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TEMPORARY FILES CAN OFTEN BE A PROLONGED PAIN

Q: I downloaded a program to my desktop and now I can't find it. It's not visible anywhere. So I went back to the instructions and followed the path to XVBF1LKE and found a whole list of what seems like hundreds of files of gibberish from 0 bytes to 1 or 2 KB, all wasting space, I think. These are located in folders called temporary. Will more accumulate?

- Douglas Ploss@theramp.net

A: You have encountered the wild and woolly world of Web applets and other Internet-borne detritus that continually gets written to one's hard drive while using features of Web sites from simple animations to complex games. I keep telling myself not to worry my pretty little head over such things, but like you, Mr. P., I do fret.

These temporary files are inescapable components of Web sites, and one can't avoid them while online. From time to time they can cause problems of some severity. For example, I commonly get notes from readers whose computers have stopped letting them download picture files in their actual formats and forces them to be saved in the BMP format. Nobody seems to know why this happens, but it always gets fixed when one orders the Web browser to erase all of the temporary files that have been accumulated.

In Microsoft Internet Explorer, click on Tools and then Internet Options and call up the tab marked General. There you will find a button to delete the files. You also will have a command there to restrict the size of the hard-drive space that they are allowed to use. Owners of modern computers with storage measured in gigabytes don't really need to do this, but it's good to remember that temporary files can be the culprit for all kinds of strange happenings.

Restoring hard drive data

Q: I reinstalled Outlook on a new hard drive after my old copy of Windows crashed. How do I get my old data off the computer's original hard drive?

- A.J., Chicago

A: Type the following into the address line in the My Computer window, replacing "(your user name)" with your own user ID: "C: Documents and Settings
(your user name)Local Setting Application DataMicrosoftOutlook." (Look in the User Accounts control panel if you're not sure of your user name; if the original hard drive now has a new drive letter, change "C" to whatever it should be.)

Drag the "Outlook" data file to your desktop. Run Outlook and select "Import and Export" from its File menu. Choose "Import from another program or file" as your action to perform, then "Personal Folder File (.pst)" as the type of file to import. Last, click the "Browse" button to find your old file.

This entire procedure is a disgrace. First, you can't find your data without typing in that ugly address, and Outlook's procedure defies logic.

e-mail: jcoates@tribune.com