It’s not uncommon that friends ask me to help fix their computer problems. I’m happy to help but unfortunatly I’m not that good at fixing common hardware and OS problems, my knowledge of those things is just not good enough anymore – back in the good old days (I’m talking IBM PS/2, Token Ring, Windows 3.0 and OS/2) I could fix anything 😉
Anyway, today I actually managed to fix something so I thought I’d brag a little about that…

A friend told me he had this problem that whenever he played a DVD on his computer it was played in full screen and there was no way he could access the control panel of the DVD player software (he had tried all the players he had installed incl. Real Player and Windows Media Player) or get back to the Windows XP Desktop. He used to hard reboot the computer until another friend told him he could use ALT+F4 to close the movie.

I started checking the most elementary things and after awhile I noticed in Display Properties that he had Multiple monitors enabled (but he only has one physical monitor).
I didn’t really know what to do so I activated (“attached”) the secondary monitor. I should not have done that because now all his monitor was showing was the secondary monitor – a blank screen with nothing on it but the background image.
Whatever I tried nothing showed up on the screen, I couldn’t get into the Display Properties again or any other program or menu – I suppose they all showed up on the primary monitor (and his one physical monitor only showed the secondary monitor).
So after a few hard resets I finally remembered to hit F8 like a maniac as Windows boots up and I got into the startup menu and I can select to restart using an old configuration.

Some time later I finally find the reason and the solution: His graphics card has two digital output ports and my friend has connected both his monitor’s digital and analogue (using an adapter) display cables to his card. So the graphics card and Windows recognize this as two monitors. Disconnecting the analouge cable solved his problem.

He shows me the installation instructions (this is a Fujitsu Siemens computer) and it sure looks like you should connect both the digital and analogue cables, and they even included the adapter to connect the analogue cable to the digital port. Not easy for him to know.

At the same time I also fixed another minor problem he had with his network: He keeps getting warnings that the network is not connected even though it seems to be working fine. Turns out he has two network connections in Windows. Reason and solution? Same as with the monitor – his Thomson ADSL modem allow the PC to be connected using both a standard Ethernet RJ45 cable and a USB cable, my friend connected using both 😉