Q: When I try to use the Firefox browser on my Windows 8.1 PC, I get the error message “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file. You may not have the appropriate permission to access the item.” I have to click OK to get rid of this message, then click the Firefox icon again to reach the internet. What can I do to fix this?

Mike Malinowski, New Orleans, La.


A: Several things can cause that error message, including troublesome Firefox add-on programs, a flaw in the Firefox installation on your PC or a Windows settings issue. Because you are able to open Firefox on the second try, I suspect either of the first two items may be causing your problem.

Try restarting Firefox in Safe Mode (see tinyurl.com/cxk67zz.) That turns off browser add-on programs (called “extensions”) and other features that can cause trouble. If that causes the error message to disappear, follow the directions at tinyurl.com/njst4rg) to identify the culprit.

If that doesn’t work, download and install a new version of Firefox (see tinyurl.com/o3fcmqr); the installation process will also put a new Firefox shortcut icon on your PC’s desktop. But first, read the suggestions in “Reinstall Firefox” on the same web page that described restarting in Safe Mode.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, the cause may lie in a Windows setting called “permissions,” which restricts access to critical files to help protect your PC from accidental program changes or hacker meddling.

For example, your normal PC user account (identified by your name, or the name you gave the PC when you first used it), provides only limited access to some programs. But you can expand the scope your access (and thus eliminate the error message) by changing the permissions setting for Firefox.

To do that, right-click the Firefox shortcut icon, left-click “properties” and left-click the “security” tab. Under “group or user names” click your own name (or the name you gave the PC) and click the “edit” button beneath the list. In the next menu, click your name again, and in the second list check the “allow” box next to “full control.” Click OK. For details, see tinyurl.com/zukew32.


Q: When I scan a printed document, it becomes a “.gif” image file on my PC. But I’d rather be able to save the document as a Microsoft Word file. Do I need special software for that?

Carolyn Brown, Colorado Springs, Colo.


A: Not necessarily. The simplest method is to scan the printed document and insert the resulting image file into a Word file. See tinyurl.com/j9nqmtn. The drawback is that you can’t search or edit the document in Word; it remains essentially a photo of the original document.

Alternatively, you can buy “optical character recognition” (OCR) software. Most of these programs can be set to convert a scanned document to a Word file that can be searched and edited. You can buy an OCR program for PC or Mac for about $40 to $170 (a few programs are used online for a monthly fee.) For reviews of OCR programs, and an explanation of how they work, see tinyurl.com/hazfs4f. You will find more reviews at tinyurl.com/zm3bcyk.


E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Include name, city and telephone number.