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Q: My Windows Media Player 11 has stopped playing commercial CDs. Whenever I try to play one, I get the following message: “Windows Media Player cannot play the file. The player might not support the file type or might not support the codec that was used to compress the file.”

I use Windows XP, with all updates, and have two DVD/CD-ROM drives. I get the same message using either drive. I can rip the commercial CD to my computer on either drive and can play the ripped file. Both drives work fine in reading data and in all other operations.

Do you have any suggestions for troubleshooting?

— Bill LaBarge

A: Media players are really complex, since they involve not only file handling but also graphics and sound drivers. And compression formats.

First, I’d try playing the disc in another application, such as QuickTime Media Player of VLC Media Player.

If that doesn’t work, or if you really want to play the disc in Windows Media Player, I suggest that you reinstall your DirectX, sound and graphics drivers.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, I would reinstall Windows Media Player.

Q: I have Windows 7 Ultimate. When the computer goes to sleep or hibernates and then I wake it up, my desktop icons have changed size from small to medium. To get back to the small size, I have to completely shut the computer down and restart it.

Also, I have the icons arranged on the desktop in a certain order. When I awake the computer, the desktop icons have rearranged themselves in some other order. Shutting down does not solve this problem.

This is frustrating to have to reposition the icons the way I prefer. Is there any way to lock the desktop into the configuration I want it to stay in?

— Gil Moreno

A: Your problems may or may not be a result of separate causes.

That said, the first thing I’d do is make sure your graphics drivers are up to date. That suggestion is aimed at fixing the issue of the changing size of icons.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, I recommend that you create a new user account. My suspicion then would be that your user account is corrupt. (No value judgments there. It’s just a digital thing.)

As for the rearranged icons, the most likely cause is improper shutdowns of your computer. When Windows 7 shuts down, it saves the location of your icons. If your computer isn’t being shut down properly, you could find your icons in unexpected locations.

You might also try shutting off the Auto Arrange Icons feature. To do so, right click on the desktop, then hover your mouse over View. If Auto Arrange is checked, uncheck it. Then reboot your computer and see if things are where you left them.

Q: I have an Acer Aspire One netbook and I can no longer start it with Windows XP. When I turn it on, I get: “Windows did not start successfully.” When I select any of the options, such as “Last known good configuration,” it brings up the XP start window, runs a while, and then goes to a blank screen.

If I use “Safe Mode” I get a screen of commands and nothing else happens. If I push F2 while booting, it goes to the “Setup Utility,” but nothing happens from there. I never get to the Start button or anything that allows me to continue.

I do not have an XP installation disk or a recovery disk, and I presume it is because there isn’t a disk drive in the Netbook. But I have a CD/DVD drive that plugs into the USB port.

Microsoft says XP disks are no longer available. I have found downloads on the Internet that claim to “repair” XP, but I’m afraid to download them on my desktop computer for fear they will install something on that system that will make it unusable as well.

Other fixes seem to involve using the Start button, which I never get, or entering commands I can’t enter.

Is there a safe download? Can I use someone else’s XP disk? Until I get this working again, my little laptop is useless.

— Steve Robb

A: Your problem is most likely a hardware problem. And if the installed operating system is Windows XP, we’re talking about rather old equipment.

Like you, I’m reluctant to trust offers on the Internet promising to “repair” XP.

If I were in your position, I’d give up the ghost and recycle the old equipment and invest in something newer.

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.