Fix generic icons with an easy right click

Q. I recently installed a larger hard drive on my PC, and when I booted it, everything worked perfectly, except for the Microsoft icons. Before I changed the hard drive, MS Word docs had a MS Word icon, MS Excel had the correct icon; PowerPoint, Outlook, same thing. Now after changing the hard drive, all my icons are a generic white box with a blue outline. Any ideas?

It sounds as if your Microsoft Office file associations may have been changed or lost during the hard drive swap, said Paul Tucker, a technical consultant for CMIT Solutions of Raleigh.

You should be able to easily remedy this by right-clicking on the icon for one of your documents (an MS Word doc, for example), and choosing “properties” from the menu.

Make sure that the file type is correct (in this example, it should say “Microsoft Word Document”), and that the “Opens with:” program is correct (in this case, Microsoft Word). If this is not correct, choose the “change” button and select the proper program from the resulting list.

If this doesn't correct the problem, Tucker suggests trying the same procedure and intentionally selecting a different program. After doing this, click on “properties” again and switch it back to the correct program. This will make it refresh.

Doing this for one icon of each type that you need (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) should force the others to correct themselves.

As a last resort, you might need to uninstall and reinstall Office to correct the problem, but no worries – Tucker said you will not lose your documents by doing this.

Q. I have a 20-year accumulation of text destined eventually for family archiving. It was made with Microsoft Works Database (.wdb) and is still accessible on a Hewlett-Packard computer. I have managed to transfer it all via discs to my new Mac, but I can get only one of these files to open. I would like to save .wdb files as .txt files – can you please tell me how to do it?

Microsoft Works lets you save files in different formats by using the “save as” option, said Priscilla Alden of UNC Chapel Hill's Information Technology Services. Just go to the “file” menu, click “save as” and choose the type of file.

The two formats you would normally choose to give you access to the data with a variety of other software programs and platforms would be .txt or .csv , she said. If you have Excel on your Mac, it should be able to read the .txt or .csv files you have imported from your Windows computer.

If not, the TextEdit text editor on the Mac should be able to read the files, too. Open TextEdit first, and from TextEdit open the files you have saved in the .txt or .csv format.