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Troubleshooting common display problems

Have you ever looked at yourcomputer screen and found yourself saying, "What just happened?"

Sometimes, an inadvertent mouse click can result in subtle changes in your computer display. And often times, getting your computer back to basics is a difficult task.

The following are some common display questions, along with quick solutions:

Question: "When I attempt to put a date in some of my programs, I get an error and the program quits, or the date comes out looking strange. What's causing this?"

Answer: This problem typically arises after your children/grandchildren have been playing on the computer. Your settings have been changed, but it's a relatively easy fix.

Go to Start/Settings/Control Panel. On the Control Panel, select Regional Settings. Check your Regional Settings tab, it should be set to English (United States). If it isn't, select this option from the drop down box (click the arrow on the right side of the box to get the list).

Next, click on the Time tab. The standard settings are:

Time Style: h:mm:ss:tt
Time separator: : (a colon)
AM symbol: AM
PM symbol: PM

If your settings do not agree with these, change them so they do. You can select these various options from the drop down boxes. Unless you have a specific reason for changing any of these settings and know how changing them will affect the software you are using, it is recommended that you leave these settings alone.

Third, click on the Date tab and check the date format. The standard settings here are:

Windows 95
Short date style: m/d/yy
Date separator: /
Long date style: dddd, MMMM dd, yyyy

In Windows 95 you cannot change the way Windows sees two-digit year dates.

Windows 98

Make certain the two date boxes read 1930 and 2029. Many programs are using this built in function of windows to handle two-digit date entry. Do not change this setting. If it has been changed, change it back to the default by entering 2029 in the white box.

Short date style: m/d/yy
Date separator: /
Long date style: dddd, MMMM dd, yyyy

Question: "When I enter a dollar amount in my accounting program a comma appears between the dollars and cents (i.e. $9,25 instead of $9.25). How can I fix this?"

Answer: This is also a Regional Settings issue. Go to Regional Settings (see above), and check your location. Be sure it's English (United States). If it's not, correct it. Then click on the Currency tab.

The correct settings for currency are:

Currency symbol: $
Position of currency symbol: *1.1
Negative number format: (*1.1)
Decimal symbol: (a period)
No. of digits after decimal:  2
Digit grouping symbol: , (a comma)
Number of digits in group: 3

If correcting your settings proves to be more of a challenge, don't be afraid to look for help on Microsoft's web site ( Look under "product support options," and you'll likely find help in getting your computer back to "normal" mode.

Have a question on computers or a suggestion for or comment on this column, e-mail us at We'll do our best to find an answer for you.

On the net

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