how to fix this.

Q: My thumb drive works great at home, but when I took it into work to try and copy some files so I could work at home, I plug it in and the little window never opens so I cannot use it. What am I doing wrong?
A: There are several possible reasons for this, and here’s a few things to try: Read more..

*      *      *

Bonus reading: Sync Box, Google Docs, Evernote and More With Social Folders

If you use Box (online file storage service) and Google Docs, then you are well aware that there is no easy way to sync your online files (and folders) with your computer; UNTIL NOW! I came across an online service called SocialFolders where you can sync your files at Box, Google Docs and more (such “[…] Read more..

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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April 16, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, Plug and Play, tech, thumb drives, troubleshooting | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What To Do When Your Mouse Plays Dead

Or Your Keyboard.

A PC without a functional mouse or keyboard is next to useless. So, I have assembled the steps to help you troubleshoot and repair your computer when the keyboard or mouse will not respond, and acts dead.

Step 1: Check Your Connection
If your mouse or keyboard used to work, begin by ruling out the most likely problem first — disconnection (for new devices, scroll down to Step 2). Believe it or not (BION), it’s fairly common for wired USB or PS/2 plugs to work loose, or detach from their port on the back of the computer. (A kitten is a likely culprit.. though I have had cases where the perpetrator was an inquisitive canine.) [BTW, the Troubleshooter’s Step 1 is (almost) always “Is it plugged in?”]

PS2_mouse_keyboardWith a USB device, you can simply unplug and reinsert the connector and see if your computer detects it. With an older peripheral that features a PS/2 plug (PS/2 mice have a round green plug, while PS/2 keyboards have a round purple plug), you need to shut down the computer before you reconnect the device.

[IMPORTANT: With a mouse or keyboard that uses a PS/2 connector, you need to turn the PC off before reinserting a plug into the port. Failure to do so could damage your computer.]

After the plug is firmly inserted into its port, turn on the machine again. Your “dead” mouse should work just fine.

Another connection problem is a malfunctioning USB port. To test your USB port, attach the mouse (or keyboard) into a nearby free USB port. If the device works, connect a “known good device”, such as a USB thumb drive, to the original port to see if it’s really broken.
[Note: it is advisable to plug “input devices” directly into a USB port on your machine, and not a hub.]

If the mouse or keyboard does not work in the second (or third) USB port, you may have a “driver issue” (which is fixable) or the device may be kaput. Keep reading, I’ll get to driver issues!

No wires? Wireless Mice get disconnected too!
Wireless input devices need three things to work properly:
1) a receiver/transmitter. Usually this is attached to the PC by USB, so refer to the advice above inre USB ports – make sure it’s plugged in to a working USB port.
2) power. A non-functioning wireless mouse or keyboard is 99% of the time caused by dead (or weak) batteries. Put fresh batteries in and…
3) a receiver/transmitter-to-device sync. connectWireless keyboard/mouse units need to “connect” to the the transmitter, and there will be button you need to press (sometimes this “connect” button is well-hidden). Do so. Some devices require you to hold down a button on both the receiver unit and the device — consult the manufacturer’s FAQ page if you need to.

For devices that are new, and have yet to work, or if the above did not fix the issue…
Step 2: Device drivers:
The place to look at your devices in Windows is Device Manager, which is fairly simply to get to .. if your mouse is working.Windows_key But since you’ve read this far, I have to assume it’s not. If it’s possible, borrow a mouse from another computer, or a friend to proceed with a driver reinstall. If that’s not feasible at the moment, and your keyboard is working, read through steps (below) first, then…

1) Press the Windows key and “R” to open Run.
2) type in devmgmt.msc, and press Enter. [note: Vista/Windows 7: use the left arrow (<– ) key to select “Continue”, and press Enter (If necessary).]
3) Hold down the Tab key and hit the down arrow key until “Mice and other pointing devices” is highlighted (selected).
4) Press, once, the right arrow key ( –> ) to “expand” that list, which will show the installed mice (and other pointing devices, like a notebook’s touchpad). A yellow triangle with a black exclamation point symbol will indicate a problem with the device.
5) Use the down arrow to highlight the troublesome mouse. Now hold down Shift and press the F10 key — which will open the context menu. Use the down arrow to highlight Uninstall, and press Enter. Answer “Yes, I’m sure.”
6) Reboot (restart the machine).

