QThe pictures in iPhoto have started showing up distorted and out of order. What's happening to my photos?

AIPhoto's database of your pictures has gotten corrupted. When this happens, it's like trying to find a book in a library after somebody tears up random entries in its card catalogue -- the original data is still there, but it's much harder to find.

To fix this, you can ask iPhoto to reconstruct its database from scratch. In iPhoto 4, hold down the Shift and Option keys as you double-click the iPhoto icon in your Applications folder; in iPhoto 5, hold down the Command (Apple logo) and Option keys as you launch iPhoto. Select the option to rebuild your iPhoto library, then do something else -- this process can easily run over an hour.

This repair procedure goes unmentioned in iPhoto's help file, but a tech-support article on Apple's site reveals its existence. (Visit support.apple.com and search for article number 107947.) It also outlines a mind-numbingly tedious "manual rebuild" procedure to use if an automatic rebuild can't restore order to iPhoto.

Regularly backing up your iPhoto library is your best safeguard against this problem. But it would also help if iPhoto could automatically watch for and fix database corruption the way OS X does for disk corruption, fixing any errors at each start-up.

I need to back up my Quicken data, but the backup tool within Quicken isn't working. Where can I find my files?

Most older releases of Quicken store your data in a folder called "Qdata" inside one of two spots on the hard drive: c:\QuickenW or c:\Program Files\Quickenw.

That, by the way, is an example of poor Windows programming. An application should store your data where you can easily find it -- in the My Documents folder, not some other random spot on the hard drive.

-- 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.