By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Q. I've been trying to install City of Heroes on my PC, but the darn thing craps out midway through the process. I keep getting an error message saying "Invalid Drive G:\" even though my machine doesn't even have a G drive. What gives?
A.Sounds like your Windows registry has a case of agita, a situation remedied with a few well-considered keystrokes. Just pay careful heed to the wisdom that Mr. Roboto's about to impart, because messing with the registry can FUBAR your PC if every step's not done perfectly.
Chances are you're vaguely aware that your PC has something called a registry. Mr. Roboto can't blame you for being hazy on it: User guides for new PCs rarely mention this database of configuration settings. 'Tis a pity, as so many headaches can be traced back to inadvertent changes to the registryoften made against your will by spyware or peripherals like MP3 players. An argument for switching to Mac, yes, but that's a long-term option.
In your casea common one, judging by Mr. Roboto's inboxit's probably because some of your registry entries point to that nonexistent G drive. Just to make sure, let's first see whether there's a simpler culpritnamely, a CD-ROM drive that somehow got mislabeled. Go to Disk Management, which you should be able to reach by right-clicking on My Computer and selecting Manage. Is your CD-ROM drive still marked by the same letter it's always been? If not, change it back.
Alas, Mr. Roboto doubts you're gonna get off that easy. Before gently wading into the scary world of registry editing, set a system restore point. This will allow you to revert your machine to its pre-editing state, in case you type the wrong thing and thereby turn your PC into a very pricey paperweight. Instructions on this vary widely according to which version of Windows you're running; check out the Microsoft Knowledge Base (support.microsoft.com) for your particular situation. In XP, for example, it can be done with the Backup Utility, located in the Accessories menu (under System Tools, natch).
OK, let's edit. Choose Run from the Start menu, then type in "regedit." Up pops the registry editor, a mélange of folders with weird names. Here are the folders you need to seek out:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
Check 'em all out, and make sure there are no folders pointing toward that mysterious G drive. If there are, right-click on the entry, select Modify, and type in exactly where that folder is actually located; for example, if it says MyMusic is actually in "G:\My Documents" instead of "C:\My Documents," make the appropriate fix. Problem (hopefully) solved.
Yes, it's delicate stuff. But as long as you've got the registry backed up, nothing too awful should happen. The important lesson here is to get comfortable with futzing with the registry, as that skill can save you a thousand-and-one Windows headaches down the road. This is your mission, brave one, should you choose to accept it. You ain't yellow, are you?
DVDs Go Free
More good news for open-source devotees: Turbolinux (www.turbolinux.com) has released 10F, a $69 program that allows Linux users to watch encrypted DVDs. There've been big problems in the past with Linux desktops not being able to run Hollywood fare, a situation that led to the infamous DeCSS case of a few years back. (See "Down by Law,".) Turbolinux claims its software is 100 percent legal, and Mr. Roboto has yet to see anyone else claim otherwise.