What happens next will vary. During the startup process, Windows will “find” that there is a mouse (or keyboard) installed, and it will try to automatically find and install the appropriate driver in a process called Plug N Play. Sometimes this works flawlessly, and you will see a balloon window tell you your “new device” is ready to use. If so, you are doing well.

Other times, Windows will not find the right driver (or a suitable generic) and it will prompt you to provide one – usually prompting you to insert the disc that came with the device. Locate the discs that came with your PC (or that you made when you first got it) and look for the appropriate CD. Fancy wireless multi-function mice (or keyboard) may have their own Install CD. Or there may be a disc that says “drivers and utilities”. Put it in and follow the prompts. [note: the keyword is “drivers”. Do not use the CD labeled “recovery”.]
If you cannot find the right driver disc, you may need to go to another computer and download the driver from the manufacturer’s website and copy it to a flash drive, and then carry it back to your malfunctioning unit. My series of articles on device drivers starts here, Plug-and-Play Doesn’t Work, Pt 1*

Hopefully, by this stage you have seen the “your new device is ready to use”. But you (probably) aren’t done.

7) If you did not download the driver, return to Device Manager, and highlight your mouse again, and open the context menu again, but this time select “Update driver software“. Let the “Automatic” search do its thing. This will give you the latest driver, and all the capabilities of your device.

Congratulations!.. or not?
Either you have now brought your mouse (or keyboard) back to life, or it’s still acting dead as a doornail. If it is, repeat the entire list of steps above. Surprisingly frequently, things work the second time around.. though that may seem illogical (hey, your dealing with computers, and they’re just goofy).

If after the second run through your device still doesn’t work.. well then it’s time to bring in a replacement. Fortunately, you can buy new mice (or keyboards) for well-under $20 — even wireless ones. Laptop owners who need new touchpads or keyboards, well that gets pricey and you may want to have a tech do the work, so most people buy USB or wireless and plug it in instead.

Related: DriversPlanet
From site: “ provides an easy way of finding drivers in one spot.”

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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April 19, 2010 Posted by | add device, computers, gadgets, hardware, how to, keyboards and mice, PC, Plug and Play, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Troubleshooting Thumbdrives*

Functional Flash Drive Doesn’t Work At The Office

A reader e-mailed me a question I believe will be of interest to other readers of this series. He wants to use a thumb drive to transfer files between his computer at his work and his home computer, but the work computer will not recognize the thumb drive. He wanted advice on how to fix this.

Q: My thumb drive works great at home, but when I took it into work to try and copy some files so I could work at home, I plug it in and the little window never opens so I cannot use it. What am I doing wrong?
A: There are several possible reasons for this, and here’s a few things to try:
* One may be that Windows is “recognizing” the device, but isn’t displaying the little “Found new hardware” balloon for some reason (such as a Service isn’t running). Open My Computer, Start >My Computer, (just “Computer” in Vista) and look for the drive there. If it’s there, great, just double-click it, but if it’s not…

* Try plugging the drive into a different USB port. It is possible that the one you tried has “gone bad”. (It helps if you use an open port on the machine, and not use a hub.) If that isn’t it…

* Ask your company’s IT department if USB volumes have been disabled. Many companies are turning off USB access to iPods/Media Players and thumb drives (storage devices) in an effort to prevent “data leakage”.. which is a fancy way of saying, preventing the employees from walking out the door with the Company Secrets. If this is indeed the case, you can ask that an exception be made in your case. If your request is granted, they will re-”enable” USB storage devices on your machine.
But if that isn’t it…

* It is possible that the drive letter your thumb drive is pre-disposed to being assigned (say, “E:” or “F:”), is being used by another device or “share” on the company network, and so it isn’t being seen as a volume (aka “drive”).. you’ll have a volume, but without a drive letter, Windows won’t “see” it and you can’t use it.
1) Right-click on My Computer and select “Manage” from the context menu.
2) click the “+” sign next to “Storage” to expand the tree, and then click on “Disk Management”.
You will now see all the volumes on your computer..

This screenshot  shows that I have two volumes/drives, and that they both have been assigned drive letters [(C:) and (D:)] — this means they’re “recognized” and fully functional. What we’re looking for in our thumb drive issue is a volume that does not have a letter.

3) If you see one (that will be the troublesome thumb drive), right-click on it and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths…” from the context menu. A small window will open.
4) click on the “Add” button, and another small window will open. Use the drop-down arrow next to “Assign the following drive letter” and choose one of the letters (those shown will be “available” letters on the company network). It really doesn’t matter which letter you choose. Then click “OK”, and “OK” again.

