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Originally published October 12, 2012 at 12:03 AM | Page modified October 12, 2012 at 5:07 PM

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It may not pay to revive tired old PC

Special to The Seattle Times

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The better suggestion to the person experiencing the crashes while using Internet... MORE
Also, I have been able to install Windows 7 on some ten year old computers. The biggest... MORE
For Russ Weklych: I have a complete set of discs (Windows XP) for an HP M470N that... MORE


Q. I have a problem I hope you can help with. I have a 10-year-old Hewlett-Packard tower desktop running Windows XP with current Norton anti-virus software. The only upgrade on the hardware I made came when I maxed out the RAM several years ago. It has had no problems on startup until the following. I did a complete system scan with Norton and also used all the other tools in Norton to “clean” the drives. I hit a restart and the computer would not complete startup, showing this phrase: “File missing or corrupted Windows root>\system32\hal.dll please reinstall a copy of the above file.”

The startup will not move past this screen. As of now I have not been able to locate the original disk. I also don’t know when, if ever, a restore point was made.

— Russ Weklych

A. It’s always a tough call when it comes to figuring out how much time and effort to invest in repairing a problem with an older computer. But when the computer is 10 years old, I don’t have a lot of trouble.

With this kind of problem, I’d recommend recycling the hardware and getting a new computer with a new operating system. Here’s why.

Even if you had your copy of Windows XP — or found one to buy — you’d still be wondering why that hal.dll file was missing or corrupted. Chances are it’s because of a problem with your hard drive. Old hard drives have a tendency to sprout corrupt sectors.

So let’s say you decide to invest in buying a new hard drive for the computer so that you can reinstall Windows XP. That’ll cost you a couple of hundred dollars.

But maybe that wasn’t the cause. So where are you now?

And even if the new drive fixes your problem, you’ve spent a couple of hundred dollars to get back in business with a 10-year-old computer with Windows XP and a new hard drive that is likely to have other problems crop up in the near future.

The bottom line: If you’re having problems that seem to be hardware related with a 10-year-old computer, I’d recommend against trying to fix them. You’re likely to spend more money than you’re happy with just to get back to having on old system.

Q. Is there a way to exit a PDF file from a website without exiting the site at the same time? It is very annoying to view a PDF online and then the only way to exit it also exits me out of the website, forcing me to log on again.

A. If the PDF is actually opening in your browser — as against being downloaded and opened in Acrobat Reader — and it’s not opening in a new window, you should be able to return to the website by hitting the back arrow.

Apart from that, just what happens when you click on a PDF on a website is up to the designer of the website.

Q. My laptop is experiencing frequent crashes, which for the most part are random (although I can get it to crash when I try to get the coupons for Outback Steakhouse). I’ve taken the computer in to the shop and they’ve cleared everything out and whatever else they do, but it still happens. They said they couldn’t help me since it was so random.

It seems to happen most when I click on a link to a website and then click on another link that is embedded within that website.

The messages I get are: “A problem with this webpage has caused Internet Explorer to close and open a new tab,” and/or a window that says “Internet Explorer has stopped working.” Any ideas?

—Cilla Fallon

A. I’d be inclined to believe the messages you’re getting. It sounds like you’re only crashing when you’re on the Internet.

Improperly written scripts on Web pages can cause problems.

And as designers are putting more and more active content on their websites, I’ve been running into more and more sites that bring things to a halt.

As for crashes, are you talking about the computer itself crashing or, as it seems for your error message, is it just the browser shutting down?

If you’re using a recent version of Windows and recent version of your browser, a website shouldn’t be crashing your computer system.

— Dee Vixie, Mill Creek

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