Friday, 7 August 2015

Fix problems Microsoft won't

Fix problems Microsoft won't

Still can't get your Desktop shortcuts to work? You're not alone, Barry Collins shows you how to solve problems Microsoft abandoned

With Windows 10 now the centre of attention, there’s one thing you can guarantee: Microsoft simply won’t be bothering to deliver anything but security updates for its predecessors, including Windows 7 and 8.1. In fact, it’s already withdrawn mainstream support for Windows 7 and earlier versions, and for pre-2010 versions of Office. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s sole focus now.

Here, we look at six common problems that Microsoft has left you to work out for yourself, and show you how to resolve them. Microsoft may have effectively abandoned the tools involved, but there’s no reason why you should have to give up on them too.

Fix broken Desktop icons

Desktop icons suddenly not behaving as they should is a problem that’s particularly prevalent in Windows XP, but it’s not uncommon in Windows 7 and 8/8.1. Microsoft has never got around to fixing this irritation.

If the broken icon is a program shortcut (distinguished by a small arrow), Windows has probably lost track of the software the shortcut is supposed to open. You can help by right-clicking the icon, selecting Properties and typing the path to the program’s EXE file (within quotation marks) in the Target field.

By default, the path is C:\Program Files\ProgramName\ProgramName.exe. Find out the precise path by opening Windows Explorer (or File Explorer in Windows 8/8.1/10) and clicking or double-clicking ‘Local Disk (C:)’, then Program Files and so on. For example, in the Target field for the Firefox icon on our PC we’d type “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe”.

If the icon represents a file, such as a Word document or photo, that won’t open, Windows has probably forgotten which program it’s meant to open the file with. Right-click the file icon, select ‘Open with...’ and choose the program you want to use.

Make Wi-Fi work in XP

It’s hard to imagine life without Wi-Fi now, but when Windows XP was first launched in 2001 it didn’t even support wireless internet. Support was eventually forthcoming, but it was never particularly stable, and you can still be plagued by the error message ‘Windows cannot configure this wireless connection’ when attempting to set up a Wi-Fi connection in XP - and sometimes in later Windows versions as well. To work around this, you need to jump-start the Wireless Zero Configuration setting.

Click Start, right-click My Computer and select Manage. In the window that appears, double-click ‘Services and Applications’, then double-click Services. Scroll down until you see Wireless Zero Configuration (or WLAN AutoConfig in Windows 7 and later) and double-click that. In the window that now pops up, choose Automatic from the list next to Startup Type and click Apply, then Start. Another Window should appear and automatically run through a process. When that’s finished, return to your Taskbar and select Wireless Networks. Refresh the network list and your Wi-Fi network should now appear.

Stop Word nagging you to save the template

If you use Word and it keeps showing you a message asking if you want to save changes to the Normal document template, you’re suffering a frustration that spans many generations of Microsoft Office.

Hie Normal template is what’s used when you first open a blank document. It’s possible to save changes to it if you want certain elements to appear every time you open a document, such as a border or watermark. What you don’t want is the constant nagging.

Several things can trigger this - badly written extensions (‘Add-ins’) are the most common culprit. To check whether this is the cause, go to Word’s Options menu (under Tools in Word 2003 and earlier, or File in later versions) and remove any extensions you don’t need.

Often the problem can be solved by simply deleting the Normal template; Word will create a new one next time it opens. Open Explorer, click View (you may need to un-hide the menu bar first: click Organize, Layout and then ‘Menu bar’ to do this) and then tick Hidden Files. Next, navigate to C:\Users\Your Na me\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates. Delete the file named Normal (‘Normal.dotm’) and restart Word.

Replace unsafe Gadgets

Were you a fan of the Desktop Gadgets, such as the analogue clock and weather updates, that Microsoft offered in Vista and Windows 7? Well, hard luck. They were hit by a serious security flaw ( and instead of fixing this flaw, Microsoft just advised everyone to stop using Gadgets.

So likewise, rather than suggest a fix for this, we think you should use better and safer third-party alternatives instead, such as the free tool Rainmeter ( - which is far more than just a weather widget. It’s a tad more complicated than Windows Gadgets but it’s very customisable. You can use its wide range of skins and widgets to display the weather, the current state of your PC’s vital components, music player controls, web links and much more. Better still, it works with any version of Windows, from XP right through to Windows 10.

Make Aero Glass work again

Windows Vista and 7 have an effect called Aero Glass, where program windows appear to be transparent, letting you see whatever’s lurking beneath. It’s common for graphics-card glitches to disable Aero Glass, leaving you staring at a much plainer, uglier Desktop.

To restore your program windows to their full see-through glory in Windows 7, type Aero into the Start menu and click ‘Find and fix problems with transparency and other visual effects’. A help window will appear. Click Next through all the options that appear, and your transparent windows should return.

If you’re running Windows 8/8.1 and fancy an Aero Glass-style Desktop, try the free ‘Aero Glass for Windows 8’ tool (

Put your PC in hibernation

Windows Vista and 7 PCs have a power state called Hibernate, which is primarily designed for laptops. When in Hibernate mode, the PC automatically saves all your open documents to a special file on the hard drive and switches off the power, then lets you resume from where you left off next time you switch on. It’s a much better way to save laptop battery life than simply shutting the lid.

Hibernate should be one of the options you see when you click the arrow next to ‘Shut down’ in the Start menu, but it can randomly disappear, and Microsoft has never fixed this - and probably never will.

To re-enable Hibernate on your laptop, click Start then type cmd into the search box. Right-click Command Prompt and choose ‘Run as administrator’, then click Continue if prompted. When the prompt appears, type powercfg.exe /hibernate on (include the space before the slash) and press Enter. Restart your PC or laptop, and Hibernate should be back.


Not quite. Microsoft will withdraw support for all but the most recent version of Internet Explorer (IE 11) in January 2016, but IE 11 may live on for years - and it’s even built into Windows 10.

However, it's not Windows 10’s default browser (that privilege goes to the faster, safer Edge: To use IE in Windows 10 you'll have to search for it from the Start menu.

If you're running Windows 8/8.1 or earlier, we recommend switching to a different browser before IE is abandoned for good. Edge only currently works in Windows 10, so your best alternative is either Chrome or Firefox. Both are still being patched and updated for Windows XP, which IE certainly isn't.