Q: I am running a Dell Dimension E510 with Comcast broadband and McAfee Security Suite. I recently upgraded to Vista Business, and since...

Share story

Q: I am running a Dell Dimension E510 with Comcast broadband and McAfee Security Suite. I recently upgraded to Vista Business, and since then it seems as if my hard drive is being continually accessed. You can hear it and see the light flashing. Task Manager doesn’t show any applications are open, and the only process showing any activity is idle. I have Vista and Office 2007 Professional set for auto updates and, of course, McAfee, too. Is that what is going on?

— Jack Stiegler, Snohomish

A: Auto updates can certainly account for hard-drive activity. But they wouldn’t go on for more than a few minutes or, at the most, an hour.

The first thing I’d wonder about is how much system memory you have. If you don’t have sufficient system memory — and Vista requires quite a bit more than previous versions of Windows — the operating system will resort to using “virtual memory” to do its work. Virtual memory means … well … your hard drive. And if you have less than 2 megabytes of system memory, that could certainly account for all the hard-drive activity.

If you’re not short on system memory, another possibility might be a virus.

Q: About six months ago, my motherboard fried and I ended up purchasing a new Dell with Vista. I am using a Verizon account with Windows Mail for e-mail. I have anti-virus and a firewall through Verizon and I have not been alerted to any viruses. I normally receive less than a dozen e-mails a day in Windows Mail, but on two different occasions I received between 400 and 700 e-mails all at once. These are all ones that I “permanently” deleted in the past and are being re-sent as supposedly new e-mails. Any idea why?

— Brian Vanderwerff, Brier

A: Sometimes permanent isn’t really permanent.

Windows Mail, like most e-mail programs, can be configured to leave a copy of messages you receive on your e-mail server, even if you’ve deleted them on your local computer. Go to Tools/Accounts and select your e-mail account, then click on Properties. Click on the Advanced tab and then look to see if the box next to “Leave a copy of messages on server” is checked. If it is, uncheck it and your problem should be solved.

Q: I have recently purchased a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion running Windows Vista. In the past, when I wanted to open a PDF document, I was sent to the “Windows File Association” utility, which eventually had me download the free Adobe Reader. After downloading, I could read the PDF document, but then I could not open other programs. I would get the Adobe page, which would freeze the screen. I have also attempted to load Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard (the version that costs money). When I did, I was sent to an Adobe site that said Vista is not compatible with Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard.

I have since gone to the Microsoft Windows Download site and downloaded every patch that appeared to affect Windows Vista. Now, when I attempt to open PDF file, it tells me to download Adobe first. I do that, but now I cannot open the PDF file at all. Suggestions?

— Jim Linden

A: It’s not Vista that needs to be updated, it’s Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader, like many other applications, had to be updated in order to work with Windows Vista. The first version of Adobe Reader to support Vista is an updated release of Adobe Reader 8.

If you download Adobe Reader 8.1.2 from Adobe’s Web site, you should be in business.

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.