It has been now five years since we have seen the release of Windows95. What follows are some things you should be aware of and some things that will help you keep your system running right. Most of these do apply to Windows98 and you may find that they also apply to Windows ME.
This is probably the place where you can get into the most trouble with your computer. In the past, a lot of critical system information was kept in the System.ini and Win.ini files in Windows but with Windows95, the System Registry is the place to be. Microsoft never intended for anyone other than a software developer to add anything to the Registry but there are times when you need to start browsing on your own. Because the documentation for it is very sparse, I strongly recommend that you avoid doing anything to the registry without having a backup of your complete computer at hand. It can be that dangerous.
To backup the Registry takes a couple of steps to ensure that your system keeps running well. First of all, the Registry is kept in a hidden file called system.dat and is backed up daily in a file called system.da0. The good news is that the registry is backed up each time you turn on your computer. The bad news is that if you run into serious problems, more than likely, both copies will be damaged. What happens is that when you start up your computer, it makes a copy of the current registry and stores it in system.da0. So I would recommend making a copy of your critical systems files on a regular basis to give you something good to fall back upon if your system becomes corrupted. Those files will be system.dat, user.dat (which are hidden and in your windows directory), win.ini, system.ini (also in your windows directory), config.sys, autoexec.bat (from your root directory, and don't forget the CD ROM drivers). Also, if you have not made an emergency start up disk, do so.
The easy way to back up the System registry is to Click \start\run\ and type in REGEDIT
This brings up the Registry Editor and one of the options is to make a backup. It is a good idea to do this as it writes out the registry in a text format that is easy to import back in if you run into real problems. Store it in a safe spot on your hard disk that will be easy to get to. The curse that people run into is that when you start up your computer, you see the message that says your registry is damaged or corrupted. From that point on, you are in trouble. Next time, start up the computer in MS DOS mode and you can then use that same command REGEDIT to restore the backed up copy of the registry. At the DOS prompt, type REDEDIT /? for directions.
First of all, when you are finished using your computer and want to turn it off, you must close Windows95. To do this click Start, and then click Shut Down, and then yes you are sure you want to shut down your computer. You will then see a message telling you it is safe to turn off your computer.
Unfortunately, General Protection Faults do not go away with Windows95 when you still use older 16bit programs and so they can and do still occur. In fact, they can occur with new 32 bit programs and can show up as Page Faults, Protection Errors, and the like. If you see that your computer is not working quite right, run Scandisk on a regular basis. To find it, click Start, Program Files, Accessories, System Tools, and you will find it there. Run this program often to make sure that there are no file problems with your computer. If this doesn't help much, what you might have a problem with is old DLL files that need to be deleted. Quite often, programs load their own DLLs to be used and sometimes, older versions get in the way. Brian Livingstone of Infoworld had a bunch of great tips on handling these in one of his columns. See the section below on more info.
It may not be obvious to you but Windows9X allows you to keep many more things going at the same time. If you load programs like the Norton Utilities, Norton Navigator, Antivirus programs, and the like, you will start to see many new icons on your task bar. All of these takes up resources and can slow down your computer. The Task Bar is the bar at the bottom of your screen and it tells you what is currently running on your computer. With Windows95, it is so easy to automatically start programs that sometimes you have things running that you just don't know what it is. Be sure to check each item on your task bar and question why it is there.
This problem has been found to be solved by adding FILES= 100 to your Config.sys file.
Windows95 Control Panel knows everything there is to know about your computer and if it doesn't, then you have a problem. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel to bring up the program. Then double-click on the System icon and choose the Device Manager tab. Every device you have attached to or in your computer should be listed here. If it is not, then you have a problem and probably something that is not working properly. The other thing you should look for are Yellow exclamation points. They tell you that the device you have listed is probably conflicting with another device. You need to check these out. Here is where you can browse around to the properties of each device and see how it is truly connected to your computer. Also, where you see the devices listed, you will see a Plus or Minus. If there is a Plus sign (to the left of the item icon), click it to see what other devices are included in that category.
Want to know who is using what IRQs and Interrupts in your computer. There is an easy way to find out. Go into the Device Manager as I describe above and when you choose the device manager tab, you will find your "Computer" hilighted. Simply click the "Properties" button and you will get a listing of all your IRQs in use.
Windows95 does a great job of managing your resources but if you have old hardware, then think about upgrading the drivers. Video cards are notorious for stepping on memory and causing problems. Get thee to a web site and upgrade your drivers. The same can be said for sound cards. If you are upgrading your hardware and adding new equipment, again, be sure that everything was working before you start.
Every once in a while, you will end up seeing the dreaded blue screen with the "Fatal Exception OD" message. It usually doesn't refer to any programs but it sure locks up the system. When this happens, we have found that it is often caused by invalid or corrupted hardware drivers, with the most common suspect, the video card. When this happens, start your system in Safe Mode (Using the F8 key when you see the message starting Windows95...) and then go in and change the video driver to a standard VGA mode. This will usually allow you to start Windows95. From here, you will need to get a new video driver and hopefully that will take care of the problem.
Probably one of the best tools for testing the registry under Windows 95 (and Windows98) is RegClean from Microsoft. Find it at Microsoft's site at: www.microsoft.com/kb/articles/q147/7/69.htm . You run it a couple of times until the results are clean (no entries) and it does a great job in cleaning up problems.
One of the best places I go to get information on Windows95 is Infoworld Magazine. They have a spot here on the web and you need to look for Brian Livingstone's column. He has run a series of columns on the problems of General Protection Faults under Windows95 and a number of other topics well worth looking into. Go see them at www.infoworld.com
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