Q. I found an old Pentium 90 motherboard and I can't get it to boot from either the hard drive or the floppy.

A. Yank the hard drive and make sure the ribbon cable to the floppy is on correctly--red to the power. Then go into the BIOS to see if the machine is designed to boot from the "A" drive. Save the settings.

Then make a boot diskette from a machine that you know works. Make sure that "fdisk.exe" and "format.exe" are placed on the boot diskette. If it boots from the floppy on the good machine, then take the floppy to the test machine.

If it fails to boot, put in a new ribbon cable. If it still fails, take the floppy from the known good machine and put in the old one. No luck? You may have a motherboard problem.

Next, take a look at the outside of the hard drive. Most list the cylinders, sectors and size. Make sure these are listed correctly in the BIOS. Boot with your floppy in the "A" drive and type "fdisk." This will give you a menu of choices to divide the hard drive. The last prompt will be to re-boot to the "A" drive. Upon re-booting, at the "A" drive, type "format c:/s" and you will have a formatted hard drive.

I want to digitally store some photos. Do you think this is a good idea?

Digital technology is best used for fast access of documents, music and images. Its strength is in speed of retrieval, not durability.

CD media manufacturers claim a CD will last 50 years; others estimate that it will last only 10 years. Even if it does last 50 years, CDs may become obsolete technologically before then. Remember eight-track tapes? Your grandkids may be making wind chimes from all those CDs you laboriously created to store images back at the turn of the century.

When this question came up on the radio show, I recommended the listener get some papyrus if he wanted to have something that will last for a good many years.

TIFF vs. JPEG--which is better?

Both are great--they just are used in different areas. Carpenters will tell you that the correct tool makes a job easy; computer users can learn a lesson here and select the correct software tool for the job.

Tag Image File Format (TIFF, or the file extension ".tif") is a very basic format for storing graphics accurately. If you create something that will be printed on a piece of paper, submitting it as a TIFF will give the desktop publishing folks control over printing it. As a general rule, with bitmapped graphics and scans, you want to save them as a TIFF file.

But graphic images take up a lot of space; one way to reduce space consumption is to compress the image. A popular family of compression algorithms is called Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG). JPEG compresses by throwing away parts of the image. If you have a photograph and want to place it on your Web page, you probably want to store it as a JPEG file so it will load quickly.

A popular debate among graphics professionals is whether to store a Web image as a GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) or as a JPEG format.

John Gilroy of Item Inc. is heard on WAMU-FM radio's "The Computer Guys" at 1 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. Send your questions to him in care of The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071-5302 or via e-mail at jgilroy@iteminc.com.