Reader Q&A: Windows XP Service Pack Woes, Firefox 4 Tips

It's time for another reader Q&A--this week, help for someone who can't get Windows XP Service Pack 3 to install, and directions on how to reveal Mozilla Firefox 4's orange menu button.

Install a Windows Service Pack That Refuses to Install

I like the fact that Microsoft regularly updates Windows with bug fixes, security improvements, and the like. What I don't like is when the OS refuses to install its own updates, which is what happened to reader Debby:

"I recently had to wipe out my Windows XP and reinstall it. After reinstalling XP, the computer always has an update for Service Pack 3 that will not load. How can I fix this?"

Well, Debby, you broke rule #2 of how to ask for tech help--"Share important details"--so I'll have to do some guesswork here. You didn't mention an error message, but I'm assuming that "will not load" means you're seeing something like "Service Pack 3 setup error. Service Pack installation did not complete."

There are a couple likely causes for this problem and a couple easy fixes. All of them are documented in Microsoft's support page for this particular issue. Rather than reading through them, however, I recommend scrolling down a bit until you find the Microsoft Fix-it--an automated utility that promises to tweak the Registry entries that are the likely root of the problem. If that doesn't do the trick, then read the support page more closely for some other solutions (including downloading and installing SP3 manually).

Stuff like this can be really frustrating. Can't Microsoft do something as simple as update its own operating system? Of course, given that an overzealous third-party security utility probably caused the problem in the first place, I'll cut them a little slack.

That said, issues like this are among the many reasons I think XP users should make the move to Windows 7, which in my experience causes way fewer headaches.

Restore Firefox 4's 'Missing' Orange Button

Reader Hal wrote in with this question:

"Everyone talks about the new Firefox button (the orange one in the upper-left corner) to fix problems with Firefox 4. I've downloaded Firefox 4 and there is NO orange button. How do I find this 'magic' Firefox button?"

For starters, Hal, the button in question has no "magical" properties, nor is it there to "fix problems." It's merely a substitute for the more traditional menu bar (the one that shows File, Edit, View, etc.). I'm not sure why it didn't appear for some users (you're not the first to ask this question), but it's easy to switch over to it. Here's how:

  1. Start Firefox.
  2. Click View, Toolbars, Menu Bar.

Presto! Your menu bar disappears; in its place, Firefox's new orange all-in-one menu button. For anyone accustomed to traditional menus, this may seem a little awkward at first. Most of the same functions are available within the new menu, but not always with the same names or headings.

For example, what if you decide you want to go back to the Menu Bar? When you click the orange button, you'll see there's no View option--so how are you supposed to toggle the Menu Bar back on? No problem: just mouse over the Options sub-menu and you'll find it there.

The plus side to using the orange button is that it eliminates an extra row's worth of stuff, giving you a bit of extra viewing space in the actual browser window. The downside is the slight learning curve. As I said, if you're a fan of old-school menus, you may not like this new arrangement. Thankfully, as you now know, it's quick and easy to hop back and forth between the two settings.

Check out "Firefox 4 Tips: Bend the New Browser to Your Will" for more advice on using Mozilla's new browser.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .

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