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Q: A while back, this message popped up on my mother’s laptop: “Windows has detected an IP address conflict. Another computer on this network has the same IP address as this computer. Contact your network administrator for help. Details available in Windows System events log.” What does this message mean?

— Catherine O’Donnell

A: Every device connected to the Internet needs an IP (Internet protocol) address so that the data knows where to go. Think of it like the mail being sent to your street address.

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The problem is that there aren’t enough unique IP addresses for all the millions or billions of devices now connected to the Internet. So the workaround is for Internet service providers to assign a consumer’s router a single IP address when it connects to the Internet. After that, when you boot a device that connects to that router, the device is automatically assigned a temporary IP address, called a “dynamic IP address.”

The error message you encountered occurs when two devices on your network are assigned the same IP address. How could this happen? Most often it’s because one device has been assigned an IP address and sometime later the device goes to sleep. Then when you boot another device it is assigned the same IP address. When the first device is reawakened, the network detects that two devices have the same IP address.

Don’t worry about the error message. If you can access the Internet, you’re OK. If you can’t, reboot the computer and the router will assign the device a new dynamic IP address.

Q: Last fall I bought a Dell Inspiron I660-3049 PC with Windows 7 Home Premium SP1. After a few months I ran into troubles and the Dell support team showed me how to reset the PC to factory conditions with a reinstallation disk.

I had virus infections despite using McAfee Internet Security. I regularly use the free Malwarebytes, CCleaner and Wise Care 365. With Acronis True Image 2014, I can reconstruct programs and data on my PC.

I think that by reformatting the hard drive and reconstruction with Acronis, I was able to get rid of the virus. The start time displayed in Wise Care 365 came back to 30 seconds for 100-gigabyte files (mostly JPG files) to load. Lately, however, the time is up to 90 seconds, as I saw previously when I had the virus problem.

My question is: Does Acronis reset the registry? Or should I load the applications from CDs or the Internet and then copy the data? What anti-virus programs are most effective?

Also, I get many very annoying pop-ups with Firefox and fewer with Internet Explorer (which I use much less). I have put a checkmark for block pop-up windows in Firefox/Options/Content with no noticeable improvement. In Internet Explorer I block all cookies and turn on Pop-Up blocker. Are there other ways to fight the pop-up problem?

— Wolfram Bosenberg, Kenmore

A: An imaging program such as Acronis returns your computer to the state it was in when you created the image of the drive.

That means, yes, your Windows registry is restored to the state it was in at that time. Of course, it’s possible that you’re also restoring malware present when you created the image.

Another possible cause of slow loading time is disk fragmentation. I’d suggest defragging the drive and see if that improves your load times. To launch the utility, just go to the Start button and type “Disk Defragmenter” in the search field.

As for the best anti-virus software, I don’t like to make a recommendation unless I’ve recently done a comparative review. I will note, however, that Kaspersky generally rates highly in comparative anti-virus reviews. That said, while Norton Antivirus rarely tops the charts, it’s free with Comcast Internet service, so that’s what I use.

As for pop-ups, I’ve found the pop-up blockers in Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox to be pretty effective. If you’re finding otherwise, I’d suspect that you may have some malware on the computer that is defeating those blockers.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.

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