Q: I have an old Dell Latitude that has a bunch of very large files I want to transfer to my Toshiba Satellite. I've had major problems...

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Q: I have an old Dell Latitude that has a bunch of very large files I want to transfer to my Toshiba Satellite. I’ve had major problems with Internet connections on the Dell, and I’d like to transfer the files to a flash drive and then back them up on the Toshiba.

There’s a USB port on the Dell, but it doesn’t recognize any of the four flash drives I’ve plugged in. I’ve tried running the Install New Hardware wizard, but that doesn’t see the flash drive, and the list of possible hardware to choose from in the wizard certainly doesn’t include any flash drives since they weren’t commercially available when I bought the Dell.

I’m doubly curious to figure this out since sometimes at work — with more modern laptops, of course — we find that certain laptops won’t recognize flash drives.

Is there any other way to move very large files to my Toshiba?

Samuel Davis

A: Are those USB 2.0 drives you’re trying to use? And are the USB ports on the old Dell USB 1.0? That would be the most likely explanation for your problem. While some USB 2.0 devices may work — albeit more slowly — on a USB 1.0 port, many such devices won’t even be recognized.

So why not just use a direct connection between your two computers?

You don’t say which version(s) of Windows you’re using, but direct cable connections can be made between two computers running most recent versions of Windows.

The specific steps for making such a connection depend upon the versions of Windows involved.

If you’re connecting two Windows XP computers, you’ll find specific instructions at: support.microsoft.com/kb/305621/en-us. If you’re using other versions of Windows, just enter appropriate search terms in the field at the top of that page in Microsoft’s Knowledge Base.

Q: I have a Dell Dimension 5150 and a Dell flat-screen monitor that are a little over two years old. A few months ago, I had turned off the computer (normally the monitor turns off at the same time) and left the room.

Later, I noticed different colored lights coming from my computer room and discovered the monitor was on, but the whole screen was changing light colors every few seconds: red, yellow, green, blue, white. I could not shut it off with the monitor power button.

I have to turn off the monitor while the computer is still running and then shut off the computer. If I leave the computer for a while without shutting it off, the monitor screen will go into this light-show sequence.

I called Dell, but it had no idea what I was talking about and advised I send the computer and monitor to the company and pay a service fee up front without any guarantee it could help.

I am putting up with trying to remember to shut the monitor off each time before shutting off the computer.

Do you have any ideas on what went wrong or how to fix this? Everything else seems to be working well.

D. van Avermaete

A: Well …

The three most likely culprits are: 1) your monitor; 2) your graphics adapter; 3) the cable that connects these two things.

If you take your system into a shop, it can check all three things pretty easily. If you happen to have extra equipment around your office or house, however, you can quickly narrow down the problem yourself.

First, switch cables with a system that is working properly. If that fixes the problem you’ll know it was the cable. If it doesn’t, swap monitors. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, swap graphics adapters.

Given the symptoms, I doubt it’s the cable at fault. It seems more likely that the problem is something associated with the monitor going into power-saving mode after a period of no use.

I’ll go out on a limb here and put my money on the problem being with the monitor rather than the graphics adapter. Let me know how this one turns out.

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.