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Tech Q and A: VHS to DVD Conversion Woes

Every other week or so, FOXNews.com tries to solve your most vexing technology-related problems. Send your questions to TechQuestions@foxnews.com and we'll reply to selected ones in our next installment.

In the last column, I mentioned that Windows XP SP3 would be available "first half of 2008."

Wouldn't you know it? The very next day, tech site NeoWin.net announced that it had "managed to get [its] hands on the internal schedule for the release of the highly anticipated update to the aging operating system."

It should be available from Microsoft's Download Center Tuesday, and will be officially pushed out to the masses, via Windows Update, on June 10.

[Editor's note: On Tuesday, Microsoft discovered that XP SP3 was incompatible with a Microsoft business-server application. Its release has been indefinitely delayed.]

• Click here for FOXNews.com's Personal Technology Center.

Those of you running small networks might want to consider starting the update sooner than that. If you have 20 systems on your network, and each gets the 312-megabyte download, that's over 6 gigabytes of data coming at you on Patch Tuesday in June.

Alternatively, perhaps this would be a good time to set up a local Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) system on your network. More information on how to do that can be found here.

VHS to DVD Conversion Woes

Q: I recently purchased a VHS-to-DVD recorder. I hooked it up and it worked great. But when I took the DVD to church and tried to play it, the church's DVD player could not read it.

I thought maybe it was just a fluke, so I took the DVD to a friend's house and it did the same thing. I tried several different DVD players, but the DVD would not work except on the machine that I recorded it with.

What is up with this???

A: The likely culprit is an incompatible format. About 12 years ago, the only recordable DVD format was DVD-RAM (DVD Random Access Memory) — a rewritable DVD, usually encased in a cartridge.

This was replaced by the DVD-R (or DVD-RW, if the media was rewritable) format that we usually call "minus R" or "dash R." In 2002, this was superseded by a better format, DVD+R (or DVD+RW), called "plus R."

More recently, manufacturers created a hybrid that could read and write both plus and minus. Those drives are called DVD±R(W) or SuperMulti.

The software you used to create your DVD probably used the most current format supported by the blank DVD. So if you inserted a "plus" or a "plus/minus" blank, you probably got a "plus" recording. The player at your church only sprechen sie minus, so it wouldn't be able to play it.

Since minus is the more universal format, try recording on a minus blank — or, if your software allows it, select "minus" when you record.

Yet Another Windows Update Issue

Q: I built a new computer for myself last year. I decided to "try" Vista Home Premium x64 for my operating system. It worked just fine until two months ago. Since then, I can't update Vista.

I get an "error" message every time I try to update the system. It says: "ERROR CODE 80070002 Windows could not search for new updates." After going to "help" and following their "FIX," nothing happens.

Checking the blogs, it seems that others are having this problem, and there doesn't seem to be a fix. Microsoft has ignored my e-mails about this problem. If you could find a real fix, there are a bunch of us out here who would appreciate it.

A: According to the friendly folks at Microsoft, this error is caused "when some files in the update are missing, even though the update is downloaded and extracted successfully."

I've read that one a couple of times, and it still doesn't make much sense. Update downloaded successfully? Check. Files extracted successfully? Check. Files still missing? Um, whose fault is that?

That said, the fix is a three-step process. In a nutshell, (1) stop the update service, (2) rename the Software Distribution directory and (3) restart the update service.

— Stop the update service: In essence, a "service" is a program that runs on a computer even when nobody is logged in. You can see the list of services available on your system by using the "services" snap-in.

If this were XP, you would click on Start —> Run, type "services.msc" into the box and then click on "OK."

In Vista, they've hidden the Run command, but it's easy to get to — just hold the "Win" key and press "R." From the snap-in, highlight "Automatic Updates" and click on "Stop the service." Minimize this window.

— Rename the Software Distribution directory: Open a command window (Win+R, type "cmd", click on "OK") and type "cd %Windir%" and press ENTER. Then type "ren SoftwareDistribution SDTemp" and press ENTER.

This should cure whatever's ailing Windows Update, but the side effect is that you lose your update history. The updates are still there and still installed — you've just lost the log.

— Restart the update service: This is the exactly like step one, except you click on "Restart the service."

Now go to the Windows Update Web site. You should be able to download and install updates.

If this doesn't solve the problem, you might want to read the much-more-involved troubleshooting tips at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/906602/. Or resubmit this problem to FoxNews.com.

Guy R. Briggs is a member of the Nerds On Site international IT service team and is based in Los Angeles.

Got questions about computers and technology? Send them to TechQuestions@foxnews.com and we'll answer selected ones in our next installment.

We regret that we can't answer questions individually. Neither FoxNews.com nor its writers and editors assume any liability for the effectiveness of the solutions presented here.