Q: I am starting to notice that my clock in Windows 98 is not correct.

A: It is possible that the battery on your motherboard has failed. The simple test for this is to go to "Start" and then "Programs" and then click on "MS-DOS." At the command prompt, type "time" and then press "Enter." Compare this with the time on the task bar. Type "exit" and press "Enter."

If the computer's time and the time on the clock are different, you need to have the battery on your motherboard replaced. The batteries are rather inexpensive, but you should budget at least an hour of a technician's time ($75) to put in a new battery.

The next most logical place to look is in a part of the BIOS (basic input/output system) called APM (advanced power management). It is possible that the APM has conflicts with Windows 98. As a general rule, when you turn on the machine, you can hit the "DEL" key and get a menu of the BIOS. You can find the APM area and turn it off.

Once that is done, go to "Settings," then "Control Panel," double-click on the "Power Management" icon, select the settings you want for APM, then click "OK."

These are the two most obvious solutions. If these don't work, send me some more e-mail and we will delve into this in more detail.

Q: Should I wait for the next iteration of USB to buy a notebook?

A: It will be too long a wait.

USB (universal serial bus) is a way to get data in and out of a computer. Years ago, the serial port was the way to do it. Scanners and digital cameras started to force the maximum speed of serial ports on most computers. This was way too slow.

Both Intel and Apple proposed faster solutions. USB was designed by Intel and subsequently endorsed by other computer vendors. Currently, USB moves data at 12 megabits per second. Most desktop and notebook computers will have USB ports. Later versions of Microsoft's Windows give much better support for USB than did earlier versions.

Apple tried to solve the speed problem with something called FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394 FireWire, which can move data at up to 400 megabits per second. Intel does not have native support for the FireWire bus.

Apparently our reader is familiar with the speed differences and wants to see what the next kind of USB will do. He will have to be patient. According to Intel, we may not see a faster version until 2001 or 2002.

Q: I have Windows 98 SE and would like to figure out the speed of my modem.

A: Speed on the Internet is controlled by many variables. Let's try to start with some of the factors that you can alter.

First, call up your internet service provider and ask what modems they use. Ask the ISP if your brand of modem has any known conflicts with theirs. It goes without saying that you should make sure the correct driver for the modem is loaded. (So I won't say it.)

If you have an older desktop (486 and earlier), you may have your fast external modem connected through a slow serial port. Part of a serial port is something called the UART (universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter) chip; some are slow, some are fast. To determine the UART on your serial port, go to www.comminfo.com and download the diagnostic utility. If it shows that your UART is a 16550 or higher, keep it. If it is not, replace the serial port. (A new one will cost about $30.)

After those basics, you may want to point your browser to www.computingcentral.com/topics/band-width/speedtest50.asp. This will give you a basic speed test with the results presented on a speed "thermometer." If your modem tests well, and you still have speed problem, then contact your telephone company or ISP.

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.