You should now be back in business, and you can use the thumb drive as you’re used to. Open My Computer again and you’ll see the thumb drive and double-clicking it will open it up.

* If these steps fail to allow Windows to see the USB thumb drive, submit a trouble ticket to your company’s IT department.

Today’s free download: Once upon a time, the visionaries of IT thought that the answer to creating a “paperless society”, and getting all the disparate machine types talking to each other, was the PDF (portable document format). The PDF was to be create-able by anyone and readable by anyone, but Adobe didn’t see much profit in that… If you find that you need to create a PDF, but don’t have Acrobat or Word 2007, you can do so by downloading PrimoPDF, which can convert over 300 formats into .pdf’s.

Orig post: 4/7/08

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 26, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, gadgets, hardware, how to, Microsoft, PC, Plug and Play, Portable Computing, tech, thumb drives, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , | 3 Comments

Plug and Play the Windows 7 Way

I have mentioned in my earlier Windows 7 articles that PnP has finally reached the point of being (practically) zero-touch and seems to work the way it was envisioned — you could just plug in your device and it would work.

New to Win 7 is a PnP feature called “Device Stage”, which does far more than recognize (and install drivers) your device and place an icon. This video demonstrates what happens when you plug in a Device Stage Enabled media player, but it’s supposed to work with smart phones, cameras, etc. Check it out.

I saw that, and thought, “that’s how it should be.”  Microsoft is leaving this “open”, and so it will be up to the device manufactures to write the ‘applets’ (and they can make them do whatever they want). I think the makers of smart phones (in particular) could really do a lot with this.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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May 31, 2009 Posted by | computers, device drivers, gadgets, hardware, Microsoft, PC, performance, Plug and Play, software, tech, Windows 7 | , , , , | 19 Comments

Portable Word/Reader Questions*

One of my more popular articles discussed using a thumb drive to run applications (to read it, click here), and my two previous articles discussed Microsoft Word (click on “MS Word” in the Tag Cloud), which led to two reader questions which I think are worth posting — in the Q’s and their A’s format.

Q: Is there a version of Word I can run on my U3 thumb drive?
A: There are tremendous advantages to running programs from a thumb drive (particularly when using someone-elses’ computer), and there are many programs already developed that are designed to do this, which are called “portable”.
The answer to this question is: no… and yes. Microsoft has not released a portable version of any of the programs in the Office suite, and I have not read of any plans to do so in the future. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot find warez and hacks out there. Loyal friends and true of this blog know that I would never advocate advocate the use of this kind of software; aside from the question of legality, the security risks are simply too great.

That is not to say you cannot run a word processor from your thumb drive. If you have loaded your thumb drive with the Portable Apps suite, palogo.jpg(wildly popular, and previously recommended here) you already have the free Open Source suite of programs called Open Office which includes a “clone” of Word called Write. This works so much like Word that there’s practically a zero learning-curve.
Users of the U3 system of thumb drives u3logo1.jpgneed to download Open Office to add it to the installed programs. To do this manually, visit, which will show you all of the U3 programs available– listed by category. But the easiest way is to plug in your thumb drive and launch the U3 “Launchpad” from the System Tray, and click on the “Add programs>>” link.

You might also want to consider using MS Works, which is Word compatible. For more on that, click here.

Q: Can I use portable Write to read Word documents?
A: The two main portable word processors (and there are others, if you’re the experimental sort) — Open Office’s Write, and the platform-independent AbiWord— allow you to open, and edit MS Word documents. They also allow you to save to HTML, PDF, and Word formats (this step is taken in the Save As menu) which allows you to send your documents to anyone.

Today’s free link(s): You needn’t put these word processors on a thumb drive to use them (and get to know and love them). Click the links in the paragraph above to get free word processing power for your regular computer as well.

* Original posting 10/19/07

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 21, 2009 Posted by | advice, Plug and Play, Portable Computing, tech, thumb drives, word processors | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7

Part 2 — Transferring Your User Account To Windows 7

In Part1 of this series, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7, I described the install process for Microsoft’s new operating system, and today I will proceed to the next step of setting up a new computer.. transferring all your stuff from the old machine, and ‘tweaking’ things to just your liking.

