Q: I have an HP computer and monitor with a setting of "Sleep," which I assume is equal to "Hibernate. " I use the unit every other day...

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Q: I have an HP computer and monitor with a setting of “Sleep,” which I assume is equal to “Hibernate.” I use the unit every other day or so and have always shut it off because of concern about hackers. The energy saving is small but worthwhile to me. Occasionally I will leave the unit for two or three hours and put it to sleep. Is that the same as hibernate? In sleep or hibernate, could a determined hacker get into my computer? My Norton Antivirus is current and I also have a spyware program.

John Patrick Whalen

A: The terms “sleep” and “hibernate” cover an array of settings, many of which can be customized by the user. And many of the options differ according to the version of Windows you’re using and, of course, the options supported by your computer’s BIOS. And settings may differ for desktop computers and notebooks.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of how Vista handles sleeping and hibernating with a desktop system. First, by default, after 120 minutes of nonuse the computer will go to sleep. After 240 minutes of nonuse, it will go into hibernation. Both settings can be changed by the user. When the computer is put to sleep, any user data is saved to memory and the system goes into minimal power mode, which means power may be cut to a variety of peripherals, including monitors, USB ports, hard drives and wireless adapters.

When the computer goes into hibernation, user data is saved to the hard drive. As a result, it takes longer for a system to come out of hibernation than to awaken from sleep. The upside is that if you lose power during hibernation, your data is safe on the hard drive. If you lose power during sleep mode, data may be lost since it is stored in system memory.

As for hackers, a determined and sufficiently knowledgeable hacker can get in to virtually any computer that’s on and to which he or she has access. If you want to be absolutely sure that a hacker can’t in, make sure the computer is not connected to the Internet.

Finally, anti-virus and spyware programs are important but they don’t deter hackers. Your main line of defense against hackers is your firewall. Windows includes a basic software firewall. You can buy more advanced firewall software or routers with firewalls that offer greater protection but these also require more configuration and knowledge on the part of the user.

Q: I have a problem with the Display utility in the Control Panel in Windows XP in a friend’s computer. It doesn’t respond at all when it is asked to open so that settings can be changed. Neither a double click or a right-click “open” command has any response, other than thinking a few seconds and then no action. I imagine that the subroutine in the program has been corrupted. Question: Is there an easy way of restoring or fixing the display utility without reinstalling the XP operating system with all of its associated repercussions, like reloading all of the programs again?

Ken Friddell

A: There is a way to restore specific files from your Windows XP installation disk using the Expand command.

First, insert your Windows XP installation disk into your CD drive or DVD drive. Click on the Start button and select the Run option. Type Cmd and click on OK. Next, type cd\ and hit Enter. At the command prompt, type expand followed by the file you want to reinstall and the destination. In this case, you type expand desk.cpl c:\windows\system32, assuming Windows is installed on the C: drive.

A far better option, however, is to repair or reinstall Windows. The problem you’re encountering may not be with the Control Panel applet but with a system support file. Try first letting Windows fix the problem. Repairing or reinstalling Windows won’t require you to reinstall any other applications and it won’t change any of your settings.

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.