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Q: For several weeks now, Google has been flashing a request for an update on my Windows 7 taskbar, usually twice a day. For the first week, I kept giving it permission, but it never updated. Now I just click it and cancel, but it keeps coming back. The certificate was issued to Google Inc. by Thawte Code Signing CA-G2.

I tried Google’s help, but find no answers there. It’s become a real annoyance. Maybe I should remove Google and go with Bing.

— Dick Wilson

A: Do you have Chrome, the Google Web browser, installed? It’s more likely that application is what is attempting to update itself. Because Chrome and the Google Toolbar are both free, I’d uninstall and then reinstall fresh copies. That should clear up any problem with the updater.

Q: I have a Vista desktop computer and a laptop Vista. Both machines are doing the same thing. When I download and or try to install (Java, Windows update, etc.), the machine says Windows Installer can’t be accessed. Is there a way to reinstall Windows Installer or do I have to reformat and reinstall Vista?

— Wayne H.

A: No, you shouldn’t need to reinstall Windows. The most likely cause of the problem is that the Windows Installer files are corrupted or missing.

Alternatively, the problem can occur after you’ve installed or removed a program that uses the Windows Installer Microsoft Software Installation package file, such as Office.

To fix the problem, first re-register the Windows Installer in the Windows registry. If that doesn’t fix things, you’ll need to reinstall the Windows Installer.

Detailed instructions for both procedures can be found at:

Q: I have a 3-year-old Hewlett-Packard, 64-bit Windows 7 computer with plenty of underutilized memory and RAM. It has never caused me a single problem as long as I have owned it, unlike my last computer, which ran the pre-Vista OS.

I have a program for converting VHS tapes to digital called Honestech VHS to DVD 4 Deluxe. I bought and loaded it onto my computer last year but have only recently begun to use it.

I successfully downloaded about an hour’s worth of VHS footage. However, every time I sit down for an editing session, at some point the program stops working. I get an error message that says “Honestech VHS to DVD 4.0 has stopped working. Microsoft is trying to determine a solution.”

Several seconds pass and then the program closes. I have appealed to Honestech customer service but have not yet heard from them. Any ideas what the problem might be?

— Lee Libby, Lake Forest Park

A: My guess is that you need to update the drivers for the program. You can do so here:

Q: For about the past six months, I get a lot of normal mail going to my junk-mail folder in Windows Mail. Although I key in “not junk mail,” the very next time it arrives as junk mail again.

I’m using a Dell Vostro 220 running Vista.

— Dennis Pappas, Woodinville

A: After browsing the forums, I see you’re not alone in having this problem. And the best I can tell, there is not a clear answer. Here’s what I’d suggest.

First, make sure you don’t have any other spam filters running.

Second, make sure you don’t have any custom mail-handling rules engaged in Live Mail.

Next, set your junk-mail setting to Standard. To do so, click on Options in the upper-right corner and then click on More Options. Under the heading Preventing Junk Mail, click on Filters and Reporting, then select Standard.

Then, click on Safe and Blocked Senders, which appears right under Filters and Reporting. Make sure those safe senders aren’t also listed as blocked senders.

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