QEvery time I plug in my USB memory key, Windows XP pops up the same window, asking if I want to play or view the photos and music on the thing. How do I make it stop?

AThe "AutoPlay" feature in XP can be almost as annoying as the talking paperclip in Microsoft Office -- almost. Microsoft added it to help users work with digital music and photos. For example, when you pop in an audio CD or a digital camera's memory card, AutoPlay lets you copy the songs or the pictures to the appropriate folder on your computer with a single click. But AutoPlay will also butt in when a USB key (in this example) contains just a single audio or image file.

To shut it off in those cases, connect the USB key, then double-click My Computer. Right-click on the key's icon (usually, it's the E:\ drive) and select Properties, then click the AutoPlay tab. From that window's drop-down menu, select "Mixed content," then click the button next to "Select an action to perform." Click "Take no action" to have Windows do nothing with the key, or click "Open folder to view files" to tell Windows to open it each time. Then click "OK."

To squelch AutoPlay dialogs with external hard drives or data CDs, repeat that procedure by right-clicking their icons in the My Computer window.

My computer (a Compaq laptop with a D-Link wireless card) crashes with a blue-screen "serious error" message when I try to use a hot spot outside my house. I keep having to reboot.

That's the classic symptom of badly written driver software that, instead of failing gracefully when it encounters some unexpected situation, short-circuits the entire computer. The only cure for this situation is improved software from the original hardware vendor. Stop by D-Link's Web site and see if any bug fixes are available for you to download.

-- 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.