Q: When I delete temporary Internet files in Internet Explorer, it usually takes 10 to 20 seconds to delete them. I was told that they slow...

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Q: When I delete temporary Internet files in Internet Explorer, it usually takes 10 to 20 seconds to delete them. I was told that they slow my computer down and should be deleted. What are temporary files, and do I need them? I wonder whether there is some setting that will automatically delete them so I don’t have to.

Steve Lockitch

A: The primary reason for temporary Internet files is to speed your online experience. What is saved mostly are cached versions of pages you have visited. Why spend time reloading a page if nothing has changed since the last time you visited it?

Of course, if you rarely visit the same Web sites, or if they are updated very frequently, temporary Internet files may not speed your experience much. In that case you may want to reduce the amount of space reserved for such files. You can specify how much by going to the Tools menu and selecting Internet Options. In the middle of the dialog box that pops up you’ll see a section marked Temporary Internet Files. Click on Settings, and you’ll be able to change the amount of disk space reserved for temporary Internet files.

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Q: When I boot up, I get a box saying “No disk in drive. Put disk in drive.” This sometimes happens only when switching users, and when starting MSN. It takes several attempts clicking Cancel and Continue to get rid of it. When I unchecked “Shwicon2k” from Startup (using the Msconfig utility), it quit doing it. This seems to be the multimedia card reader from Alcor Micro. I’ve got a hardware warranty. Is this a hardware problem or a software problem?

Kevin G. Johnson, Seattle

A: In general, when you encounter the kind of problem you describe, it’s because some piece of software is configured to look at the drive for a disk. If it doesn’t find the disk, it brings up the error message. In this case, it appears to be software related to card reader. You can either prevent the application from running, as you have done, or you can uninstall the software if you’re not going to use it.

Q: I was so happy to see your information on how to remove MSN Messenger; it was a nuisance to me. I did this yesterday and had no problems of any kind. But this morning when I booted up, clicked on my profile and got a message that I had no profile set up. I then turned off the computer and rebooted. A phone call pulled me away for a few minutes and when I returned, shortcut icons were displayed, but I knew there were differences. I clicked on the Internet Explorer icon and it took me to msn.com rather than my normal home page. I soon realized that all my favorite bookmarks were gone and that my directories for Word and Excel were not to be found; I can’t get to the files. How do I re-establish my original profile and regain access to my Word and Excel files?

A: The two things — removing MSN Messenger and the disappearance of your profile — aren’t related to each other. If your profile has been deleted, you’ll need to create a new one. But breathe easy — your files aren’t lost. They are still in their folders on the hard drive. The trick is to find those folders.

By default, documents will be saved under the My Documents folder under your profile name. In Windows Explorer, locate the Documents and Settings folder. Open it and then locate your profile name. Open that and you’ll find the My Documents folder.

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.