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Q. I have a 4½-year-old Dell Inspiron 1720. It came with Windows Vista. Recently, I changed the hard drive because of failures. I thought I would change the operating system, too. So I bought a new copy of Windows XP Professional. It installed fine but now I have several drivers missing. I was able to get some from Dell for XP, but I still need drivers for the Wi-Fi, the network card and others. I have called Dell and they say some of the hardware is not compatible with XP. Do you have any clues or maybe even a solution? — Jack

A. Yes, drivers must be written to the specifications of operating systems. And while operating system designers try to maintain compatibility with at least one or two previous versions of the operating system, sooner or later devices are no longer supported.

Device manufacturers frequently stop providing drivers for old hardware they no longer sell. If you’re trying to move in the opposite direction — from a more recent operating system to an earlier one, as in from Vista to XP — you would have to expect incompatibility of drivers.

If it were me, I’d check the hardware to see if it’s compatible with Windows 7, which was released in 2009. My guess is that it is. If not, I’d go back to the operating system the computer was designed for.

Q. I have an Acer Aspire X1200 PC, which was bought in 2009. It has worked great and gets only modest use for pretty much only email and downloading things. The problem is that the card reader does not seem to be working. It is used infrequently, but as I recall when you put a CD into it some information comes up on the screen, which tells you what to do. Now when I put one in (and I know it is a good one), nothing happens. My grandson tried to load “Freddi Fish” a couple of days ago without success and with great disappointment. Any thoughts or recommendations?

— Norman Marten, Bainbridge Island

A. I’m not really clear on whether you’re talking about a card reader or a CD/DVD drive that isn’t working properly. But, yes, when you put a storage card into a card reader or a CD/DVD into a CD/DVD drive, a window should pop up. And if no window pops up, you should be able to find that reader or drive in Windows Explorer and see the contents.

Before giving up on the reader or drive, I’d shut down the computer and open the box. Find the power and data connections to the device, pull them off and then firmly reconnect them. If that doesn’t solve the problem, you likely need to replace the unit. The good news is that card readers and CD/DVD drives are relatively inexpensive. It is, by the way, sadly not surprising to me that a card reader or CD/DVD might fail after three or four years.

Q. Comcast Xfinity is our ISP. For years, we’ve been using Outlook Express for creating, sending and receiving emails. Until recently, we never had a problem. We still receive emails from a long list of regular contacts. Unfortunately, during the past month Outlook Express has not allowed us to reply or respond. We are able to create new messages using Outlook Express, but our system server connection, or lack thereof, does not permit us to send it. When we attempt to send a message, the following shows up: “The connection to the server has failed. Account: ‘’, Server: ‘’, Protocol: SMTP, Port: 25, Secure (SSL): No, Socket Error: 10060, Error Number: 0x800CCC0E.”

— J.E. Cooper, Tacoma

A. I can think of two things that could be preventing your emails from going out. First, is it possible that anyone has changed the configuration in Outlook Express? Make sure that it is properly configured for your outgoing mail server.

Second, it may be that a firewall somewhere along the line is blocking traffic on Port 25, which is the usual default port for outgoing SMTP mail. One of the places I often work just changed its firewall security and suddenly my outgoing mail wouldn’t go out.

So I tried changing the SMTP port and everything worked fine. I’d suggest you try changing the SMTP port to 2525 and see if that resolves the problem.

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