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Originally published February 22, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Page modified February 22, 2013 at 5:12 PM

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You can be a rebel and yank out flash drive

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: I have a 5-year-old PC running Windows XP SP3. For the past couple of months, whenever I plug in a USB flash drive then try to remove it by using the Safely Remove Hardware icon on my task bar, I get the reply “The device ‘Generic volume’ cannot be stopped right now. Try stopping the device again later.” Sometimes it will say the device is being used by another program, even after I’ve closed all the programs.

I usually wind up just removing the drive after closing all programs. This happens regardless of which flash drive I use.

Any idea why my PC won’t let go of the flash drives?

— G. Mijares

A: Call me carefree. Call me foolish. I do all kinds of things the computer says I shouldn’t do. And this is one of them I do often.

According to Microsoft, what you’ve experienced can happen when there are “open handles” with files on the drive that are being used by another program. Microsoft offers a complex set of steps for closing those handles. You can access them here:

For my part, I just yank the drive. I can’t guarantee you won’t lose data. But so far, I haven’t. In fact, I have to admit that I don’t use the Safely Remove Hardware option at all. Yes, I know. I’m a rebel.

Q: I have a puzzle. My
machine is an AMC 3240. Most of my stuff is several years old. The monitor has been working fine up to several days ago, when the screen dropped to a third of what it can display. The background screen looks normal, and the desktop is almost normal, but in place of the picture, two-thirds of the screen is blanked off in white.

I have removed a number of programs I thought might be interfering and then reinstalled. I probably should add that my machine does freeze a bit here and there when a program stops responding. I did pull out the video driver card and cable and reinstalled them. No change. What might be the problem?

— Diane Parkland

A: Pulling out the graphics adapter and reinserting it is a good start, as is replugging cables. But if that doesn’t solve the problem you need to narrow things down. If you have another computer around, try plugging the monitor into that computer. Does it have the same problem? If so, you’ll know the monitor itself has gone bad.

If the monitor works fine on the other computer, you’ll know your problem is likely with the cable or graphics adapter on the first computer.

Less likely causes are the port itself and interfering software, such as a virus.

My guess? The monitor has gone south.

Q: I have a question about Ethernet. We have Comcast and also use a Cisco wireless system. Our Comcast cable goes into the Comcast box. From there we use the Ethernet out to the Cisco in, and then use the Cisco Ethernet out to our HP Ethernet in. This all works, but the laptop takes far longer to login and doesn’t operate as quickly as our hot-wired PC.

I was wondering if the Ethernet Out on the Comcast box can be split so that I can run an Ethernet cable directly to the laptop so it would also be hot-wired? Also, can I leave the Cisco wireless connected as it is because I use it for my Nook to order books?

— Ron Self, Covington

A: I’m not sure I’m getting all your “ins” and “outs” right. It seems like you’re saying that you’ve got your Comcast router connected to your Cisco router via Ethernet. And you connect your HP computer via Ethernet cable to the Cisco router.

You don’t say which Cisco router you’re using, but virtually all routers have more than one Ethernet port. Check the back of the router to see if there are empty Ethernet ports.

If there is one, connect your laptop to the Cisco router, and you should have better performance than you get over wireless. And, yes, you can leave the wireless service turned on for your Nook.

If there are no empty Ethernet ports, you can try a simple splitter, though you might run into problems if two computers are trying to use the line at the same time. That’s why I’d recommend instead getting a router with multiple Ethernet ports.

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

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