Q: I have Comcast Internet and Outlook Express running under Windows XP Home Edition. I used to have an alert go "quack, quack" to tell...

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Q: I have Comcast Internet and Outlook Express running under Windows XP Home Edition.

I used to have an alert go “quack, quack” to tell me when I had new e-mail. Something happened to mess up a few things, and I lost a few things. Now I don’t have the “quack, quack.”

— Sandra Bunning

A: It sounds like you have downloaded some custom sound files from somewhere.

If you still have those files on your computer, you just need to specify the quack sound file to be played when mail arrives.

To do so, go to the Control Panel and select Sounds and Audio Devices. Click on the Sounds tab.

In the dialogue box that pops up, scroll down through the Program Events window until you see the New Mail Notification event.

Highlight it, and then click on the Browse button to find the sound file you want to associate with that event.

Q: I am using Windows XP and Office 2003. I have four files that cannot be accessed. They cannot be opened, changed, copied or deleted.

This makes it difficult to back up My Documents because the copy feature is aborted when the bad files are reached. Three of the files are Excel spreadsheets, and the fourth is a picture. How can I delete the bad files?

— John Juan

A: I’m not sure how much help I can offer on this one. Even if a file were tagged as read-only, you’d still be able to open and copy it. So … I’m thinking that the files must be corrupt.

Even so, I don’t have a good answer as to why you can’t delete them.

My only thought would be to try to delete them from DOS. You could boot to a DOS disk or try the utility MoveOnBoot.

This utility allows you to delete or move files that might be locked by applications once Windows is loaded.

Check it out: www.snapfiles.com/get/moveonboot.html. It’s freeware, so you can download it and try it at no cost.

Q: When you gave instructions recently on how to have Windows Explorer load with a different directory displayed, you left out the “root” command in your example.

Also, I work on a lot of different computers, and rather than hunt for the Windows Explorer icon, I usually right click the Start button and then select Explore. No matter what I do, this always begins in the Start Menu folder. Apparently it is set, so I am not starting Explorer per the icon — I am asking it to explore the start menu. Any ideas of how I could divert it so it would open in c:\?

— Lynn

A: I left the root command out on purpose. If you use it, then Explorer opens with the specified directory as the root directory and you can’t see anything above it. If you eliminate the root command, you can see everything above and below the specified folder.

As for accessing Windows Explorer by going to the Start button and clicking on Explore, that’s just the way it’s designed — to provide quick access to the Start folder. If you want to access your drive generally, you need to launch Windows Explorer one of the other ways.

Q: I did a Google search on the care of flash drives, and one of your past articles came up. I am conducting research for my dissertation and have files stored on a flash drive. But now my laptop and desktop at work will not read the files — they jam up, and I have to reboot.

I just bought another flash drive — my laptop does not have a floppy drive — and was able to transfer the files. But is there any information available on caring for these drives? I am hoping that mine is still under warranty from Dell.

— Dorothy E. Nary

A: There is no way to care for flash drives apart from ensuring that the contacts are clean. Flash drives are solid state, so there aren’t parts you can service or replace.

I’d definitely check on the warranty for the flash drive. And, of course, make sure you’ve got your important data backed up to another drive as well.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.