QWhen I open my instant-messaging program, I get an annoying AIM.com Web page that I always have to close. How can I disable this?

AYou can bring AOL Instant Messenger to heel, but it's not easy -- it took me two or three tries to figure out how.

From this program's My AIM menu, choose the Edit Options submenu and click on its Edit Preferences item. Select the Sign On/Off category, then uncheck "Show AIM.com window at sign-on."

The next time you launch AIM, however, you'll still get those pop-ups. Switch to the one headlined Add Fun Tools to Your Buddy List and click either the "yes" or "no" button, depending on whether you want a column of toolbar buttons for such features as voice chats. Then sign out and exit AIM; the next time you start it, neither window should assault your screen. (AOL says this is a bug that escaped its attention.)

One tip for people who haven't installed AIM yet and would like to keep their system uncluttered: As you go through its setup wizard, decline its options to add extra components (AIM Games Support, AIM WeatherBug, AIM Pop Up Blocker) or change the looks of your Web browser or desktop (such as its offer to make Netscape.com your home page).

This pushy marketing is one reason I've stopped using AIM; instead, I use an open-source, AOL-compatible program called Gaim (gaim.sourceforge.net) that doesn't treat my computer like a billboard.

The icons on my PC's screen just got locked in place. When I drag one to a new position, it flips back to where it was before.

Somebody must have activated an "auto arrange" option by mistake. To undo it, right-click anywhere on the desktop, select "Arrange icons by" from the pop-up menu, and you'll see a sub-menu flip open. Click on "Auto arrange" to turn off that option.

-- Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or rob@twp.com.