Prevent desktop icon scrunch

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. The icons on my Windows Desktop are all scrunched up on the left side of the screen. When I try to move one, it moves but then it goes right back to where it was. Can you help, Mr. M?

A. The good news is that your icons aren’t possessed, nor are they staging a coup to take over your computer. Your Desktop icons are being controlled by a setting called AutoArrange. To disable this feature, right-click a blank area of the Desktop, select Arrange Icons, then remove the check mark beside AutoArrange. With AutoArrange disabled, you can move your icons wherever you want, and they will stay put.

I keep mine set to Align to Grid which allows me to drag icons to any location, but it keeps them neat and tidy on the Desktop. If you haven’t used the Align-to-Grid option, give it a try. Neat and tidy is a good thing.

Q. When I click Start > All Programs on my XP computer, I can’t see all the programs because there are so many of them. How I can change it to allow me to see everything?

A. Right-click a blank spot on your Taskbar and select Properties. In the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window, click the Start Menu tab, then the first Customize button beside “Start Menu.”

Click the Advanced tab and remove the check mark beside Scroll Programs. Click OK twice to save and exit. As a result of this change, your Start Menu will appear in several columns instead of one scrolling column.

The process is virtually identical in Windows 7, but you'll find many additional customization options in the Customize Start Menu dialog box.

Q. I’ve seen the term "root directory" used as it relates to my computer, but it sounds more like a gardening term than anything else. What is it?

A. The root directory is the starting point of your file folder structure. It's actually your C:\ drive, without any folders. It's known as the root, because if you think of your hard drive folder structure as a tree (it used to be called a “directory tree”) you'll get the picture. The root is the base of the tree from which many folders sprout. The only difference between a computer directory tree and a real tree is that the computer tree hangs upside down, with the root at the top.

To see this in action, launch Windows Explorer by pressing the Windows Key + E or right-click Start > Explore. In the left pane you’ll see your hard drive directory tree. The Local Disk (C: ) is the root directory. Click that and other folders will branch out below it.

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