PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 August, 2008, 12:00am

Apple's Mail application crashes whenever I launch it. Is there any way for me to reinstall this e-mail program and not the entire operating system?

Joe, Tuen Mun

DQ: Over the years, Apple Mail has behaved a bit erratically. The program's latest version with Leopard (Mac OS X version 10.5) seems stable but you can never know how another computer is set up. I suspect some software is interfering with Mail, but finding the source of the problem can take a long time. Your first step should be to turn off everything that you do not need. Go through every application, especially anything loaded up at boot time or which runs from the Control Panel. If you still have a problem, go to the home folder under your name in Users. Find Preferences, in which there should be a file named 'com.apple.mail.plist'. Delete that file or put it on the desktop to retrieve later. You are likely to lose some configurations, so you may not want to throw away that file. (If that does not work, put the plist file back in the Preferences folder.) If you wish to re-install Mail (or anything else in the system), you will need a shareware application called 'Pacifist', which you can get from www.charlessoft.com. I worry a lot about lightning striking power and telephone lines and destroying my computer. Someone suggested I get a surge protector, instead of turning off everything in my flat during a storm. Am I being silly or should I get that appliance?

Henry, Mui Wo

DQ: One of my earliest experiences when I came to Hong Kong in 1992 and lived in Mui Wo was a bolt of lightning destroying my modem, fax and computer. One of the problems with the outlying islands is that a great deal of the wiring across the district is above ground. This, I believe, is the best possible scenario for lightning strikes to 'come and get you'. The danger is very real and you are not being silly. However, simply turning your machines off does little to protect your computer. Unplug everything too; household appliances are still connected to outside wires if they are plugged in. The same goes for the modem. A bolt of lightning is travelling at a speed that will easily defeat any surge protector. You could ask for protection from voltage 'spikes', but this could make the solution expensive. If you are at home, simply unplug everything and wait for the storm to pass. If, for some reason, you absolutely must use your computer, try setting up a wireless network. Even so, you will have to be connected and the wireless router will certainly become toast when lightning strikes. Is it worth the risk?