Ask a Windows Expert – Week 3

It’s that time again! We’re going to pick questions from our inbox and get a resident expert to look at them and give you the most comprehensive answer to your question. Today, even if computers have become easier to use, there’s still a lot of people confused about certain aspects of their home systems. There are so many questions to ask, and few who are willing to answer them and reveal the secrets of computing in fear of giving knowledge that they would otherwise make money from. We’re here to make you feel special! To send a question, email windows-help [at] Give it a shot and try our resident Windows expert! Note: All questions will be answered in next week’s edition on Wednesday.

Q: I’m Having Difficulty With My MBR Since I’ve Switched My System to a New Drive. How Can I Fix The Amount of Time I Take at Boot?

A: In the question, you also mentioned that you kept the original hard drive that had the operating system on it. I’m not sure what you did to move the Windows installation, but it often still registers certain sets of hardware enumeration without changing their values. If you can’t find the boot folder or “boot.ini,” you don’t really need it. I’d recommend that you hold the “Start” key, press “R,” and type “msconfig” in the window that shows up. When you press “Enter,” you’ll see a complete configuration tool for your Windows installation.

You mentioned that you use Windows 7, meaning that you must click the “Boot” tab on MSConfig and change the timeout. This is probably what’s causing your system to lag on boot. If that didn’t help, give me a bigger description in the comments section.

Q: How Can I Empty The Thumbnail Cache (For Folders) in Windows 7 Without Removing Current Thumbnails?

A: In your question, you also mentioned that you found out how to deactivate the thumbnail cache, but you want to keep thumbnails in folders. You mentioned that you need to run Windows 7’s disk cleaner. I ask: What’s stopping you?

The disk cleaner is in the same location in Windows 7 where it was in other versions of Windows. The path is “Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Cleanup.” Once you get the disk cleanup window, check the box next to “Thumbnails”. That will tell Disk Cleanup to erase your thumbnails and clear the cache. Once you refresh the windows you have open with folder thumbnails, the thumbnails will reappear. Here’s where you have to go in the cleaner’s window:


And that’s all there is to it!

Q: A Few Weeks ago, I Got a Virus That Made a Total Mess of Most of My Files, Called “System Check.” System Restore Doesn’t Work, and it Keeps Telling Me “Cannot Restore to Previous Date.” How do I Get System Restore to Work Again?

A: This one’s tough, and I have really terrible news for you: the virus must have removed the restore points to keep itself alive. If I’m right, it means that you would have to make a clean install of Windows or continue fighting with the virus until its effects are gone. There’s no way to turn back the clock if you don’t have a backup of your system somewhere. My suggestion: Get a third-party system imaging software like Macrium Reflect and store your images in a USB drive. You can also do a full backup of your system onto a reserved drive, which is something I recommend for almost everyone. Norton Ghost works best for that.

Q: I Want to Watch Videos on My Computer, But I Want to Watch it Alone and Not Share It With Others

A: First of all, you can’t just hide everything from everyone, considering that some websites keep record of who visits them. The recent notion of ACTA and other trade agreements makes it possible for your ISP to whip up anything that can be used against you, but if you want to keep your privacy among people around you, you can open an incognito browser window and turn off history in your media player application.

On Firefox, you can go incognito by pressing the orange Firefox button on the top left-hand corner of the window and clicking “Start Private Browsing”. Once you do that, you’re all set to stream video content without records stored locally on your computer. In Google Chrome, you can start an incognito window with “Ctrl + Shift + N.”

With Windows Media Player, all you have to do is click “Tools” and then click “Options”. Go to the “Privacy” tab and de-select the checkbox next to “Video” under the “History” section near the bottom of the window, like this:


Once you do that, you’re all set!

Q: I Just Got Back on My Computer, And The Taskbar Disappeared, But The Start Button Remained. How Do I Fix This Problem?

A: I get the same issue when using some third-party screen savers. I’m not exactly sure if this happens in Windows 7 only, or if other versions of Windows also suffer from the same issue. This is most likely a bug in Windows’ handling of the GUI after successfully “closing” a screen saver and can be corrected with unbelievable ease. As long as your taskbar is missing, you can still use the place where it was as a piece of your desktop if you have windows open that you don’t want to minimize.

To fix this problem, just right-click on the place your taskbar is supposed to be and click “Personalize.” On the bottom, you’ll see a link for “Screen Saver.” Click on it, and click “Preview” next to the drop down list showing the screen saver’s name, like so:


In the current example, I don’t have a screen saver selected. You will see the “Preview” button differently when you select a screen saver. Once your computer blacks out and the screen saver comes on, move your mouse to “close” the screen saver. Your taskbar will reappear after that.


If you have any questions, don’t forget to hit us with an email at windows-help [at] Your question will be analyzed and looked at by a top-tier Windows expert every time, regardless of the complexity.

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.


  1. Re:  Difficulty With My MBR

    Thank you for your response.

    I will try to clarify to the best of my knowledge.  Please keep in mind that English is not my primary language.

    I installed the new HDD (WD).  SWitched the connections in the tower to make this new one first and the old (Hitachi) one second.

    I did not MOVE the windows installation, I did a new install with Windows 7 DVD on the new WD.

    After I was sure everything is OK, I formatted the old one to use it for backups.

    Seems to me that by doing it that way (with both HDD connected) the MBR remained on the old one even after a format.  

    I came to that conclusion because when I change in the BIOS the order of the hardrives and boot with the old one first, it boots almost instantly.

    P.S.  In msconfig the timeout is set to -1 second.

    1. I see. Do you have anything in particular against changing the BIOS order? Or do you seek another solution that might have a better effect? The MBR is rewritten by the OS when you install it, so there should be no problem. It’s within the first sector of the hard drive, so you can’t modify it either. By curiousity, do your hard drives have a possibility for Master/Slave configuration?

      If they do, your best bet would be to configure your WD hard drive as Master and the old one as Slave.  That way, the BIOS will be forced to use the boot loader from the WD drive. I honestly don’t know how your old drive could have ended up with the old MBR. I suspect a Master/Slave configuration issue here.

      If your hard drives are serially connected to the motherboard’s drive controller, I doubt that it would be the problem. If, as you say, changing the boot order in the BIOS helps, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to do that and remain with a fully functioning computer with a little quirk in its boot order.

  2. My hard drives are serially connected to the motherboard.

    Sure I can live with the little quirk in the boot order, as you say.  That’s what I will do to solve the problem.

    I was just afraid, by doing it that way, that if I decide to remove the old HDD the first one would not boot anymore.

    Thanks again.

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