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CNET to the Rescue: To fix a bad Windows PC, send it back

How-to editor Sharon Vaknin joins us to scold PC makers who send out computers that crash on boot. Plus, Google mail secret tips, the Nook at a "chic-lit" platform, and more!

The face and voice of the new CNET how-to section, Sharon Vaknin, joins us today as we road-test the Nook and Greplin, gripe at sloppy PC vendors, and advise on the best setup for graphic design student.

If you have a tech question for CNET to the Rescue, e-mail No question is too basic, so if you've got a tech problem that's been getting under your skin, please drop us a line and we'll try our best to help you out.

Now playing: Watch this: Ep. 49: To fix a bad Windows PC, send it back


Episode 50:To fix a bad Windows PC, send it back

Road tests

Listener Questions


Joshua Salazar: On my new Windows PC they require you to make your own system recovery disc, but the problem is it crashed before I could make one. How could I make one or get one?

Rafe: Your new computer crashed before you could make a recovery disk? Out of the box? Sadly, this still happens. Send it back. That's unacceptable. Also, what the heck, computer vendors?


Mark from Toronto: A couple of episodes back you were talking about the need to decrapify a new PC. If you already have your own Windows 7 installation disc wouldn't it be quicker to just do a clean Windows 7 install and just use the registration key that's printed on the windows sticker that came with the new PC? Or will that key not work with that Windows 7 disc?

Microsoft confirms that you could reinstall using that. It's a good solution, if you don't mind re-building machines from scratch.


Sascha from Switzerland: I'll receive a new notebook within the next weeks. Can you tell me the best way to migrate the content from my old notebook (Win XP) to my new one (Win 7)? Especially: How can I keep my Outlook 2010 settings and how do I transfer my iTunes content.

Rafe: For files, settings, and especially for Outlook mail, use Microsoft's own Windows Easy Transfer (we mistakenly called this Files and Settings Transfer Wizard in the show -- that's the old version).

Sharon: For iTunes, if most of your music was purchased from iTunes, you can use iCloud to re-download them all to your new computer. In iTunes, go to iTunes Store > Purchased. Then click "All Songs" and select "Download all." But if your music was ripped (or acquired in another way), you either need to wait for iTunes Match to roll out in September, or transfer all your music to an external HD and move it to your new computer that way.


Stu Engelke: I want to get video and audio from a laptop on a conference room table to a TV on the wall. Would rather not have wires. Any suggestions?

Sharon: Unless your TV is DLNA-ready, or has a built-in ability to connect to a Wi-Fi network, you'll need an adapter. Adapters like the Western Digital TV Live facilitate streaming of files from your computer to your TV. So you'd just connect the adapter to your TV, and connect your PC and adapter to the same Wi-Fi network. Then, you can access your PC files from the TV interface.


Paul: My mom recently bought a Sony bdp bx38 Blu-ray player. I am trying to find a cheap Wi-Fi adapter for her that will work with the player. The one that Sony sells is $70, which is more than half of the cost of the Bu-ray player ($130 at Costco). While I was visiting her I tried a bunch of old wifi adapters, but none of them were recognized.

Also how hard will it be to set up the Wi-Fi device on the player since I will now have to walk her through it step by step over the phone?

Sharon: Since the Wi-Fi adapter is proprietary, it would play nicely with your mom's Blu-ray player. But if you're looking to save money, go with the Zyxel Wireless Access Point (WAP) 3205 instead. It's a cheapter solution, but it requires a little more setup. Since you won't be around to help your mom, Zyxel should be able to walk her through the process over the phone.

What is she trying to access via Wi-Fi? You might consider canning the whole setup and hooking her up with a media streaming device like Roku or Apple TV.

Rafe: I'd say that even if the Sony WiFi adapter appears overpriced, if it's easy to set up, it might be worth it. It may be a false economy to compare the price to the player, too. Those things are priced artificially low.


Matt: My question is regarding Podcast subscriptions. Why do I have to hit "refresh" for all my subscriptions to kickoff downloading the latest episodes? Am I doing something wrong? I would expect new episodes to download automatically whenever I'm online and iTunes is open.

Sharon: Double check your settings. Click on your "Podcast" tab in iTunes, then click "Settings" at the bottom. Change "Check for new episodes" to "Every hour".


James: I love listening to CNET and other podcasts at home, work, and in the car. I am just having issues keeping up on everything. I have a Mac at home, and iPhone, and a Windows 7 PC at work. Do you know of any cloud solution that would alert me when a new episode of one of my podcasts is available, let me listen to it wherever I am, and then when I go to one of my other devices it would know what I have already listened to. I realize a cloud iTunes sync might fix this issue for me, but until Apple gets there is there another solution. Thanks.

We really think iTunes in the cloud is the way to go. It looks like it will be worth the wait.


Technomensch: Can you see if either Donald or anyone else there has a recommendation on a good portable flexible BT keyboard could use w/ Playbook.

Rafe: "Good" and "flexible" are mutually exclusive words when it comes to keyboards. Get a standard, rigid Bluetooth keyboard, your fingers will thank you.


Kaylin Murray: I am going to be a freshmen in college next year, and I will be a graphic design major. Fourtunately for this major they gave me a requirement for my laptop. They are: A Mac Book Pro with the following: 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1440 x 900 pixels, 2GB memory, 120GB hard drive1, 6x double-layer SuperDrive, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics with 256MB SDRAM. After visiting the Apple Store, Best Buy and looking at the Apple Website I have come up with the following two scenarios:

1. Buy the base 15 inch Mac Book Pro and use just that as my computer.

2. Buy the higher-end 13 inch Mac Book Pro and in my dorm room have a bigger (17 inch or larger) screen. I would connect the screen (which would not be a Mac, solely because of expense) to my computer when I am in my dorm, so I would have a bigger screen when working on projects.

Which would you suggest of the two plans above? What type of screen, or a specific screen would you suggest?

Rafe: Your alternative plan is excellent. You get a more portable computer when you're out and about, and you can get a humongous fixed display for doing real work. Plus, when you're docked, you get the extra monitor (the laptop) for toolboxes, palettes, etc. There are great and cheap 23-inch monitors available now. See our picks.


Samuel: You previously mentioned a need for a better mail client. Have you tried Outlook 2007 using IMAP? It will give you the look and feel you are used to while using Google Apps and your mail server. Google also offers an Outlook sync option that syncs mail, calendar and contacts, but not tasks to GMail. This is another alternative to consider.

Rafe: I find Outlook to be a mediocre IMAP client. However, Google Apps Sync is a decent solution for using Google Apps email through Outlook. It's solid training wheels.


Yan the Architect in Colorado: Catching up with episode 48 and your ongoing search for a good email client. I'm going through a similar email restructuring and am writing this from Postbox. It runs on the source code for Thunderbird with a refreshed interface and conversation view, but is paid software. I'm in a 30 day trial and will keep you posted. Pros so far: the conversation view; cons: lack of sync for gmail contacts.

Also, I have kept my OS and program files on one drive and data on a second, "D" drive, for many years. The one suggestion I would make is to use a label maker and physically label the drives and unplug the D drive's SATA cable when re-installing your OS! When you reinstall you OS, it is hard to tell device.0. WDC 1800 XYZABC from device.1 WDC 2100 ABCXYZ. I speak from experience!