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Q: I have accumulated a number of documents saved in several folders in my AOL mailbox that I want to copy to my external hard drive. I am referring here to email TXT format docs. I wonder if there a way to copy these to my external hard drive or, better yet, copy them by folder. My HP desktop is running Windows 7 Home Premium and Microsoft Office.

— Paul Heins, Redmond

A: The first step is to get those messages out of AOL and into folders on your local hard drive. That’s more difficult than it should be because AOL doesn’t directly support exports.

That leaves you two options. First, you can manually forward individual emails to another email client, such as Gmail or Outlook, that supports exports. Or you can buy a utility, such as ePreserver ($24.95 at, that simplifies the process.

Next, you can follow the instructions in your email client to export the messages to a local folder, then copy the messages to the external drive.

There are a number of ways of doing this. If you want to manually copy the files, you can use Windows Explorer to copy selected files or entire folders to the external drive. All you need do is select the files and folder and drag them to the new drive.

If you left-click to drag, the files will automatically be copied to their new location. If you right-click to drag, you’ll be prompted to choose between copying or moving the files.

And if you want to select just the TXT files, first put *.TXT in the search box in Windows Explorer. It will retrieve all files with the TXT extension at whatever level of the navigation tree you are currently on, as well those in any subfolders.

If you want to automatically back up those files on a regular basis, you can use the built-in backup tool in Windows 7. You’ll find the Backup and Restore tool in the Windows Control Panel. You can also watch a video on how to use the backup tool here:

Q: I have a Dell PC with Windows XP Home Edition. I need to format and burn data to a new CD. I do not know if my PC has the tools to do this. Can you help me?

— Bill C.

A: Not a problem. Windows XP, along with every later version of Windows, has built-in support for burning CDs and DVDs. Before getting started, however, make sure you have the right kind of CD for your drive. Many older CD/DVD drives work only with a limited set of disc types.

Once you’ve got a blank writable disc in the drive, use Windows Explorer to select the folders or files that you want to burn to the CD and drag them to the CD drive.

Depending on which mouse button you click and drag with, Windows will either copy the files to the drive or it will offer you the choice of copying or moving the files.

Next, double-click on the CD drive and you should see a window with the files you have dragged to the drive.

Under CD Writing Tasks, click Write to CD, which will launch the CD Writing Wizard. Follow the instructions in the wizard, and you should be in business.

Note: In a recent column, I suggested ways for a user to block specific websites that he was tempted to visit.

A reader who happens to be a psychotherapist contacted me to suggest another strategy: accountability software. Rather than blocking sites, accountability software generates reports of Internet usage, including sites visited, and sends them to an “accountability partner.”

Just search the Internet for accountability software. Or you can try these links:

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. More columns at