QMy Dell 3700 notebook won't recognize its own hard drive. What options do I have to fix it?

AIf you can hear the drive spinning up when you start the computer, you may be able to run a utility program to rescue some or all of the data on the drive (for instance, R-Studio Data Recovery, Win 98 or newer, $80, www.data-recovery-software.net). But these programs assume a lot of technical knowledge.

If, however, the drive sounds like a spoon going down the garbage disposal, forget about fixing things yourself. Instead, get a few quotes from data-recovery services. OnTrack Data Recovery (www.ontrack.com, 800-872-2599) has built a solid reputation helping with damaged hard drives, but this firm charges $100 for an estimate alone, and data recovery may add another $400 or more to the cost.

That's more than any new hard drive would cost. You have to decide if it's worth that expense.

Internet Explorer keeps going to the Casino Palazzo Web site, and neither my antivirus utility nor AdAware does anything about it. What's going on here?

Your browser has been hijacked. Some Web site put code on your computer -- either by hiding it in a seemingly innocuous download or by exploiting vulnerabilities in IE to install the offending code without your knowledge or permission -- that switched your home page and blocked you from changing it back.

Antivirus and anti-spyware utilities aren't designed to combat this threat. You'll need to use specialized anti-hijack tools, such as HijackThis and CWShredder (both free downloads at www.spywareinfo.com/merijn/downloads.html).

Does this procedure sound too tedious? Why not change browsers instead? Mozilla Firefox (www.mozilla.org/firefox/) is fast, easy, safe -- and free.

-- John Gilroy

John Gilroy of Item Inc. is heard on WAMU's "The Computer Guys" at noon 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 or via e-mail to jgilroy@iteminc.com.