Beware of Exposing What's Hidden Behind the Windows

Q: With Windows 98, every time I open my documents, it says two are hidden. I don't recall hiding anything, and my curiosity is killing me. Any suggestions?

A: By default, Windows hides files that the average user has no need to deal with or that would create problems if altered or removed, an approach that the friendly geeks at Q&A; labs endorse. However, if you want to see what you're missing, here's how.

Double-click the My Computer icon on your desktop. Tap the View menu and click Folder Options. Hit the tab labeled View, then fill in the circle next to "Show all files," to learn the secrets of the universe. Be really, really careful because messing around with files that are supposed to be hidden can leave your box crippled. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Q: I run Win 3.11 and DOS 6.22. I replaced my Hewlett-Packard printer with an Epson and deleted all the HP printer files. But now when I type Win from DOS, I get an error message that says, "Application Ex. Error cannot find file HPFDSmo4.Exe specified in startup group." Now I have to click on OK each time I start Windows. I can find no reference to HPFDSmo4.exe in Win.ini or startup.ini. Any ideas?

A: Um, besides not using an operating system that's 10 years old? Not really, no. You can try reinstalling the OS, but, honestly, we'd suggest biting the bullet and upgrading to any of the three major updates to Windows 3.11 that have been introduced since 1991, all of which work much more reliably with modern equipment.

For instance, they all come with a TCP/IP stack, and from Windows 98 on, they automate memory management. Think of it this way: The personal computer is only 20 years old. You're using the functional equivalent of stone knives and bear skins. Q&A; geeks make fire. Big medicine. Come get warm, brother.

Q: I have been deleting the Internet cache on my Internet browser using Norton Fast & Safe Cleanup. Should I continue to use Norton or should I use the browser preferences to empty my cache?

A: We generally approve of Norton products, but it's always hard to tell exactly what software is doing without actually taking it apart. Still, we have no reason to doubt that Norton is doing the job. But if you're nervous, why not use Norton for day-to-day operations and use the browser's preferences every couple of months to make sure you're keeping up on the housekeeping?


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

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