Last year I wrote wrote about the fastest, easiest, user state migration I had ever had — New PC? Migrate Your User Account The Easy Way — and described a Microsoft download that allowed me to not only transfer settings and preferences (aka ‘tweaks’) and my files (.doc, .jpg, mp3, etc.), but my installed programs as well. (Which to me was about the neatest thing since sliced bread.)
[note: Microsoft has since removed the utility, Windows Easy Transfer Companion, referenced in the link/article above. Apparently, it doesn’t work on Vista SP1, and/or XP SP3.]

For the purposes of this article (and, simulating what the typical user will do with a new computer and/or OS), I took an older machine running XP that had been one of my “daily usage” machines before being relegated to testbed duty and re-attached it to my home network (LAN).

Easy Files and Settings Transfer: On my Windows 7 machine, I typed “File an” into the search area of my Start menu, and Windows Easy Transfer showed up in the results immediately. A click launched the Easy Transfer Wizard, and I was asked if *I was on the new machine or the old?
* How did I want to make the transfer?
Over the network. (the other choices were an Easy Transfer Cable, or an external HD/USB flash drive.)
* Does the old machine have Windows Easy Transfer?
Um.. probably not, so, No.
It offered to provide the program if I would plug in a thumb drive, so.. I did.

It said “Finished” and told me to go plug the thumb drive into the old machine and let it “autoplay”, so.. I did.
The old machine (slow!) did its thing and presented me with a code, 123-456, and told me to go to the Windows 7 machine and enter the code, so.. I did.

Bingo, I was connected, and the Windows Easy Transfer tool started to scan the XP machine for “transferable items”.

When the scan finished, I was provided with a result, and there were some default items already checked off — pictures, music, documents. No surprise there, but I was very pleased to see the “Programs” folder.. could it be?
So.. I drilled down into the “Customize” section and selected the applications I wanted to try to transfer to the new machine (though, I could’ve just done the whole folder). That will save time.. and hunting down install CDs!

I clicked the “Save” button”..


And presto. Seven minutes later my “user state” was now on my new machine. And so I have a new “easy champion”, and I confess.. I’m impressed.

Plus number five…

Well, I ran long. Tweaking the Desktop, and “Superbar”, and other personalization’s will have to wait for the next article.

Part 3 – Improvements over Vista?

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 13, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, dual boot, file system, how to, PC, performance, Plug and Play, software, tech, tweaks, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New PC? Migrate Your User Account The Easy Way

[note: Microsoft has since removed the utility, Windows Easy Transfer Companion. Apparently, it doesn’t work on Vista SP1, and/or XP SP3. No word on when it might be made available again. I regret this, and hope Microsoft will correct this soon.]

For those of you who have ever used a User State Migration Tool, or Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool, to migrate your data from an old computer to your new computer — or purchased a special program, or cable — you know that getting your new machine exactly as you had your old machine required some time and effort.

The other day, the proud owner of a new laptop wanted me to replicate his XP set up onto the new Vista machine, and the usual method has been to to use one of the techniques mentioned in the paragraph above. But I didn’t. I used an adjunct to Window’s (built-in) Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool (which will be today’s free link).

* Those of you who want to use your LAN may want to read Add a Vista machine to your XP network

I downloaded this program to both his XP machine and the new Vista machine. Then I connected his XP machine via wireless. Surprise! The XP machine was instantly seen and recognized. Then I launched the Windows Easy Transfer Companion on the Vista PC and followed the wizard. The two machines established a “transfer” connection and the XP machine transferred its installed programs, and all the files, and all of the owners tweaks and settings (like bookmarks, and custom toolbars).

All I did was watch. This was, by far, the fastest and easiest user state migration I’ve ever experienced, and truly was painless. This is bad for a PC Tech’s bottom line, but great for Vista owners.

Today’s free link: When you buy a new PC, you will almost certainly want to transfer all kinds of things from the machine you’ve been using to the new one. Microsoft has “a companion” for the Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool called the Windows Easy Transfer Companion. It is actually a ‘stand-alone’. This tool not only transfers your documents and personalized Settings tweaks, but the programs you have installed. This is a huge time saver. I did my transfer over the local network, but you can use the other methods of data storage to make the transfer as well– including USB thumb drives. [Note: while Microsoft still considers this program to be in beta, I have experienced absolutely no hiccups or difficulties at all.]

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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December 25, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, Plug and Play, tech, Vista | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments