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Q: We have Microsoft Windows XP. Both our hot-wired PC and laptop freeze up frequently, and when we press Ctrl-Alt-Del we see that iexplore.exe has large volume in one or several locations. When we instruct the system to delete these, the system runs OK again until the iexplore.exe builds up again. If there a way to fix this, and what exactly is iexplore.exe?

— Ron Self

A: The file iexplore.exe is the Internet Explorer program. And, yes, if you’ve got many instances of Internet Explorer open, that can chew up resources enough to affect your performance. If you are connected to websites that are running scripts and delivering lots of content, that can further gum up your performance.

So the first step would be to close Internet Explorer when you’re not using it. The second step would be to make sure you have only one instance of Internet Explorer running at a time and that you’re connecting only to sites you’re actually using.

Rather than using Ctrl-Alt-Delete, I suggest you check what programs are draining resources by calling up the Task Manager. Just right-click on the System Tray and select Start Task Manager.

The Applications tab will show you what programs are running, and if you click on the Processes tab you can see how much resources are being consumed by various programs.

If you click on the Performance tab, you can see a readout of used and available resources.

If you need more detail, just click on the Resource Monitor button.

Q: A friend of mine often sends emails with an attachment, in the form winmail.dat. I use Mozilla Thunderbird for my email, and I can’t open these attachments. I keep telling her to send them in a different format, but she keeps telling me to use Outlook instead. I don’t have Outlook installed. Is there a way I can convert these winmail.dat files to a different format to read them?

— Anita Legsdin, Seattle

A: The winmail.dat file resembles a typical attachment but just carries formatting information. It appears only if your email client isn’t set up to display a message that arrives in Outlook’s RTF format.

One solution is to ask your friend to send in plain text format. Or, if you’re happy with the formatting of the emails from your friend, just ignore the winmail.dat attachment.

Q: Is there a function that you can use to alphabetize each favorite listing in each directory in IE7? I am using it with XP.

— Don Tuttle, Everett

A: In Internet Explorer 7, just click on the Add to Favorites button, then right-click on any item, and then click Sort by Name. But why not upgrade to Internet Explorer 9? It’s free and more secure. And all you need to do to sort favorites is right click on a favorite in any folder and then click on Sort by Name.

Q: I use Firefox to access my Earthlink and Gmail accounts. I have been getting a page loading behind my email, so when I close the two different accounts I either get a note from McAfee suggesting that I not go to a page (that I have not asked to go to at all ever) or I get a page for an ad for porn loaded on my computer.

I have run my virus protection scan, but it found nothing. I have run my Windows Defender, which also found nothing. Can you suggest something for me to do? I am worried it is a virus doing other things on my computer.

— Stefan Merken, Seattle

A: There are lots of types of malware that anti-virus software won’t catch. It sounds to me like you have a piece of redirection malware, but probably not a harmful one.

I’d suggest downloading MalwareByte’s Antimalware and running a scan.

They offer a free version at

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.