QUESTION I bought a netbook for my wife. Since it has no optical drive, I also bought a USB-powered external Blu-ray/DVD drives and tried to use it to install Microsoft Office. This was recognised, but it won’t run or install Office, reporting USB controller error Code 43. The drive works on another PC, and tech support explained that it may be a problem with the power allocated to the USB ports. I returned it to them to inspect, but I’m curious as to whether this is a standard problem. I find it incredible that I can’t use a plug-and-play optical device on the netbook. Robert Dowey
HELPROOM ANSWER USB ports on small computing devices such as netbooks are often underpowered or even unpowered. This is often done as a battery-saving measure. An external USB-powered DVD drive would, however, require the maximum amount of current to operate correctly.
You’ll either need to use a dual USB cable – this costs around £4, and connects to two USB ports simultaneously to draw more current – or a powered USB hub (around £6). A hub will connect to the mains and provide the DVD drive with all the power it requires. Just attach your netbook to the hub with a standard USB cable.
One final point: depending on which version of Office you install, it may prove to be a resource hog on a low-spec device such as a netbook. Consider alternatives such as the online Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps and Google Docs.