I click a shortcut somewhere in my Start menu and nothing happens or I get an error message.
Windows isn't smart enough, or, to put it another way, it would be too much software overhead for the OS to keep track of all the shortcuts and update them, as necessary, when the files they point to are moved or deleted. A system that's been in use for some time will certainly have "dead" shortcuts, just as Web pages have broken links floating around. When you click a shortcut icon anywhere in the systembe it the Start menus, the desktop, or in a folderand you get an error message about the program file, click OK and let Windows take a stab at solving the problem by searching for the application. If it's found, Windows XP "heals" the shortcut so that it will work again next time you use it.
If that doesn't work, try searching yourself using Start, Search. See whether you can track down the runaway application. If you're successful, you'll probably be best off erasing the bad shortcut and creating a new one that points to the correct location. You can create a new shortcut by right-clicking the app's icon and choosing Create Shortcut. Then drag, copy, or move the shortcut to wherever you want, such as onto the Start button.
Another good trick to help you sort out a bad shortcut or to follow where its trail is leading is to right-click the icon and choose Properties, Find Target.
Remember, moving folders containing applications (for example, Office might be in C:\Program Files\MSOffice) is a really bad idea. Once installed, many programs want to stay where they were put.
Forcing Your Computer to Shut Down
The system is acting sluggish, nonresponsive, or otherwise weird.
If your system is really acting erratically or stuck in some serious way and you've already killed any unresponsive programs, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete. This should bring up the Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc will too). Click the Shut Down menu, and then select Turn off. If you get this far, there's hope for a graceful exit. You might have to wait a minute or so for the turn off command to take effect. If you're prompted to shut down some programs or save documents, do so. Hope for a speedy shutdown. Then reboot.
Ctrl+Alt+Delete Doesn't Work
Even Ctrl+Alt+Delete doesn't do anything.
If Turn off doesn't work, it's time to power-cycle the computer. Press the power switch to turn off the machine. On a machine with APM or ACPI support (one that can perform a soft power down), this may require holding the power button in for more than four seconds. You could lose some work, but what else are you going to do? Sometimes it happens. This is one good reason for saving your work regularly, and looking for options in your programs that perform autosaving. As writers, we set our AutoSave function in MS Word to save every five minutes. That way, we can recover from a system crash and only lose up to five minutes of work instead of everything.
Incidentally, while extremely rare, I've known laptops to not even respond to any form of command or power button when the operating system was fully hung. I've even had to remove any AC connection, fully remove the main battery, wait a few seconds, and then reinsert the battery and reboot. Removal of the battery is important; otherwise, the battery keeps the computer in the same stuck state, thinking it's just in Standby mode.